By Dani Burlison
The icy air pours through nearby windows as I write. A hat is pulled down to cover my cold ears, and a fleece blanket is around my shoulders to protect me from the elements. I am cold and exhausted from another night of restless sleep, and sip my coffee in hopes of managing a productive day. No, I am not writing from some impoverished refugee camp, but rather from the long-gone comforts of my Santa Rosa home where I have found myself the unwilling madam of an under-the-house skunk brothel.
According to Marin County's WildCare, skunk breeding season is in full swing. During this time, they say, male skunks are more excitable and spray more readily, while the females often spray to get rid of potential mates when they aren't feeling the love. With the weather miserably wet, skunks seek refuge in dry places like basements or crawl spaces under homes, emitting a romp-fest-induced stench of gaseous clouds along with all-night torturous screeching and thumping. It's enough to push patience for the furry little lovers over the edge.
When the aromatherapy candles have burned down and the boiling vinegar—meant to neutralize the wretched odor—can no longer be tolerated, it is time to evict little Pepe le Pew and his stinky concubines. Though first instincts are to call animal control and have the pests removed, this is not the most humane of choices. Not only are trappers legally forbidden to relocate the animals, and therefore will usually release the critters within 100 yards of the trap site, many are required to exterminate the animals. DIY eviction is an alternative.
Wildlife experts give this advice: scatter flour or baby powder around all possible points of entry in the afternoon. As the creatures exit the open spaces, foot prints will be detectable, indicating that it is time to tightly cover these openings to deter the skunks elsewhere. With rain and wind fairly prevalent this time of year, these attempts may be tricky and do indeed take patience. After confirming that the annoying intruders have vacated the premises, get to work boarding up entryways and maybe installing skunk-sized electric fences. Finally, the windows can be closed again and cozy, indoor wintertime activities can resume.
For more information about humane animal removal, call Marin County's WildCare, 415.453.1000; Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, 707.526.9453; or the Wildlife Rescue Center of Napa County, 707.224.4295.
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