Saturday, July 24, 2010

Skunk War: Day 22--"It's Over"

At least, we believe it to be over.

A quick recap of Night 19 and  Days 20 and 21:

Night 19:
That night we had one trap from Critter Control, and our own Havaheart Trap. Both were put out and baited, the CC trap being placed at the 'Blind Trap' spot, directing in front of the hole out of the enclosure.

Day 20-Thursday
The lone son of the original skunk (Mama Skunk) wasn't going down without a fight. I guess it runs in the family.  The next morning we found that our trap had been robbed of it's bait...but had not been set off. This was inconceivable...however, I quickly deduced what had happened.

Since it had proven effective, I left that trap in the exact same spot it was when it caught the first skunk the night before, however, I had not filled in the hole made by the skunk trying to escape.  The final skunk had used those holes to get under the trap, and take the bait out through the bottom of the cage.

Slippery bastard.

That night it was re-baited and we tried again, but with only our cage. Critter Control said they needed their cage elsewhere, and since we had one that had caught one before...they decided we could be the sacrifice.

He came out later than the normal 9-9:15 range, something totally understandable for a young skunk that is now on his own. However, he was frightened by the lights we used  to check on what he was doing, and he retreated back into the hole. So we decided to leave it alone until around mindnight.

It was around that time that we came out to check, and noticed the bait had been taken yet again.  The skunk had dug underneath to get the bait.


I carefully took the trap out of the enclosure, re-baited it with a large chunk of meatloaf that was sitting inside a small dish (so it could NOT be pulled through the holes of the cage), and relocated it a bit closer to the burrow, where we believed the skunk to be.

Day 21-Friday
The Next morning the was no change to our trap.  It was still set, bait and all.

That night, we moved the cage into the 'blind trap' position at the hole in the fence, this time with a board underneath it. (Clever, eh?)

And, around midnight on Saturday morning, when we went out to check the cage...there he was. The final little soldier had been captured. The war was over...and we had won.

Day 22-Today

Critter Control did not arrive first thing in the morning, however.  In fact, they still had not arrived by 11 o'clock.  We thought it cruel to make the skunk spend his last few hours of life cooking in the hot sun, so my dad briefly made an effort to put up an umbrella nearby.

However, as my dad approached...the tail went up.

No shade for the skunk.

Luckily the CC man (not John, John would have been on time) came not-too-long after that.

Within a few minutes the skunk was on board the truck...and the truck drove off with the last of our determined enemies.

22 Days, 7 skunks, 6 cages, and 3 Critter Control Vists later...the war has finally come to a close.

However, the trap is still set tonight...just to be safe.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Skunk War: Day 19- "And Then There Was One"

...we think.

All four cages, the three by Critter Control and the one we bought, all had skunks in them by the end of the night last of which, housing two of the little furry friends.

John from CC told us that we have set his new record for skunks picked up at one location with five (beating the previous, surprisingly low record of two). Here are the best looks I could get at the cages:

 (There are two in there!)
 (That one hugged the door the entire time I saw him)

It took John over 45 minutes to transfer all of the skunks into the Transfer Cage on his truck, a process in which four of the skunks shot off some spray at multiple points, leaving our yard, clothes, and garage with quite a potent smell.

 Unfortunately, I did discover that my ultimate fear of calling Critter Control was correct; As it is illegal to move skunks in Pennsylvania, all of skunks (including Mama Skunk yesterday) had to be put to sleep. If only they didn't have that damn spray (and didn't eat flowers) they could have stayed under the shed for all I cared, but as it was, they all had to go. At least they're back with Mama now.

On the other hand, I was wrong about another major aspect of the War...the total number of skunks.  Very early this morning my dad witnessed one skunk still meandering about the yard while all of the cages were full of his siblings, which means we had at least SEVEN skunks under our shed. John left one trap, and we will put that out with our Havaheart Trap tonight, in an effort to grab, what we think is the final skunk. Our success rate has been pretty good since John got involved, so we have high hopes that tonight will be the final night of the battle. The final night of sitting in the dark with flashlights and binoculars. 

Although, I have to say...part of me hopes there are another cluster of skunks down there.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Skunk War: Day 18- The Mighty Have Fallen

Say hello to my little friend...

That...would be Mama Skunk.  She trapped herself in 'the blind trap' around 9:10pm last night. As it turned out  I lied about staying on the deck.  Myself and my dad went around the other side of the yard (careful to stay outside of that 15-foot radius) and examined the situation. for a long while the babies surrounded the cage and they all tried feverishly to free Mama (leaving quite the hole in the ground, I might add).

The trap behind the shed also caught something...a cat. This was not the goal. Damn cats.

Well...One down, five to go. John from Critter Control took Mama away and we're hoping that, in their confusion, all the babies will stick together and can be caught tonight.  The traps are all reset and back in their old positions, ready for another battle.  It would seem, my friends, that the end of The Skunk War is in sight.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Skunk War: Day 17 - Waving The White Flag


There are six skunks living under our shed.  We took a few nights off from observation due to hectic morning schedules (should we catch something, of course) but when I returned to the field Saturday night...I got quite a surprise.  Sitting alone in my club house I watched them all parade around the enclosure. It was at that time I decided I was out numbered and I shot the Maglite their way and shouted "Alright...everyone back in the cave!" I'm serious, that's what i shouted. They obeyed, then I sprinted for the deck.  A few minutes later, I watched as they marched off, in two different directions, in groups of three.

Out numbered, we decided to pull The French Tactic and call in the bigger guns.
 Our good friends at Critter Control arrived at 4pm today and set up three traps. One directly against the hole in the fence (the "blind trap", as John from CC called it), one in the enclosure in front of the burrow, and one behind the shed.  The only thing left to do is wait.

Tonight we'll observe only from the deck, and without flashlights.  Our friend John believes we will catch at least three of them tonight, but hopefully they'll be sticking together and get them all.  He used big traps, so they will be able to get their tails up to spray if they need to. But, as John put it: "That makes this that much more exciting." You have to appreciate it when you meet someone who loves their job.

So, in the words of Dexter Morgan...

"Tonight's The Night."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Inception: A Perfect Film

Christopher Nolan, I have a question: As a writer, how can I ever be expected to attempt this art again after seeing your newest film?  How could I even conceive something in the general neighborhood of originality after what you graced the screen with early this morning?

(Before we move on, for those of you interested in The Great Skunk War, the next battle will take place either Sunday or Monday night)

Now then, let us discuss what some of my most trusted 'movie buddies' have already called The Greatest Movie They Have Ever Seen.

I had high hopes for this movie going in.  I love heist movies, I love movies about teams (often one and the same), I love Christopher Nolan, I love Hans Zimmer, and I really love Leo DiCaprio.

Well, let me start with a few bold statements to get everyone's attention.  Inception will win the oscars for every visual effects category, at least one sound category, best Original Screenplay (Christopher Nolan), most likely Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), probably Best Director (Christopher Nolan), and has a very good chance at Best Picture. In terms of nominations, however, I will start off by saying it will lead all other films in terms of total nominations. Marion Cotillard will probably be nominated for Best Actress, Ellen Page will be nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and as of right now, i think she should win. And it goes without saying that Hans Zimmer will be nominated for Best Score.  The only tricky category is Best Supporting Actor. I say this because Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy should all be nominated, and would all deserve it. And finally, I guarantee Inception will win the SAG Award for Best Ensemble Cast. 

Yes, it was that good. 

Word has it that Nolan spent ten years writing the screenplay for Inception. I'm not surprised.  I think anyone would be hard-pressed to think of the concepts used in the film in that amount of time. If there is one thing I have an appreciation for, it is a good story. In terms of film, Inception is the most original and gripping story I have ever been told. Not only that, the story is more or less seamless. In the last year or so, I've grown to be quite nit-picky about faults such as plot holes, bad cuts and poor dialogue.  I found no such problems during my first viewing of Inception. I say first, because at least one more will follow before it leaves has to.

Nolan took humanity's age-old fascination with dreams and managed to create a completely unique labyrinth of a story, which sucks you in from the first frame and spits you out at the credits, totally satisfied. But that is just the actual event of the film. You will be discussing it, thinking about it, and re-thinking your life philosophies for at least the rest of the night...a night which, by the way, you will pray you do not dream.

Generally speaking, I find that movie reviewers tend to tell to much of the plot when attempting to provide a brief synopsis of the film. For this reason I try to keep my summarizing to an absolute minimum, and in this case, the following sentence:

Inception is about dreams, dreams within dreams, and the dreamers who dare to dream the dreams within their dreams.

I refuse to tell you any more plot details. At this point, i feel you should be adequately intrigued to go out and treat yourself to this glorious film.  Although I'd consider Inception almost spoiler-proof, I don't want to take that chance. Everyone deserves to be wowed by this piece of cinema. I owe it Christopher Nolan, his brilliant cast, and awe-inspiring writing to tell you to stop reading, get in your car, and go see this film.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Skunk War: Days 7,8 and 9

Alright, so I took some time off.

Fear not, the Skunk War rages on. The Skunk, who has finally been given a name...Stinky...I know, original (taken from the Beanie-Baby we found of the same species), has discovered he can get in and out of the bigger trap (with the food) without any problem, other than that pesky problem of having to thrash the cage off of him.

The food is never just nibbled upon and left to rot, by the way. It (along with the leaves I've been putting near his/her hole to alert us that it is out) is always just gone in the morning, meaning he has been taking everything into his hole with him, making a lovely little home for himself.

On Day 7, my brother and his wife joined our observation team. Now, what happened that night was a bit strange. When the skunk failed to enter the trap, my brother and father and I all jumped from our respective perches and basically charged it with flashlights.  We managed to make him do a few loops around the shed before he scurried off into the neighbor's bushes.

As to what we hoped to accomplish from this impulse, I couldn't tell you. Cornering him will only make him more likely to use his last defense to get away from us. Perhaps it was just the fact that, well...the whole situation is beginning to get a little old, I'm not gonna lie.

Tomorrow, someone at my dad's work is lending us yet another cage trap, this one bigger than the last, to try and capture it. If the trap works, wonderful, if not...we have a few options.

Option One (less likely): Leave it be.

Other than the fact that it is a skunk, an animal with one very big con to it, I see no problem with letting he/she live out his/her little 3-4 year life under our shed. My father, on the other hand, does not subscribe to this option.  There is a big fear that the skunk might just move under our deck. I have long since thought that there is a bunny patch under the deck...but bunnies will not spray you when they are frightened. 

Option Two (Slightly more likely): Call Animal Control
We are hesitant to do this.  This will cost money, probably a lot more than the cage did. I'm also almost positive whoever comes will tell us some of the bushes/flowers near his hole will have to be removed.

Option Three (Becoming more and more likely): "Here Lies Stinky, Ex-Skunk"

Because of the stink factor, we'd only really have one method of killing our little friend, and that would be poisoning the bait. Now, I've been hesitant to resort to this.  There is no real reason why the skunk should have to die...but sadly, it does have to go. The problem with this is we now have a dead skunk under the shed, which will then require some cutting into the floor of the shed, or replacing all of the flooring in the shed (that's all my dad...seems like a dumb plan to me). And, of course, if it is a momma skunk, by default that means killing any baby kits that may or may not be in the burrow.

But HOPEFULLY this next trap will work, and HOPEFULLY we can transport it without getting sprayed (that could change my feelings on the whole...death...issue), but going out there every night and watching this thing do the same damn routine night after night is proving to be quite pointless.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day Six of the Great Skunk War

That, my friends, is what a skunk trap looks like after it has been OVERTURNED, and stripped of it's bait by the skunk you are trying relentlessly to capture.

The more knowledge we gather about skunks and the more we think about the situation, the more we think that he is a she.

The plan tonight?

Another chicken finger (with peanut butter) in the bigger cage. My dad and I will both be on the clubhouse to observe, assuming it doesnt go in the trap, and then I will try to follow it for as long as I can. Then we will move the trap outside of the enclosure and put it where we think it has best chance of being used. It will also be weighted down with a rock.

What we think happened is that it went in to get the chicken wing, but was bigger than the cage, so when the door closed it just thrashed about until the cage was off. Tonight that shouldn't happen.

Come on back later for Part 2, after the skunk's 9:15 excursion.


Part Two: Proceeding With Caution

Once again, 9:15.  Only this time, he stayed in back of the bush that blocks his hole for a few minutes.  May dad and I were both on the clubhouse this time, anticipating where he would go.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what the skunk was planning on.

He stayed in the enclosure for a good 3-5 minutes. Tonight we could barely see him. It had rained, so the leaves were still wet making him harder to hear.  He managed to silently make a tunnel through the leaves that plugged the fence hole, and then, hugging the fence, moved around the back of the shed.

His only mistake was hitting the bush that overflows the enclosure; that caused both of us to think he might have gotten out undetected.  After that I jumped down and moved into the open part of our yard behind the shed area, trying to see if he was around there.  Right before I jumped down, however, I saw a patch of black run down the length of the property line between our trees and the neighbor's yard.  I gave a big point for my dad as I ran around to get in my new (out-of-spray-range) position.

A few seconds later I heard two small whimpers from my porch.  It seamed that my mother managed to come outside undetected as well.  As we did the first time this happened, both of us ran to where she was sitting on the deck.

The object I saw running down the property line was indeed that furry little bastard.  He then came along the deck area, only to retreat around the time my mom saw him.

After that he vanished like a fart in the wind.

He was expecting us this time, and he was very careful to change directions, thinking we might have been over where he was last night.

The new, larger trap is outside the enclosure tonight, so once again we turned on the security lights.  We don't want any other animals getting themselves caught in the trap, and we know that the SKUNK isn't scared of the light anymore.I'm not sure how well that trap is going to work now, because I'm fairly certain the skunk realizes that.....

I will check again when I go to bed if anything looks disturbed...which it probably won't.  Come back tomorrow as the Skunk Saga has officially reached a week.

(Actually, we think the skunk was there last summer as well, but he was undetected, and we do not rule out the summer before.  Last year our dog was no longer around, and the year before last he wasn't going that far out in the backyard.  The theory behind this is that, since this was the perfect burrow last year, the skunk isn't willing to give it up, not when it is this close to the time it needs to lock down for the winter. )

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Great Skunk War- Day 5

July 7th- 5:29pm

Part One: Spy Games
He's back...again, and by the looks of things, he is getting more aggressive.

 Just blew right on through those rocks, didn't we?  That wire fence? I weighed it down with the rocks...and it was under dirt.  As for our trap?

 Empty...besides the two sardines left in it...I guess our little friend doesn't eat fish. (We are working on a name for him, by the way.)

He also expanded his front porch a little bit:

 But all of this is ok.  We have a new plan for this evening.  Besides filling in the hole a little...I'm going to be trying a new plan of attack.  My father and I agree that new bait is needed, but we haven't decided on where to put the trap.  Putting it outside of the enclosure brings us the risk of catching something other than the skunk.  So, as of this moment, we haven't come to an agreement on where our trap should go.  Needless to say, it would be nice to have multiple traps...but it turns out that these little guys are $30 a pop. Tonight's bait will be a chicken finger smeared with peanut butter...I may throw an Oreo in there for good measure.

But, tonight i have a new goal...and a new Crow's Nest:

 My trusty clubhouse. it sits directly across from the enclosure, and the area of the fence that our furry friend seems to think is the easiest way out.

I am going to sit up here and wait.  It will probably be long...and will probably be boring.  But by sitting here i will see where he goes.  I won't try to stop him, but I might follow him after he moves a long a bit.  All we know is usually leaves the yard on the right side. With my Maglite in hand, I will wait for the enemy to show himself.

This post will be updated...check back later.

This is an all out war.


Part Two: Quiet as a...skunk


That's the wake-up bell, it seems.  9:15, just about on the dot is when that skunk comes out from under our shed. It has been 9:15 each of the last four nights, and it was again tonight.  I cluttered the skunk's burrow in leaves, and did the same for the hole under the fence, so I would be able to hear when that little guy was moving around.

And it just barely worked.

This thing is quiet.  As in, barely noticeable, quiet. He barely made a sound going through those leaves!  And I made a BRIER out of those leaves!

It inspected the cage, but had no interest in going inside. I didn't think to bring a camera outside, but I suppose I could have. My plan, you see, was to let him do his thing and just follow him a safe distance, to see where he goes.  But, unfortunately, he started heading straight for my dad, who felt he needed to blast him with his Maglite.  I still followed him, but he quickly disappeared into our neighbor's bushes. And something about two people rumaging around in your backyard just seems a bit too creepy for me.

We think the main reason he is uninterested in the cage is because of it's size.  Tonight was the first time we got a really good look at him.  This thing is HUGE!  And it's tail looks like just another body waddling along behind it, and there is no way that this cage could house both the skunk and his tail.  Tomorrow, we are upgrading.

Our fear is that he is, in fact, a she. And that she is a mom-to-be, and that is why she refuses to give up her prime spot. We can only hope that this is not the case.

Bring on Day Six.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Operation: Skunk-Day 4

July 6th-Day Four
 Part One- He's back, and he's pissed off.

Well would you look at this:

Two planks of wood decking?  Child's play for our furry friend. He simply expanded his hole, and then pushed rocks out of the way to make a new hole. This is not a defeat, this is motivation!

Reinforcements! And...

Ace in the hole? This is the non-lethal trap we are putting in the middle of the enclosure, which looks like so, by the way:

  The trap will be placed in the center right next to that bird hotel(...that's right...hotel) with a couple of sardines at the far end.  The trap is designed to catch a multitude of critters, most of which are smaller than a skunk. So to make sure our friend gets himself in all the way, the one door will be closed, that is the side where the sardines will be.  In the middle is a plate where you're supposed to put the food, but we will not be doing that. Instead the one end of the plate will be propped up, so it can only be tripped from one end.  The skunk can only spray if he gets his tail up, and that ceiling is too short to accommodate this function...we hope.

Sounds like a pretty decent plan, no? As far as the trap's effectiveness goes...well I guess we will just have to wait and see, now won't we...

Pat Two: Inconceivable!!!!


I have just checked the trap.  It is intact, exactly where I left it. We left his hole uncovered and the security lamp unplugged...we want him out, not to be scared back in for the night.

I don't have a picture, but that little bastard just dug right around my newly reinforced fence!  And by dug around, I mean he uncovered the buried end of the wire fence...and BENT it upward to get underneath it (a skunk needs 4 inches to get through...we've done our research). That beast is out there right now and there isn' t a damn thing I can do to keep him in. At night he could attack from any direction!  He clearly is angered and won't go down without a fight.

New bait tomorrow...something with peanut butter.

He's goin' down. We'll cement his ass in if we have to!

And if all else fails:

Just um...ignore that part at the end...that won't happen to us. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Operation: Remove Skunk From Under Shed

Well hello again, world.

I have been quite busy the last month, blogging away for, which you should have already checked out given my previous post.  And although I will still be putting a lot of work into that site, I felt the need to tell you all an exciting little story from my unemployed summer.

As the title implies, my family discovered a skunk living underneath the shed in my backyard.  The following is the breakdown of our plan thus far.

Day One- Saturday, July 3rd- Approx. 8:00pm

I was walking down my lengthy backyard to observe the fireworks I heard in the distance.  They had been obstructed by the trees on the side of my yard, and I was walking toward more open ground. While I was passing my shed...I heard scratching.

For a while we have suspected that a rabbit had burrowed under the shed. For this reason (as well as the multitude of squirrels and rabbits that call our yard home) we had long since enclosed the flower garden next to the shed in small wire fencing.

When I took a flashlight to this area, however, I saw something crawling in the hole my father recently blocked with plastic.  It was black and white.

Day Two- Sunday, July 4th

The next morning, we discovered that a hole had been dug under the plastic laid atop the skunk's hole. From there, we not only filled-in said hole, but filled in any weak spots in the rock wall/fence that surrounded the garden.

My dad installed a small door into the fence, blocking off the other side (where it appeared the skunk exited the enclosure). The goal of this was to insure that the skunk went out the door, so it could be closed off, effectively blocking the skunk out of the garden. Our hope was that skunk would get the idea of "Better abandon that burrow!".  No such luck.

My dad sat outside and waited for the skunk to leave.  When it did, he chased it (from a distance) out of the backyard, and closed off the gate. With no idea when the skunk would return, we ended the mission for the evening (After making sure the shed perimeter was secure, and that the skunk's hole was blocked).

Day 3- Monday, July 5th- Revenge of the Skunk
 Part One: Upping Our Game

The morning brought bad news. The skunk had returned to his home underneath the shed.  The small beast dug a hole underneath the fence, and then again underneath the blockade of his hole. With no fear of the nocturnal animal coming out in the day light, we set-up a security light that had been kicking around the shed on the wall facing the garden, reinforced the perimeter with a stronger rock set-up, and fresh, compacted dirt. The motion-sensitive light was set to go off in one-minute bursts, however, it wasn't going to be plugged in just yet.

The plan of attack for the evening was as follows: The door to the garden was once again left open, to be closed once the skunk was seen outside the enclosure. Once the skunk was out, we would turn on the security light, and cover the hole with some spare wood-decking.My dad also laid out some flour, in the hopes that it would help us track the skunk.

Part Two: The Skunk Strikes Back

The plan played out very quickly, thanks to some very lucky timing on our part.  My parents had set up chairs near the deck, facing the shed. Around dusk, they took their positions at the Crow's Nest. After about ten minutes of waiting, out popped the skunk, right on schedule, and he began to notice that he was trapped, having exited the wrong side of the garden, away from our door.

I joined the party shortly after this. After waiting for a few minutes, we decided that I should try to circle the yard to get a look at the other side of the garden.  Armed with a Maglite, a set off.

I moved very slowly, and very quietly.  Getting sprayed by a skunk was not on my agenda for the evening. I was about two steps from where I could see the shed when I heard a blood-curdling scream come from behind me. It was my mother.

My immediate thought was that there was some sort of intruder in the house.  I turned off the light, moved it to, what I'd like to call, Billy Club Position, and sprinted for the house. As I approached I heard my mother yelling something about being sprayed. She was not, but apparently the skunk managed to bypass our security forces, loop around the deck, and brush right up against her, before jetting off into the blackness. A warning, it seemed.

My father and I immediately ran to the garden.  There, on the backside of the garden, was a freshly-made hole under the fence.

That sneaky little bastard.

I plugged up the hole, while my dad set up the lamp, and covered the hole to the burrow. I then did a sweep of my entire yard and adjacent neighbor's yards (which I'm sure must have looked very creepy from inside their homes), in the hopes of finding the little rascal. No such luck.

We all went inside, for once again, we had no idea how long it would be before the skunk returned.  It also appeared that he was onto us, and wasn't going to give up his comfy home without a fight.

Part Three: The Day Isn't Over Yet

As I wrote this, I went downstairs for an ice cream cone.  It was then my dad saw the security light go off. A quick sprint (with Maglites in hand) and we were scanning the area for our furry-little friend. Nothing.  Once again, we went inside.

That is where the mission currently stands. Here is the plan for the following days:

If tomorrow, we see evidence that the skunk has returned to his little home, we will lay out one non-lethal trap. If it is caught, we will drive the little bastard to a park a few miles away, and release him. If the trap proves unsuccessful, well...then the plot thickens, doesn't it?

I'll be back tomorrow, with pictures from the battlefield.