Every creature in the wild knows the warning that the black and white in the grass brings. It is a strong warning, and most times there is no second chance. If you are one who has to learn your lessons the hard way, this is usually one of those lessons you will not soon forget.
My challenge with these curious critters began a few months ago on an evening walk along the river. It was nearly dark out when I rounded a corner to find a skunk in my path. It whirled around looking directly at me with tail raised, and stomped its feet. I listened to this silent message and stopped where I was, grabbing ahold of my dog at the same time. Thankfully, she sat and stayed as instructed.
I snapped a few photos in the near darkness, and as the skunk wandered off into the brush, an owl took flight from a nearby sagebrush, giving me a look of disgust. We waited a few minutes and then I decided I wanted to see if I could get a clear photo of the skunk. I snuck up on the edge of the brush and watched as it disappeared into a den (marked in brain as a great photographic opportunity … baby skunks should be found here soon).
About a month later, I was working in the house one day, when one of my dogs started barking. It was obvious by the tone that something had startled her, and since my dogs never bark at the resident deer, I headed out to investigate. My presence outside seemed to give the Jack Russell courage and she flew off the deck and after, what I assumed by her tone, must be a coyote or bear around the side of the house. I yelled for her to stop! And to her credit, my words actually reached some small place in her brain and she returned to me immediately. (Almost unheard of for this particular dog, unless she is wearing her Wax melter, aka shock collar). As I rounded the house, I got a glimpse of a fluffy black and white tail as it exited my yard, darted over the bank and disappeared into a culvert by the horse pasture.
Now, this is where my mind does not work like normal people. I ran in the house, snatched up my camera and hollered for my son to lock up the dogs. I ran down in the ditch and waited … and waited. My child who was watching from the deck was rooting for the skunk and informed me that if I got sprayed, we didn’t have enough tomato juice to get rid of the smell. (He really reminds me of his father in moments like this.)
Anyhow, the skunk won the waiting game and I retreated to a chair on the deck where I could oversee the end of the culvert, but never saw or smelled the skunk again. I now had a new personal challenge, I wanted to get a “usable” photo of a skunk. Two days later, I returned to the den site by the river. At dusk, we spotted a skunk in the tall grass up the draw, but before I could get into position to get a good photo, it smelled us and was gone.
On the way home a few miles from the house, I spotted one running for the road. I pulled the car off and tried to intercept the skunk, hoping I was close enough and fast enough to get a few decent shots, yet still far enough away NOT to get fired at. I used the roof of the car to snap a few photos as it crossed the highway. I even recorded a little video as it darted out through the sage.
At home that night while I was uploading pictures from my camera, I was trying to multi task and accidentally deleted the images from that evening. Skunk- 3: Stacey – 0. Well, I don’t give up easily, and while out of town on a job, I stumbled across another skunk, and after chasing it down, I was finally able to get a decent photo.
I posted the picture online and had a discussion with a few people about catching skunks, which opened up a whole new pile of unanswered questions. As I said in the beginning. If you are one of those people who must figure things out for yourself, rather than taking someone’s word for it, I advise you to at least check Google BEFORE catching a skunk.
A trip to the mountains yesterday once again found me face to face with a skunk, or two, or maybe three, and all my questions were answered. For anyone willing to take my word for it, baby skunks ARE capable of spraying. (If you are lucky enough to pick one up and not get sprayed, it is either just very gentle and possibly even empty). They are difficult to photograph, as they are moving much faster than you think, and they don’t pose well. But if they do stop and look right at you with their tail raised, rest assured, that will usually be their final warning before they turn and fire. They do have little needle teeth and can “bite in nearly every direction.” They are shy, yet curious. And as all wild babies … they are just too STINKING cute!
Facts found on the internet: They can spray accurately over 10 feet, and the mothers are extremely protective of their young. Baby skunks are called kits. Skunks do not have an “unlimited” amount of spray, so they only do so when they are extremely threatened. It takes several days to refuel what has been lost. Skunks can spray when their feet are off the ground, and they CAN even spray when they are being held by their tail or tail is tucked under.
The most effective homemade recipe for removing skunk odor includes; hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and Dawn dish washing liquid. The rest, I have figured out on my own. I wonder what other cool things they can teach me? Maybe I should stock up on tomato juice before I push my luck any further. Or better yet, count my blessings and search for another photo challenge.
Post your caption for Stacey’s photo in the comments section and win your choice of a a fullsize print of a fawn, or a package of 8 cards (4X6 photos on 5X7 blank note cards signed by Stacey with 4 random photos.)
(Disclaimer: I in NO way condone the handling of or harassing of wild animals. In most instances, they are better left alone. I am a trained sub-permittee for a local wildlife rescue center. Leave them wild so they can grow up wild. For your protection as well as theirs, if you feel that a wild animal needs assistance contact your local authorities, wildlife center, Game and Fish or DNR.)
CONTEST DEADLINE: AUG. 1, 2011. TO BE JUDGED BY STACEY HUSTON.
Stacey Huston is an outdoorswoman to the core, and would much rather spend time in the high country than in the local shopping mall, and feels more at home in heavy timber than in a salon. She is an accomplished photographer. She resides in northwest Wyoming, the state she has called home for more than 22 years. Stacey hunts with longbow and rifle, and written articles for online outdoor companies and print magazines. You can find her photos in Traditional Bow Hunter, Turkey Country and Primitive Archer magazines. Her work graced the cover of Primitive Archer Magazine for more than a year, as well as 2 issues of Schnee's catalogue and an issue of Successful Hunter Magazine. Stacey is on the field staff for Prois Hunting and Field Apparel for Women. View all posts by Stacey Huston