Occasionally out here in the country, we encounter critters of various kinds: possums, foxes, the rare raccoon, and skunks. A few years ago, my husband and I were awakened by a high-pitched squealing punctuated by a smell so noxious our eyes burned. We (he) investigated and found nothing outside our bedroom window, but it could only be skunks. It was not so unusual. Almost every winter, we would smell skunk around the house or see one every now and then eating the beetles beneath the spotlight on the barn.
That winter, it was more frequent. Just when the awful stench had worn off inside the house, we’d hear the squealing again in the middle of the night and brace ourselves for the fumes that would follow. Finally, I called in the big guns, an extermination company that trapped and “disposed of” unwanted critters. (Highly recommend: Animal Pros.)
Maybe you saw our segment on the news? When they searched our home’s crawl space, they emerged wearing expressions of startled disbelief. We had skunks alright. They’d moved in like prairie dogs and set up a village under our house. It looked like they’d probably been using the space each winter for years because there was approximately 300 pounds of skunk poop under there. Nope. Not a typo.
Year after year, as they made themselves at home, they’d ripped into the crawl space structure, torn into the duct work, and generally partied like it was 1999. Night after night, we wore masks sprayed with lavender, slept upstairs away from the worst of the smell, and cursed the sweet images of the skunk from the movie Bambi that made us dismiss these creatures as mostly harmless. Live and let live, right? Until they turned our crawl space into Da Club with everything but the strobe lights. We were operating the neighborhood Polecat Brothel, with the smell apparently attracting others like a neon sign from miles away.
We trapped nine skunks. Nine. After the news segment aired, the neighbors got alarmed and trapped seven of their own. Each night, the guys would set the traps, baited with oatmeal cream pies (who knew?), and just about every morning another hungover skunk would be in there, blinking in the sunlight.
Meanwhile, to the tune of $15,000 (Nope. Not a typo.), we had to completely overhaul the crawl space. Guys in hazmat suits cleared everything out (talk about Dirty Jobs!) and rebuilt our duct work. It was a miracle they hadn’t popped up through the floor vents and made friends with our cats.
It could’ve been worse. We heard about a family who had left for 2 weeks for an overseas adoption. Skunks got in through their vents and sprayed the whole house. When they returned, a new baby and toddler in tow, it was too toxic to breathe. It was like a house fire: a total loss. Clothing, furniture, sheet rock. Anything not under a glass surface (like pictures) was ruined. They razed the entire house and started over.
Also? I’ve read that the chemicals in their spray are flammable, so under just the right conditions, I guess we could have had little kamikaze flame throwers rutting around under our floorboards. Wouldn’t that have been toasty?
It’s human nature to justify, ignore, or deny. Whiny toddler? I’m too tired to deal with it. Sassy thirteen-year-old? She probably didn’t mean it. Two pieces of cake after dinner? What can it hurt, really? Snippy with your spouse? Whatever, man. Behaviors, habits, offenses pile up, and before you know it, you’ve got 300 pounds of you-know-what to shovel and stink that makes your eyes water.
It’s so much easier to take it a piece at a time and deal with things before they get ugly. I love Barney’s classic take on the issue in this clip: nip it in the bud! I don’t know about you, but this applies to so much in my life!
Not long after our skunk saga, we spotted one at the edge of our yard one evening. The whole family sprang into Level-10 lock-down. My son sent his all-terrain remote control car zipping after it while we offered guidance from a safe distance away. Confronted by the vehicle, it lumbered off, saddened, I’m sure, that we were no longer “open for business.”
At least I’ve got one thing under control. Now I’ve got to spray some WD-40 on my shears for some serious bud-nipping elsewhere.