From the Publishers
Wildlife, chapter 2
by Chris Klein
few issues back I described how the local wildlife -
skunks, possums and mice - were using my mulch bin as a diner. A minor penance
for paving their ancestral homes, no great bother. Mistake number one.
Two weeks ago, on my way to bed after a late-night editing
session, I heard a strange rustling noise in the kitchen. In the semi-darkness
I could see that the 20-pound bag of cat food was tipped over, and the noise
was coming from inside the bag. Our cats don't do this ­p; they're much
too stylish to rut around in a bag of dry food. The light switch was next
to the bag ... so I got a flashlight. Staying back as far as the kitchen
geometry allowed, I shined the light in the bag and was greeted by the cute
little face ... of a baby skunk.
Was it old enough to shoot? I backed off. The skunk
trotted over to the cat door, and after several tries (the door is about
6 inches off the ground) popped out.
The rustling in the bag continued - its sibling was
still nibbling. I made a noise. I made more noise. No response. I crept
around back and tapped on the bag. Still nothing. Finally, I snatched the
bag shut, quickly deposited it outside, and pulled the top open. It wouldn't
come out. I finally had to tip the bag up, spilling the baby (and most of
the food) on the cement. It gave me an unconcerned look and waddled off.
Well, maybe they were scared off. Mistake number 2.
Later the same night, I found mama skunk at the bag, with the kids waiting
Now, this was a problem. For reasons you can probably
guess, sealing the cat door for the night was not an option. Cats that are
used to going outside leave you little gifts when you lock them in.
My next thought was - purely mercenary, temporary, I know you shouldn't
feed wildlife, please don't write letters - maybe if I put some of the food
outside, they won't come inside. Mistake number three. First they ate the
food outside, then they come in for seconds. The next night there were four
of them queued up at the back door.
I'd heard that they don't like light, so the next night
I turned on bright lights inside and out. Our back porch looked like a tanning
salon. Mistake number four. When there's free food afoot, skunks are willing
to forgo mood lighting. That night there were seven: a mom, two teens and
four babies. Two is cute. Seven is scary.
I started to think about litter pans and where I might
move the cat door. But I decided to try one more trick: my wildlife advisor
said they don't like voices. It was worth one more try. So I set the kitchen
radio to KPBS, since it features all-night broadcasts from the BBC that
are all talking.
And it worked. At least, I haven't had the bag tipped over for about a week.
I must say, the skunks were always very well-behaved.
As soon as they saw me, they would leave without a fuss (or smell). I later
learned that they generally only spray when threatened, and I was always
careful not to corner one.
But if they ever develop a taste for a British accent,