Sunday, January 23, 2011

A visit from the Goddess of obnoxious odours

Late last night, as i sat computing, i suddenly heard spine tingling noises just outside of my window for a several seconds and then a terrible silence. I immediately thought it had been the death cries of a bird, caught by a cat, raccoon or maybe a coyote.

As i pondered the likelihood of it being a bird out in the night, much to my horror the urgent cries started again, closer this time.
I went to the kitchen and turned on the outside light and peered out into the darkness and the sounds again stopped. There was nothing on the deck, but suddenly what was that movement in the bush by the wall? I went into the sunroom to get a better view.

A flash of white trying to climb the wall....the size of a small cat; but not able to leap so is it a cat? It turned slightly to change direction and ran up the stairs in the center of the garden and i think this is who i saw; minus the black face with tiny white stripe


Now, i've seen skunks before but never with this much white fur. As it disappeared into the night i disappeared into the land of Google.

The one i saw was much whiter than these two pics from Google; in fact it wasn't two stripes at all but i think an almost solid white head and body perhaps with black legs but i'm not sure. I was seeing it mostly from behind and its tail was upright and fluffed out big. There was no doubt what it was; i had the pleasure of smelling the eau de pew.
I wonder if there's such a thing as albino skunks but Google just said it comes in many colours.

Its scientific name is Mephitis mephitis taken from the Roman Goddess of poisonous gasses.
Also known as striped skunks they live in the U.S. and the southern tier of the Canadian Provinces.
Their lifespan is 2 -3 years and they can reach a weight of 14 lbs.  Mephitis breed once a year and have litters of 4-8 kits. Diet changes with the seasons and right now they'd be eating mice, shrews and chipmunks so that's probably who was making all the noise. Since i only got a good look from behind i couldn't see if it was carrying something in his mouth.

Well, i knew we had been home to skunks before, but the usual black with white stripes variety and i thought they had long moved on. Who knows; maybe a kit stays back in the old home or it's a random spot that this fellow found or maybe he was enroute to somewhere else.

We'll be leaving him alone because he probably does us a favour by eating all the bad little bugs and critters in the garden although i don't consider chipmunks bad at all; they're very entertaining.
Anyway, the skunks i've seen arn't fast enough to catch a chipmunk or squirrel; those things can fly!

So he's welcome to live here as long as he dos'nt spray....one report said they can accurately spray up to 10'  but another said they have terrible eyesight and i can believe that as the one i saw was attempting to climb a tall wall instead of the shorter steps. Either way their odour can carry a mile and a half !

10 comments:

Susannah (Wanderin' Weeta) said...

We have those around here often. They really stink, too! But I've never seen one; they skulk around in the bushes. Only the raccoons and one possum dare to come out into my backyard.

Lorraina said...

Oh, thats interesting; he was my first white one and only because he stood out so well in the dark. Yes, i got a wiff of him and it wasn't pleasant.

While i was googling Mephitis i happened upon an albino raccoon. Have you ever seen one of another colour than the usual?

Susannah (Wanderin' Weeta) said...

No, I haven't. Just the usual masked bandit, although one at my daughter's house was grizzled with age.

Lorraina said...

I've only seen the regular type as well. Poor things, i always feel sorry for them even though they may have been responsible years ago when our four yr old cat Garfield aka Little Prince went missing.
Who can resist their cuteness?
I had an old female coon here once; walked around a corner in the garden and almost ran into each other; she walking along the fence so we were face to face, maybe 2' apart. Like the one at your daughters she was also grizzled with age.

Susannah (Wanderin' Weeta) said...

It's like cats and birds; much as we love cats, we have to recognize that they're also efficient bird-catchers.

Snowbrush said...

It is my understanding that any warm-blooded creature--including birds--can be an albino. My fear about having a skunk nearby would be that a cat or some other critter would come along and inspire the skunk to stink me out of my house. Also, if there are little kids with whom the skunk could come in contact, they could be harmed if sprayed in the face.

Lorraina said...

Hi Snowbrush,thanks for dropping by. Well, i never really thought of the albino issue until it became a probability with the sighting of this little fellow.
Didn't even think of a cat or other animal coming along and inspiring stinky to spray either. It seems that i don't think much!
But i do know there's no little kids around our yard anymore and none in the nearby neighbourhood that i know of to cause worry.
These poor critters are being pushed out with so much construction going on. I don't know what the alternative would be, but probably not pretty. I just hope we can leave him here to live his life safely with peace and dignity.

Snowbrush said...

I understand better where you're coming from, and I respect you for your consideration.

Lorraina said...

Thanks Snow, i know you're an animal lover too.

The Blog Fodder said...

I don't mind skunks or even slight skunk smell though a direct blast is not something I ever relish the thought of. Skunks keep rats and mice down around farms and if you leave them alone, they leave you alone. If one does chase you, run like hell because it is likely rabid.

Dogs and skunks don't mix well as any farm boy knows. I hear bathing them in tomato juice will take the smell away but never met anyone who actually tried it.