Thursday, July 23, 2009

Home, where the deer and the skunks roam

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial Page

My neighbourhood is turning into a wildlife reserve, I think. In the past week, I've had a visit from a skunk and a deer. Normally, the only thing I see is the odd stray cat, a squirrel or two and the odd pheasant.

A couple of Sundays ago, I was eating breakfast when I saw a huge tan-coloured dog cross the street. Of course, it wasn't a dog -- it was a deer, but my brain didn't register "deer" right away. I grew up in the same neighbourhood and saw a moose about 35 years ago, but the area has built up quite a bit since then.

Normally, I'm pretty good at making the bed, showering and getting dressed before I eat breakfast. It's a routine I've had for quite some time and it helps me be productive earlier in the day rather than laze around half the morning in sweatpants and an old shirt that's full of holes and that should have been thrown away ages ago.

The morning of the deer's visit, however, I was uncharacteristically lounging around in a state of undress and unfit for public viewing. And, of course, that's when the deer appeared in front of my house. I threw on some pants and put some flip-flops on my feet, rifled around my office for my camera and ran outside to film my own episode of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, minus Marlin Perkins, God rest his soul.

By the time I found the deer in the park, it was quite a fair distance away from me, but I managed to shoot a video that I posted online later in the morning. It was so far away by that time, however, that it kind of looked like that controversial grainy video of Bigfoot everyone's seen on television -- only this "Bigfoot" was cuter.

A day or so later, I saw a stray cat that I'd seen once before. It looked a little ragged, so I concluded that it was just not just a neighbourhood cat that was allowed to roam free, but one that was actually lost. (By the way, folks, an indoor cat is a happy cat . . . and a safe one, too!)

I called the SPCA and borrowed a trap from them. After getting instructions on how to set it up, I baited it with some cat food and waited. Nothing. A couple of days later, I changed the 'bait' to sardines. Two more days, and still nothing. Then, I woke up one morning, looked out my bedroom window and saw that I'd caught something. It was not the cat I was aiming for, but another cat -- or so I thought.

This black "kitty" had a white stripe down its back. You can probably guess that this was no kitty at all, but a hungry skunk who'd gone into the trap to dine on those delicious, smelly sardines. Smelly attracts smelly, I guess, eh?

The skunk did not seem to be in any distress. It was grooming itself and just waiting patiently to be set free. However I didn't want it to stay in there too long because the sun would eventually start beating down on the cage and this would not be good for the creature since it's a nocturnal animal. And even though I wouldn't have a skunk as a pet, I certainly didn't want to harm the little guy.

The animal control officer who came to retrieve the cage let the skunk out, all right, but had to coax it a bit because evidently it was quite comfortable in its new abode. After a bit more prodding, the skunk eventually left, but not after spraying everything -- including the officer -- with its signature calling card, that vile odour that we've all smelled at one time or another.

When I arrived home, the cage was gone and the skunk had wandered off, but the smell remained. It hit me as I got out of the car and remained strong in the backyard. Gross! It was no fun.

"Best to get inside and wait for the smell to subside," I thought to myself. I was deluding myself, however.

Unfortunately, the stink had seeped into the house, as well, leaving a lingering stench inside that was definitely not what one wants to have permeating up your nostrils after a long day at work!

I turned on the central air conditioning to start airing the place out and also went looking for various sprays and other concoctions to mask the odour. Within an hour or so, the inside of the house smelled like a combination of cloves from an essential oil warmer, oranges from a can of deodorizer, tangerines from a candle and Christmas wreaths from a dozen scented tea light candles that I had out. Oh . . . and skunk, of course. Despite my attempts at masking the stench, I could still smell my furry little striped friend.

Between the skunks, the deer -- and even raccoons -- I'm thinking of opening up my own urban zoo. I kind of feel bad for these creatures. I wish they'd just stick around the forest and stop creeping into the suburbs. I realize that humans are slowly but surely taking over their habitats, but I somehow wish they could realize that they can't win a battle with city traffic. I've already seen my fair share of raccoons and skunks dead on city streets.

I wonder if the stray cat I was originally trying to catch will chip in for the dry cleaning bill for the animal control officer that got sprayed? It only seems fair. Actually, the owners of the cat should be charged for the dry cleaning bill. Cats are perfectly fine as indoor-only pets. I just wish more people believed that.

Although I hope my little skunk friend found his way home safely, I'm in no rush for a return visit. It's a bit early to be burning those Christmas candles, after all.

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