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Solutions for skunks

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POSTED July 7, 2013 9:39 p.m.

Got an email the other day from reader Nick Stumpf of Tracy, who observed that lately there seemed to be a boom in the skunk population  in the Santos Ranch area between Tracy and Mountain House.

Nick reports that his neighbors have been inundated with marauding skunks raiding pet food dishes and spraying the neighborhood dogs. Live traps set by the neighbors have resulted in numerous skunks, possums, raccoons, and backyard tabby cats being caught in traps. For years I have placed live traps in my yard and caught numerous samples of the above critters. It’s actually pretty cool to catch a coon or possum and then take him several miles from civilization to release him. Before transporting the offending critter to less populated environs, I usually give them a through soaking with the old garden hose. I figure if the coon or possum has a thoroughly disagreeable time in my yard, he’ll learn to avoid it altogether.

Unfortunately if you soak a caged skunk with a hose, you’re liable to get soaked in return. Live trapping skunks is not nearly as cool as catching and releasing coons. If you try to be humane and relocate the cute little critter unharmed, you’re going to end up smelling like a skunk. Trust me, there is no way to catch a live skunk and release him unharmed without getting blasted. I’ve tried everything to get rid of skunk perfume, and nothing works. The same holds true for dogs as well as human. If you’re dog gets sprayed, you will of course try everything. A common old time recipe to remove skunk smell is to bathe the sprayed dog (or human) in tomato juice.  I suspect that rumor was started by tomato farmers to increase tomato sales. Baths in vinegar, soap and water, or fancy pet shampoos all have approximately the same effect on removing skunk smell: they do very little to cut the smell.

Several years ago I asked my local Game Warden how to deal with a skunk in a live trap. His answer surprised me: “Shoot Em”.  The warden went on to explain that once wild critters got on the gravy train of raiding your cat’s food dish, or your dog dish, they’re not likely to give up a free meal. I really don’t want to have to shoot skunks in my backyard, besides; it’s illegal and annoys the neighbors. Fortunately there is a better answer. Don’t attract the skunks in the first place. Don’t leave pet food outside where it will attract critters. Be sure to store pet food in airtight, critter-proof containers. Better still, if feasible, feed your pets indoors and avoid the problem al together.

Oftentimes we look back on our childhoods and yearn for simpler times. Fact is, in some ways, the good old days did have a few drawbacks and we tend to gloss over them in our reminiscences.

Prior to his death about 10 years ago, Coach Ernie Poletti was an avid shot gunner. Like everything he did, Coach Poletti gave his shot gunning 100%. He shot 50 shotgun shells every day, rain or shine.

During hunting season, Coach hunted mostly quail and doves and during the rest of the year he shot blackbirds and starlings. Ernie was an old school hunter who believed that blackbirds and starlings were vermin that destroyed farmer’s crops. In part, because of his constant practice, the Coach was an amazing wing shot. Firing 50 rounds daily, Coach Poletti regularly killed 50 blackbirds with 50 shots. I never knew anyone else who was even close to being that good. Another ironclad rule of the Coach was that he always killed every skunk he encountered. Coach was a firm believer that skunks carried rabies and he was doing his civic duty by getting rid of the disease carrying skunks.

I guess we could go back to the good old days and simply shoot every skunk in sight. Or we could bring ourselves kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century and try to prevent wild critter conflicts to begin with. Give the prevention idea a try, Who knows? It might even work.  Let me know what you think.

Until Next Week,

Tight Lines

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