With skunks, use the hit-and-run approach
"I told Papa not to throw those scraps off the back porch," a voice whined on the other end of the phone. It was Mrs. Olgien, her voice tinged with anger at Papa for being too lazy to walk out to the chicken yard.
I had never met them or been to their house.
It seems the combination of food scraps and the warmth under the house had lured a skunk. Somehow it had wedged itself between two footers and was stuck. The family had discovered it before it had set off its fragrant bomb. My assignment was to sedate the critter without releasing the bomb, then carefully remove him. I was still new in the community and very much wanted to please these people.
When I arrived, I noticed several cars around – a combination of family in for a visit and some neighbors who wanted to help. One of the cars had the insignia of the Donley County Sheriff's Department; it seemed even the law would be involved.
The parking spots nearest the house were taken. This gave me about a 100-yard walk to focus on my mission and be thankful the house faced north and the skunk was under the back porch. I noticed the lights were on in the living room, just inside the glass front door.
"You better get in here, Dr. Bo," the much-toned-down voice of Mrs. Olgien greeted me. I was introduced to the ladies and then escorted to the backyard, where about 15 men were sizing me up for the delicate job.
After a briefing, I scooted under the porch to a 2-foot-square opening that led to the substructure. Peering through, I caught my first glimpse of the skunk's fanny.
The creature was wedged between two boards, about 7 feet away. There was no way I could get a shot of sedative in one of those buns and then get away before the explosion. I gingerly backed out, and we brainstormed. Finally we decided to tape a syringe to the end of a broom and use a very small needle to deliver the drug. The small needle might be just gentle enough to keep the skunk from spraying, but just in case I'd be a long way off.
I filled the syringe with about twice the dose of sedative that I would have given a cat. I felt like G.I. Joe as I belly-crawled, inch by inch, toward the trespasser. Carefully glancing around the protection of the footer, I gently inserted the tiny needle into the skunk's left bun and slipped him a mickey. Not a drop of odor entered the air. What an accomplishment! I scurried out to a hero's welcome. I felt sure I'd be on "Wild Kingdom" after such an adventure.
We went back inside and enjoyed a cup of Mamma's hot chocolate, waiting for the sedative to take effect. We visited and laughed for a few minutes, then just as I was about to leave Mamma asked if we'd actually removed the now-snoring skunk. "No," I replied, but I assured her it would take just a second and I'd do it before I left.
I went back under the house to retrieve the skunk. I peered at now-limp tail and quickly closed the gap between us. The thing was stuck harder than I thought. I pulled and tugged with little success. By now, 30 minutes had passed since the shot. When the skunk finally came sliding free, our eyes met. It was then I realized the drug had worn off.
The critter had been chased by dogs, wedged between boards, injected with a needle and never released a drop of liquid fragrance. But the minute our eyes met, he fogged up the world. He got me right in the side of the head.
Under the house is no place to jump back. If you do, you'll bump your head, as I did.
Only the toughest of the bunch were still in the yard. They knew. I could hear the sheriff saying something about clearing the area and forming a perimeter. My eyes were watering so much I couldn't see a thing. This was nothing like the smell you get when you pass a dead skunk in the road. That stinks, but this smell actually hurts. There were parts of my body other than my nose that were smelling it. It was then that I felt a warm liquid running down my neck.
Did I mention that I can't stand to see my own blood? That's right. I can do a C-section on a cow while eating a hamburger, but if I see my own blood I am going to pass out. Maybe I'm a sissy, but I can't control it. I can take kicks, cuts, bruises just fine, but a little bleeding takes me down.
My knuckles were white from the tight grip I had on Mr. Skunk. I never let go as I backed out from under the porch. There I stood, in a ring of people I never met, holding a skunk and about to pass out. Everyone backed off even further as the odor began to spread.
I heard someone say, "He's bleeding all over the place!" The next few scenes were in slow motion for me. First to my knees, then to my stomach. That was the last I remembered until I came to in the garage with Mamma rubbing my head with a warm rag.
I stunk, the four men who carried me to the garage stunk, the women who took off my coat and boots stunk and my pickup truck stunk for two months just from the ride home.
They would have been better off if they had never met me. I took two baths in tomato juice, but still had to sleep on a towel-covered couch for three days.
I talked to Mrs. Olgien a week or so later and she told me it still smelled in the house, but that they had gotten used to it.
The moral of the story: Don't hang around visiting too long after shooting a skunk with sedative – even if it's twice a cat-dose.
Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.