The Skunk That Ate Chuck Norris

Spotted Skunk
Spotted Skunk, From WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. They’re so cute!!

When my brothers and I were in our teens we were given three Chinese hamsters as gifts. I was surprised that we were allowed to keep them after what happened with their predecessors. Two caramel and white-colored teddy bear hamsters had broken out of their cage and were later found in domestic bliss inside two rolls of carpet in our rec room.

I named my hamster Chuck Norris. Its actual name was longer than that, but I can’t recall the last of its five names (why not five names?). Anyway, they ate, they drank, they slept. They had a normal wheel-spinning pellet-gobbling rodent-in-captivity life. Then the hamsters, in what we thought was secure confinement, started to disappear one by one.

Our cat had plenty of prey outside and showed little interest in these hamsters, so we knew it wasn’t her. The door to that room was generally closed at night anyway. The three of us decided to put our heads together and solve this mystery with the assistance of our trusty encyclopedia set.

Living in a semi-rural, wooded area near the water meant that we lived amongst wildlife. We knew that we shared space with bears, foxes, raccoons (our cat attacked one, earning two notches on her ear), and other flesh–eating mammals. But how on earth would a hamster-eating wild animal be getting into our house? It had to be small, and it had to have a secret entrance.

Aha—the spotted skunk. After perusing the S encyclopedia, we decided that was our culprit. They eat rodents, they were native to our area, and they were small, weighing about two pounds and less than two feet in length. But how would we know if we were right? We soon realized that we were onto something because one night we heard an animal moving through the walls. Spotted skunks are great climbers.

We ran outside and pinpointed a spot where the animal seemed to be, which was on the outside wall of the unfinished rec room closet. We were bursting with excitement and wanted to interrupt our dad, who at that very moment was hosting a Bible study in the living room. We dared not disrupt it, but wanted him to listen to the noise because it proved that our hamsters weren’t being beamed up by aliens.

This went on for quite awhile, and I’m not surprised, because our house was probably like McDonald’s for that skunk. We always had a mouse problem, like many people in our area. The mystery animal kept returning, but we weren’t convinced that our father believed us. We were baffled by this creature’s James Bond-like skills, and frustrated that we weren’t being taken seriously.

One autumn day my brothers discovered a hole in the floor of the previously mentioned closet under our large freezer chest. We decided to take turns sitting on top of the freezer with a flashlight to prove our theory. I took a shift, and then no sooner had I handed the flashlight off to my brother than the mystery critter popped out. I was just walking out the rec room door when he yelled, “IT’S A SKUNK!”

The skunk, who was genetically predisposed to bad eyesight, probably didn’t see my brother peeking over the freezer. But it dove back down the hole in a panic when he was startled by the shouting human. Sure enough, it was a spotted skunk that had been accessing the rec room via this convenient hidden portal. A skunk had eaten Chuck Norris and his two amigos.

Now that we had solid evidence of the skunk’s existence and access, we had dad’s attention. We didn’t know if the skunk lived in the woods and only came in towards nightfall or if had actually taken up residence in our house. But once thing was certain—for our dad, this meant war.

In mid-October I attended a friend’s birthday party on a nearby island. It was a pitch-dark night and the salt water air was frothy with fog, but a group of friends decided to walk me home anyway. As we came to the bridge that was still a couple of blocks from my house, a putrid stench stopped everyone in their tracks. The smell clung to the fog like fresh asphalt on a shoe. It was so bad that my friends refused to go on and I walked the rest of the way home by myself.

As I unlatched the gate to our yard, I was greeted by an astounding sight. I felt as if I’d walked from an uninhabited planet into a war zone. My dad was standing near the corner of the house yelling “Get him! Get him!” to our large, faithful shepherd mix. The poor dog was wedging itself into the crawl space under the house to obey his master and remove the gutsy spotted skunk that was spewing its venom in defense.

“WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING?!!” I yelled, incredulous that a huge dog was being encouraged to navigate a crawl space sized for leprechauns. “Our dog’s going to get stuck and he’s getting hosed point-blank!” The attack was called off. But this was only the first phase of the battle.

Phase two involved a 1968 Mercedes and a mismatched assortment of metal pipe. The car was backed into the yard and the pipes were hooked up to the car’s exhaust pipe, running from there to the underbelly of our house. All the windows and doors in the house were open as the latest tactic of fumigating the skunk out was deployed.

If you’re trying to brain damage your entire family and any resident pests, this is a great way to do it. Thankfully no one was harmed. The state of inanimate objects present was another matter. Everything in the house smelled horrible, so some heavy-duty lemon air freshener was applied. The end result? Our living quarters reeked of lemon-fresh diesel exhaust.

Phase three was so startling and unexpected that I couldn’t make something like this up if I tried. I had already gone to school when the final battle unfolded. Had I been home, I’m sure I would have tried to prevent the ultimate fate of the skunk, which disturbs me to this day even though the rest of the story is hilarious.

We had a metal storage shed next to the house where the dog food was kept in a large cardboard barrel. My youngest brother was going through the motions that morning, and took the lid off of the barrel. He nonchalantly stuck the dog food dish in there, thinking he was dispensing our dog’s morning rations—instead, he scooped up a hungry, surprised skunk!

Our longtime housemate fired off its anal scent glands full-force as my brother dropped the dog food dish back into the barrel. In my mind I see this playing out in slow motion with a distorted Hollywood-like “nooooOOOOOO!!!” as the soundtrack. Someone put the lid back on the barrel before the skunk was able to get out.

Instead of being slathered in the traditional but ineffective tomato juice concoction, my poor brother was bathed, doused in Grey Flannel cologne, and sent to school! I knew from a classmate’s experience that the musky horror that is skunk stink has no equal in the olfactory realm. You can’t even remove it from yourself with Borax and a belt sander.

The barrel containing the skunk and thirty pounds of dry dog food was carried out to the middle of our large yard and KABLAM! The skunk met its end with an unnecessary shotgun blast. As if that weren’t bad enough, then the whole bloody mess was left for the garbage man—if the bears didn’t get to it first.

I can’t imagine what would have happened had any of us gone into that room at night when this skunk—also known as a civet cat—was abducting Chuck and Co. I don’t think anyone ever expects to find an uninvited mammal larger than a mouse in their house.

While it wasn’t okay that the skunk came into the house, I wasn’t entirely opposed to it visiting the crawl space as long as it didn’t hurt or sicken my pets. Despite our cat’s best efforts and other control measures, mice loved that house back then. The skunk was probably a blessing.

In remembrance of the brief lives of our quirky tailless trio, I’ve started thinking about adopting a rescue hamster. A couple weeks ago I was amazed to find that there are hamsters available through petfinder.org. If I ever get one again, I will be sure that its living quarters are impenetrable to both domestic and wild animals to avoid another Chuck Norris vs. the skunk incident. We all should have had therapy for that.

This is life in the Pacific Northwest. We coexist with the original inhabitants of the region, all manner of birds and animals. Some outsiders who move here don’t understand it and think the animals are invading their space. They want police to keep deer from crossing the road and pass laws to keep raccoons from staring at them through their sliding glass doors.

Just tonight I was startled by a hawk diving into a rhododendron bush right outside my window, and something large was thumping around on the roof earlier this week. This reminds me that all animals are in a constant quest for food, and I think that’s what kept our skunk around.

In conclusion, I have a soft spot for skunks because of the fate of “our” skunk. Skunks are often misunderstood anyway. The word skunk has several negative connotations and some people don’t realize that they only spray in self-defense. People want to eradicate them on sight.

Maybe someday I’ll visit a skunk rescue place and make friends with one. But if I do, I don’t plan on feeding him any hamster hoagies.

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Eh, I am a creamy puff, no? –Pepe Le Pew

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For more information on skunks and an anti-skunk smell remedy that actually works, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/skunks.html.

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©2010 H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com.

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