For several weeks my German Shepherd, Kelly, had been acting strange in the evenings, pacing from room to room and looking out of the open windows. After pacing and checking windows for about thirty minutes she’d stop and go lie down. Her behavior was odd enough that over the course of those few weeks, I walked to the windows and looked out myself wondering what she was smelling or looking at, but I never saw a thing out there.
An elderly couple lived across the road from our house and next to them, an elderly woman, who was widowed. Each evening, the three of them would sit on the yard swing in the front yard of the couple’s house and chat. I stopped in to chat with them one evening as Kelly and I were returning home from a walk. After chatting a bit I said that I was going to head home as it was getting dark.
My widowed neighbor said, “I’m going to head in soon too, but I’m waiting to see your skunks come out. They’re so cute.”
“My skunks?” I asked, “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t you know? You have a family of skunks living under your old summer kitchen. A momma and three babies. Every evening right before dark they all come out. We’ve been watching them for weeks.”
Our kids play room used to be the summer kitchen. Years ago a lot of homes had summer kitchens, which were separate buildings from the main house that were used to cook and preserve food during the summer months in an effort to keep the main house cooler. Over the years many homes, like ours, added the summer kitchen onto the main house, but because the play room was not part of the original house, it did not have the basement under it, but rather was built on a stacked stone foundation. We had issues with animals under the room in the past who had either taken advantage of a loose stone or pushed one out so that they could crawl under the room.
I headed home and told my husband Steve and the kids what the neighbor had said and that evening, when Kelly began pacing, the four of us gathered around the open dining room window and waited. After waiting several minutes, the momma skunk walked right below the window causing my son to say, “I see her!” a little too loudly. I gave him the hairy eyeball and a quiet “shh” because we had already discussed with the kids that they had to be quiet so that we did not scare the skunks when they came out. Scared skunks equal spraying skunks and we didn’t need any of that. Following behind her were two little skunks, waddling as fast as they could to keep up with their mother. As they headed off towards the road, and just about the time I was beginning to wonder where the third baby was, he came straggling along. It soon became evident why he was lagging behind, he was the curious one. Just below the dining room window were our outside cellar doors. The third little guy jumped up on the doors and wandered around on them for a little bit before jumping down and checking out some plants in the flower bed. Finally, he scooted off and caught up to his mother and siblings.
As the skunks moved towards the road, so did we. Me, Steve, the two kids and the dog all ran to the living room window and watched as the four skunks crossed the road and walked along the edge of our neighbor’s yard and headed off into the field behind their house.
As soon as they were gone, Steve and I ran outside, found the dislodged foundation stone and put it back into place. Steve added some other rocks around it and in front of it, but we weren’t very hopeful. We assumed the momma skunk would just move them out of the way and dig her way back underneath the play room. But she didn’t. We checked the foundation the next day and for several days afterwards, but the skunks did not return.
What puzzled me the most was how this skunk raised three babies – literally under our feet – and we did not notice. My kids played in that room daily; they watched t.v., played video games, practiced the piano and rough housed in that room all day and all that separated us from the skunks was a plywood floor. But they never sprayed; there was never any smell. When I chatted with my grandfather about it, he told me that skunks do not spray in their own den. What a wonderful concept, we humans could learn a lot from skunks.
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