A Little Surprise Outside the Studio Window
I work in a basement studio. Every now and then, after a rain, toads hop into my two window wells and get stuck there. I usually realize this because I can hear them climbing the window screen to escape. They make a kind of scratchy noise.
What was that?
Early last week a heard a little scratchy noise but when I went to check the most likely window well, the one nearest my desk, there was nothing there. The next day came along and that afternoon I heard it again.
This time it seemed to be coming from the other window well, the one at the back of the studio in the window well that is covered over by our deck. This window well only has about 1” to 2” clearance between the top of the metal window well thing and the bottom of the deck. Naturally, it’s pretty dark inside the window well and it’s kind of hard to see into it, especially because I keep several CD racks stored on the window ledge.
But I could hear something in there. Climbing my step ladder over the light table counter I could see something. But not just one something, two somethings. Two somethings that were black and white. Yup, I could see two baby skunks.
A couple of weeks before we had enjoyed an evening in the backyard with the in-laws around the fire pot. Rob wandered up to the house at one point in the evening and alerted us to what he called the ‘biggest skunk I have ever seen’. We saw it too, and it certainly did look huge as it lumbered down into the space between the deck and our maple tree that grows through the deck.
Obviously, the ‘biggest skunk’ Rob had ever seen was now, a couple of weeks later, somewhat smaller having given birth to these two skunklets. And they had dropped into the window well. What to do??? They certainly couldn’t get out by themselves and there is no way the mother could possibly squeeze through the 2” opening to get them out of there.
Rob was at work so I was on my own. The next town over to us, Mount Brydges, has an animal rescue operation called Salthaven. I gave them a call. My heart was racing. What in the world did one do with stuck skunks?
After explaining the situation and clarifying that I could not possibly pull them out by crawling under the deck, I was told to simply pull them out into the house. "They don’t bite" the young man said. "I’m not worried about them biting." I answered. That hadn’t even occurred to me. "Pull them out. Are you sure”? “Yes” he said, “just put them where the mother can find them."
I must admit I have never been so scared in my life. I found a deep cardboard box. You know the kind. The one skunks can’t possibly climb out of or spray you from. Donning Rob’s raincoat and a pair of gardening gloves, I ever so slowly, ever so carefully, ever so fearfully, slid open the window. I grabbed the first skunk and brought him inside the studio and popped him into my box. One more to go. But this guy was raising his miniature tail and flexing his sphincter at me. I knew from my reading that baby skunks can spray when they are 8 days old. I hastily lowered his tail and in the box he went.
But what’s was this? I could see another skunk, and another, and another, and another… Pretty soon I had 7 in my box. Wait, there was another one off in the corner of the window well! 8 skunks! Was it even possible that 8 skunks could have dropped by accident in my window well? Maybe the mother had birthed them there and could somehow get into the window well. Or maybe they had fallen in and she was gone.
But it was too late to put them back to see what would happen, and honestly, I didn’t want them back. Now I had to carry 8 skunks through my house to get them outside.
Ye gads, one spray and all my stock, my bags, my fabric, batting, books, the entire studio and office space would have been ruined. The spray would have traveled upstairs. And what about Rob’s raincoat!
I zipped upstairs and hastened out the back door at top speed. In a flash, I had the access door under the deck open and laid the box on its side so the little guys could get out and Mom could find them.
Now I had to cover that window well somehow so they couldn’t drop in again. Maybe I could lay a box over the top of the window well from the inside. That didn’t work. I ran into the back yard and found some chicken wire and hastily started to clip of a section with my needle nosed pliers.
That’s when my neighbor Bonnie greeted me from over the fence. “How are you?” “You wouldn’t believe what’s going on at my house” I said. “I’ll tell you what’s happening in a minute, I have to rush in with this chicken wire first”.
Later, when Rob came home, he said he would have carried the box across the road to the wheat field. I guess I’m just too much of a bleeding heart to have even thought of that option. A couple of days passed but one afternoon I saw my back yard neighbors hanging over our shared fence. They had spotted the skunks.
Yes, there they were basking on the lawn in the sunshine and wandering about. But now there were only 6. Was Mom still around? We hardly wanted to go under the deck through the access door to find out. Harry, our cat, disappeared to Bonnie’s house. He knew when to lay low.
The next day, Saturday, they were still out basking and playing. It looked like they had grown quite a bit. One fell into the fish pond and I had to fish him out. This morning when I went outside I could see where they must have been during the night, in the garden disturbing the mulch, but they did not turn up outside during the day. Later on I was told by the neighbors that the mulch had not been disturbed by my skunks but by birds.
What will happen next?
I figured Mom must have tired them out during the night or it was just too cold and cloudy to come out from under the deck. But at the end of the day I could see that one was out and he didn’t look too well. The rest were in a little heap under the deck where I could see them through the decking boards. Had Mom left? Had Mom ever come back? She must have or they would not have lasted this long.
It had been 5 days since I had moved them. I’ll have to see how things are going tomorrow. If they are still there, alive, I’ll box them up again and run them over to Salthaven for rescue. It’s so hard to know what to do with wild babies. I’ll let you know what happens soon. I hope things end well for these little fellows.
Edited to add: Here's the update!