by Ranger Daniel F.
Mephitis mephitis -
Striped Skunk Squad
by Daniel F. Murley
Jesting and playful
pleading came from the girls as I hurriedly pulled on my
boots and headed frantically for the door. I had been
alerted by Oona that one of the members of the local
neighborhood Mephitis family was ambling into the side yard.
Though I was dutifully advised of its presence, I was also
relentlessly teased about my reasons for wanting to be
Ever since the birth of
a bunch of fuzzy white-striped little stinkers and their
daily comical clown-like promenades last summer, we have
been curious to see if any of the family would return to
their home in the hollowed out Redwood tree near the house.
My interest exceeded
that of the rest of the family and when we started seeing
two distinct individuals this year I wanted to see if I
could actually make friends and maybe even get close to one
of the maligned odiferous members of the weasel family.
I knew that in some Native cultures skunks were kept as
pets. However, it was not my goal to have a "Fluffy"
or "Duke" as a part of our household. I just wanted to
become a bit more familiar with our notorious neighbors.
Even the name of the Striped Skunk, Mephitis mephitis
means noxious noxious and their Eastern cousins' name
Spilogale putorius means smelly spotted weasel.
My family knows my
fascination with these critters and even puts up with my
appreciation for the stench which the black and white
creature's glands produce but none of my faithful family
dare accompany me on my forays. In most encounters
with these year-old kits they will allow me to get within
about thirty feet before they detect my presence and then
they literally "high-tail" it for cover and concealment. I
have never been sprayed but on this day all of my fans
watched with fear as they saw from their safe window perches
that this little tête-à-tête
might be problematic. The young skunk looked at me
with his shiny black eyes bounced up and down on his hind
legs as if on low-rider air shocks and raised his bushy tail
in a warning gesture before I became the "chicken" in this
game of confrontational curiosity. He didn't spray and
as I tipped my ball cap in gratitude while slowly stepping
backward through the low bushes. In doing so however,
I inadvertently frightened the other oblivious fragrant fur
ball and unknown to me that other skunk was now foraging in
the dirt right behind me.
It then dawned on me
why my concerned peanut gallery family were banging on the
window glass and going through such elaborate histrionics.
They saw what I didn't. I was enjoying showing them
just how close I could get to danger so the more waving and
tapping on the window they did, the more accomplished I
assumed I was at my dubious daredevil demonstration.
When finally I turned to see the other skunk, it saw me and
we both jumped in panicked acknowledgment. As quick as
an eye blink and a muscle twitch, I found myself relocated
to safety many yards away from the two near-sighted weasels
who were now gregariously exchanging greetings.
I waved my cap to my
relieved fans acknowledging I had dodged an embarrassing
scene and retreated to the clubhouse with a new resolve to
leave our neighbors to their own devices and become more a
respectful spectator than a crazy contestant.
*Independent Coast Observer (ICO),
June 30, 2006.