National Geographic : 1955 Aug
I'lie National (;cographic IMagazine They discovered how to lurk among the rushes in which the blackbird had built its nest, and perhaps there is the reason you heard a bird cry out that night last summer. From kindergarten in late spring to college in the autumn, the mother skunk teaches the youngsters everything she knows. Then when the first snow falls, and beetles become scarce and frogs have hibernated, the family may raid a henhouse or perhaps even move in be neath the floor of the roost. But count every chicken or chicken egg as a bonus well de served for the constant pressure the skunk keeps on rat, mouse, and insect populations. As the temperature dips in northern States. the skunks make fewer forays, and at last, as winter closes in, they go below and sleep. But comes a southern breeze and its warmth edges down the den below the frost line: then the skunk ventures forth to tramp old trails and perhaps eat a snack before going back to sleep for another month. My personal experience with skunks during these brief winter expeditions would indi cate that the animal is neither so alert nor so indignant at being accosted then as during warmer months. Teeth, Too, Used as Weapon My young Labrador retriever Ace scooped up a beautiful black skunk during one Janu ary thaw and insisted on bringing it to me. Instead of spraying the dog, the skunk rolled in its loose skin and fastened its teeth into Ace's soft upper lip. Nothing the dog had ever retrieved before had bitten him, so he dropped the skunk and retreated-for which I was immeasurably grateful. Mv Irish setter Patsy, wise in the ways of skunks, barged within two feet of one before either was aware of the other's presence. She froze on point, and the skunk did likewise. They stood motionless for several minutes. Then. as if by agreement, each inched back ward ever so cautiously, and when five feet separated them they turned and went about their business of hunting as if nothing had happened. Skunks brought into close proximity to man at an early age rarely exhibit belligerence later, except occasionally to strangers. (eorge Speidel, director of Mlilwaukee's zoo, usually keeps all resident skunks deodorized, however, since one of a litter of seven broke faith and, of all times, during its first appearance on television. Speidel was handing the skunk to announcer (ordon Thomas when the youngster leveled off and let go. The deodorizing operation is a simple one which any veterinarian can perform, prefer ably while the animal is very young. If han (led regularly thereafter, the skunks become as docile and amiable as kittens. Tame skunks can be kept indoors, since they are reasonably easy to housebreak. How ever, they would much prefer quarters out of doors. Commercial dog and cat foods, cereal. bread, meat-practically any edible thing is food for Mlephitis. Squat Skunk Sports an Outsize Fur Coat Coats and muffs made from glossy skunk pelts once sold under such trade aliases as Alaska sable or black marten. With pointed muzzle, bead black eyes, and small cars, the skunk resembles its weasel and mink relatives. Long claws equip it for digging.