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Pierre le Pew, Or, Basement Ick, Part 2.

>> Thursday, November 5, 2009


The feral cats have tried any number of times to re-open the entrances old Biggsy had dug into the place, and it's been a constant battle to keep them blocked.  For the most part, though, we've kept a step ahead of them, and for a while we were patting ourselves on the back for being smarter than the cats.

That was until we discovered Pierre le Pew.

Pierre is handsome, small, mostly black with some dashing white stripes down his back and tail, cute little beady black eyes, and a glandular body odor problem.  We discovered his presence one late spring morning, when we awoke to discover the house reeked of skunk.  Upon further investigation, however, the great outdoors turned out to smell fresh and lovely.  The problem was in the house.  Or under it.

Oh frabjous day.  What fun.

Thankfully, though, Pierre has turned out to be a decent tenant, all things considered.  He comes and goes quietly, gets on great with our outdoor cat Tucker (we have actually witnessed them touching noses in greeting), and is about as easy-going as a skunk could be.  He studiously ignores us when we are out doing yard work at dusk, and has even tolerated the dogs remarkably patiently.  Furthermore, he doesn't come into the house or even the main part of the basement, but seems to stick to the crawl spaces.  But cute though he is, I'd rather not just let him remain and await the day when he loses patience with my irritatingly exuberant dogs and sprays them.  I'm just sayin'.

I haven't the heart to trap him, poison him, smoke him out, or any of the other horrid things people do to get rid of "pests".  It's not Pierre's fault that our basement makes a perfectly luxurious and snug little skunk abode.  I've had folks recommend moth balls as a skunk repellent but am not keen on deliberately fumigating skunk and house with napthalene.  Instead, we coughed up three times as much for what essentially amounts to essence of pepper:



I spent an hour or so freezing in the cold waiting for Pierre to emerge around dusk Sunday night so I could get his mug shot for this blog, to no avail.  He always emerges right at dusk.  We've seen him dozens of times, poking his quivery little black nose out for a sniff before waddling across the yard in search of garbage and garden pests.  But last night all I managed to get was numb toes, a frozen camera battery, and a shot of the evening sky:


Because Pierre's been such a pleasant tenant, I've tried to ignore the problem all summer.  Fall is upon us and passing quickly, though, and while I'm not terribly familiar with the hibernation patterns of skunks, I am certain we can't be too far off from the day when he curls his pretty little stripey tail over his nose and commences snoozing in earnest.  Perhaps the distinct chill in last night's air kept him in.  That fear has finally driven us to sprinkle the basement crawl spaces liberally with the pepper stuff (or at least those areas we dare crawl into, knowing he's in there too), in hopes he'll relocate for his winter nap.

Do I think we'll be that lucky?  Uh, no.  Probably not that lucky.  In fact, what little research I've done about skunks and winter informs me that they don't truly hibernate, but rather invite all their buddies into their houses to take extended naps together in a furry smelly pile.  Given how appealing our crawl spaces are compared with some of the alternatives I can envision, I suspect Pierre's not going anywhere, but is about to throw an extended house party.

How do I know if the pepper worked?  I have no idea.  I don't really intend to investigate.  But I think perhaps I'll put off installing more insulation in the crawl spaces until spring.  I just don't relish a close encounter with my stinky little friend and all his stinky little friends in close quarters where I can only back up on my knees in the dirt while whacking my spine on the floorboards above and being assaulted with offensive burning blasts of nastiness.

In case you're wondering, we do happen to keep a healthy supply of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide on hand.  Just in case.

5 comments:

Ellen Rathbone November 5, 2009 at 12:04 PM  

I had a friend in college whose family always had pet skunks, all named Cauliflower. Upon the occasion of her untimely death, we got to meet the current Cauliflower, a skunk of prodigious proportions, but a very sweet temperment. I've only had one other skunk encounter: a baby skunk that spent the day nestled in my brassiere until it could get to a rehabber. Interestingly, this happened while I was interning at BLNC!

Woodswoman Extraordinaire: November 5, 2009 at 12:13 PM  

Ellen, I actually have an aunt who used to keep skunks (sans stink glands) as pets too. I never met them though, and all I really know about them is that they dug up her hardwood floors. Or more accurately, I gather they dug THROUGH her floors.

Your baby skunk story reminds me of a wonderful afternoon when I got to play with 5 baby skunks on their way to a wildlife rehabber after a former colleague had a vehicular encounter with the mom. They were so cute it hurt!

Ellen Rathbone November 5, 2009 at 5:13 PM  

Why, yes, to answer the question you posted over at my blog, I am LN! Holy Cats! Judi and I are still in touch, and Dave actually stopped by here, oh, a couple summers ago. Neither of them have changed a bit, although I don't quite look the same (too much pasta). I'm guessing, then, that Judi must've given you the moniker "Woodswoman Extraordinaire" - it sounds like Judi-lingo!

Well...small world. Glad to see that nature stuff has stuck with you! :)

Sneaksleep November 6, 2009 at 12:49 PM  

We had a squirrel in our basement last winter, and no amount of pepper stuff would get it to leave. The only thing that worked was a humane trap with peanut butter, and a man in a truck to take him far away. Still don't know how he even got in. After cleaning that basement and trowing out a bunch of our stuff, I never wanted to smell bleach again.

Woodswoman Extraordinaire: November 6, 2009 at 1:24 PM  

LN - too, too cool to have found you again!!! I'm glad you also have "stuck with" the nature stuff. That makes me happy. I'm also glad to hear Judi and Dave are apparently well. I'd love to know what they're up to. Oh, and yes, the blog title was a Judi nickname. :)

Sneaksleep - Not a bad idea. We actually do have my Dad's live trap. Query: am I daring enough to use it, come spring? And if so, will it be small enough that Pierre can't lift up his tail while inside? And even more importantly, what vehicle would we risk to transport him far away? Hm. Food for thought...

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