September 7, 2010 > Pat Kite's Garden: Skunk ahoy!
Pat Kite's Garden: Skunk ahoy!
By Pat Kite
This week my Daisy Dog tried to make friends with a garden skunk, but skunks are not known for their compassion. At 10 p.m., all the fans in the house were on and I was bathing the uber-stinky dog in the bathtub. As recommended by the Internet: a mixture of one quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide from the pharmacy area (I used what I had in the house, about a cup), ? cup baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and a teaspoon of dishwater detergent. Massage this thoroughly into dog fur. Rinse very well and discard liquid after use. Do not store the mixture as it can eventually create a small boom! What about tomato juice? I'm told this does not work.
There are 10 different kinds of skunk. My striped skunk's scientific name is Mephitis mephitis. This is Latin for a poisonous gas coming from the ground. The word "skunk" is said to come from the Native American "segondu" translating as "One who squirts." Skunk spray is a mixture of sulfur-containing chemicals, often called mercaptans. The spray can travel six to 16 feet, and skunks have good aim. If it hits an eyeball, the burning is awful and temporary blindness can result. Skunk stink can travel several miles and last quite a while. If your yard smells, mix one gallon of clear vinegar with one cup of liquid dishwasher soap and spray the affected area.
The Native American Oglala Sioux quite respected the skunk. If it got into a fight, it never retreated because it didn't have to. Tail raised over its head, and with super spritz, an opponent trots off to be sick. Skunks really don't have persistent enemies.
How did skunk get its stripes? Once upon a time, according to Abenaki Native American legend, Skunk had pure white fur. However, he disrespected Gluskabe, a local trickster hero. Gluskabe emptied his pipe ashes over Skunk's head, and its white coat turned black. To remind Skunk of its former glory, Gluskabe added two white stripes, then blew smoke on Skunk to make him smell bad.
My garden skunk visits at night, scooting under the fence. Daisy Dog, who likes to make friends with "cats," is now kept inside after dark. I haven't figured out how to discourage skunk, but I now remove all animal food from the front and back yards after twilight. A good reference is http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston.
I'm certain that skunks have their proper place in the scheme of nature. They eat bugs, rats, wasps, decaying plants, rotten fruit, etc. On the other hand, I would like them to do all this good stuff someplace else. Many years ago, during the 1866 smallpox epidemic, terrified people killed a skunk, rubbed its oil over their skin, and hung the body over their doorstep. There's nothing about skunk odor that cures diseases, however, the odor might have discouraged possible disease-carrying visitors. And you have a nice day too!