A Close Encounter of the Wildlife Kind

IMG_5017How do get a jar off a skunk’s head?

Yes, that’s right. Very, very carefully.

I looked out the window yesterday morning at about 6:30 and saw a skunk in the yard. No big deal—we see skunks regularly.

But then I took another look. This particular skunk had an empty plastic mayonnaise jar stuck completely over its head!

I don’t care how you feel about skunks, it’s awful to see an animal in distress, to know it’s going to die. This poor critter was wandering around the yard, it couldn’t see, just trying to walk its way out of its predicament.

I stood there, feeling horrible. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t just walk up to a skunk and grab its head, could I? I’d have to live outside for weeks or bathe in tomato juice!

The skunk wandered away and I told myself it had left the yard and, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t help it because I didn’t know where it had gone.

But when I looked again, there it was, bumbling around the yard. It hadn’t left and it was never going to leave because every time it hit the jar against anything it would turn around and go another direction. And it wasn’t going to get through our cedar hedges, and off our property, without hitting its head.

All I could think of was having to watch this poor thing wander around and get increasingly frantic all day and, ultimately, watch it die of hunger or thirst right there in my line of vision.

I finally ventured out. The skunk was walking in a straight line until it ran into something. I figured if I stood in its path, it would walk right up to me.

And I’d be on the end without the scent glands, right? What’s the worst thing that could happen to me?


So there I stood. The skunk waddled right toward me. I bent down and took hold of the jar . . .

And it slipped out of my grasp! I had the jar right in my hands but hadn’t expected it to be so tight on the skunk’s head. I’d lost my chance!

The skunk jumped back but . . . didn’t spray. Skunks don’t really want to spray because once they’ve used their ammo, so to speak, it takes awhile for them to reload. They save the big guns for the super scary stuff, and I didn’t qualify . . . yet.

So, I tried again.

The skunk walked toward me.

I moved slowly and quietly.

I grabbed the jar firmly and pulled hard.

And, pop!

The skunk’s head came out!

We made sustained eye contact for a moment, wide eyed, and then we both turned and ran.

The skunk stopped, turned around, and went into all its warning gyrations—all the things they do before they spray. It stomped its feet. It raised its tail high. It pretty much stood on its head to make the threat seem big and scary and real.

But it never sprayed.

It ran under our porch and stayed for a few minutes and then I saw it walk, in its normal slow, swaggering way, off into the sunrise. It got out of danger without ever firing a shot.

My hands have stopped shaking, my heart rate is back to normal, and I’m glad to report that we both live happily ever after.

58 thoughts on “A Close Encounter of the Wildlife Kind

  1. Oh, my goodness, what a story. I’m so glad you managed to help: very brave, in the circumstances. Now, why was no one there to do some photo reportage? I hope you’re all still living happily ever after.

  2. Lol! So glad that you didn’t get sprayed. I don’t think I’d trust the tomato bath,as those things sure do put out a lot of stink! Just ask our ” outside” dog. She was sick for a few days after she got sprayed in the face. It wasn’t a happy ever after for her.

    • Thanks, Tricia! I really was just saving myself days of angst, worrying about the fate of the poor skunk. I just read your post (and tried to comment) about the books you’ve been reading–I love Louise Penny and Deborah Crombie, too!

    • I think the jar must’ve been lodged against something and the skunk pushed its head in, trying to get at leftover mayo. They do have narrow heads and the jars have a sort of neck–easy to push in but not pull back. It was very firmly stuck!

  3. You are my hero Kerry!! Skunks are in fact very peaceful animals who only spray when their lives are threatened! A friend of mine once found a skunk trapped in a window well, she jumped in and lifted in out ( now she has a very special talent with wild animals…) But if you ever ever come in a like wise situation..just cover the skunk up with a blanket. If he/she cannot see you, they won’t spary either. To protect his green spotless lawn, my neighbour in Canada caught many skunks in life traps ( he claimed they prefer bleuberrie muffins ;0)) In the morning he would fold a blanket over the trap, put cage in the car, drove a long way of in the forest and released the animal…spraying, never.
    Dear superwoman Kerry, you saved an animal from a horrible death and made my day. Hugs and Kisses and the Peppy le Pew Award of the day goes to you!!! Johanna

  4. HOW WONDERFUL, Peppy le Pew award for SURE!!! I am so pleased with your outcome and hey, what’s a little skunk ‘scent’ among friends hahaha and what a wonderful piece of information from colorpencil……..I love it and will pass it on. Take care.

  5. What an amazing story – and brilliantly told! Never having encountered a real life skunk I can only imagine the terrible stink they emit when frightened. But reading all the comments and having seen my share of Disney movies featuring skunk spray I understand the horror of the possibility. This of course makes the fact that you acted to save the animal from certain death more than heroic. You just earned big time brownie points for good karma 🙂 This is going to be a great dinner party story for the rest of your life! Bowing down before greatness 🙂

    • Are skunks only North American animals? I need to do some research! The smell is pretty bad and it really lasts a long time but, as I said, the skunks don’t want to spray if they can avoid it. And I’m SO glad this one avoided it.

      • I believe so – they certainly are not found here in Australasia nor in Europe to my knowledge. I was interested to read the comments that mentioned spraying is not a first option for the skunks – good to know and fortunate for you 🙂

  6. I am so proud of you! That was a smart skunk to come to your yard. Both you and the skunk are better for the experience. Good job, Kerry.

    • I have a good idea where the skunk picked up the mayo jar–it makes me crazy that people are such pigs and leave this stuff around! I’m glad it wandered over here and that I finally got the nerve to try and help.

  7. Wow. You are very courageous! But I can see how anyone who had any empathy would simply have to help. The poor thing. Glad you both came out okay. I hope that little crit doesn’t go sticking his head in mayo jars again! Do you think they learn that way? Most dogs would do it again if they thought something good was inside….

  8. A beautifully written tale of a rather challenging adventure with a skunk! It is amazing to discover how we can face our fears if it means we can alleviate the suffering of an animal. Your story so sensitively reflected your reluctance and fears and had us all cheering at the end when you pulled that horrible jar off.
    Well done Kerry!

  9. That skunk is a lucky little critter that you are both brave and kind! Who’s to say what could have happened if he’d been in someone else’s yard? I have a bit of a soft spot for skunks – perhaps because I’ve never been been sprayed or maybe because I have a fluffy tuxedo cat who reminds me a bit of skunk. At any rate, your story totally made me smile. =)

  10. I can totally see this in my mind “We made sustained eye contact for a moment, wide eyed, and then we both turned and ran”
    Good for you!! You are incredible!

    • You can say it’s incredible since it has a happy ending! I wonder if I would’ve told the story here if I had ended up smelling of skunk musk from head to toe?!

  11. Oh my! Such lovely animals they are. So dainty. Like little cats in a way. But egads, so awful, too. One decided to breathe its last in my parents’ crawl space recently and what a time they had of it once its scent got into the HVAC system. Glad your story had a happy ending!

    • They are such pretty animals–I agree. We know they take their babies under our glassed-in porch and I worry about the situation your parents had. So far, so good!

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