An Old Dog Learns a New Trick

I learned a new homesteading skill yesterday, one I hope I don’t have to use often.

Earlier this year, when our sweet corn was being eaten by raccoons, I set a Hav-a-Hart live trap in the garden in the hopes of catching one. I never did, but fortunately we were able to harvest most of the corn before the coons ate it all.

Iย left the trap set, even though I didn’t expect to catch the corn thief at this point.

Yesterday morning when I went out to pick the okra, I noticed (luckily before receiving an unwelcome surprise) that the trap was sprung. Pacing around inside it was a skunk.

Several years ago this happened to me when I was trying to catch a groundhog. Not knowing what else to do, I shot the skunk (from a safe distance). The poor critter sprayed when it was shot, so I ended up both skunking up the area and killing an innocent skunk. I didn’t want to do that again, especially in an active garden.

That’s where YouTube comes in. I searched it and sure enough there were several videos demonstrating how to remove a skunk from a live trap. Once again I’m thankful for the people who make the effort and take the time to share things like this on YouTube.

Once I’d seen it done on a couple of videos I was ready to give it a try. Should any reader of this post ever need to remove a skunk from a live trap, here’s how you do it.

Skunks aren’t the smartest animal in the woods, they’re nocturnal, they only spray when threatened and they won’t spray at something they can’t see. So first take a sheet, a blanket or something similar (I used a large beach towel) and hold it up so that it covers you (especially your feet) as you SLOWLY approach the trap from the door side.

Cherie took the pictures, but her job was to warn me if the skunk turned toward me and lifted its tail.

Cherie took the pictures, but her job was to warn me if the skunk turned toward me and lifted its tail.

Then slowly and gently drape the sheet/blanket/towel over the cage, being careful to cover it entirely. You don’t want the skunk to be able to peek out and see something to shoot at.

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Then walk around to the back of the cage, lean over it, pull back the covering and slowly and gently open the door to the trap. I used a long screwdriver to prop the door open so the skunk wouldn’t spring the trap again as it was leaving the cage. This all sounds much easier than it is in real life. Being inches away from a skunk for all that time is a bit disconcerting.

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Finally, once the door is open, slowly back away, lifting off the covering as you do.

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Heading home, after a stressful day away.

Heading home, after a stressful day away.

So I can add to my arsenal of homesteading skills–knows how to release a skunk from a live trap without getting sprayed.

But I’d rather not have to risk it again. I removed the traps from the garden.

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35 comments on “An Old Dog Learns a New Trick

  1. Selka says:

    Ah yes, the accidental skunk capture! Everybody has that story of getting sprayed the first time:)
    And there’s the physical (stomach flipping, hair raising) response you feel when you first recognize what’s in the trap! GAH!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Yes, exactly! I’ve grown used to seeing that trap there. I was picking the okra and daydreaming. I walked right up to the trap before I realized something was in it. Stomach flipping is a good way of describing what happened when I saw the skunk.

      Like

  2. Aggie says:

    Nice work. Funny that I find that skunk smell rather pleasant from a distance.
    Is that grass growing between your vegetable rows?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so thrilled to see vegetables that aren’t growing in glyphosate scorched rows with nothing alive but the approved species. That’s so common that I feel a hearty “hurray” inside every time I see natural growth. Even organic sites show bare dirt between plants and between rows as if that’s the ideal. Here we use natural barrier methods (mostly paper feedbags cut open and covered with old straw, or just straw) but by this time of year our produce (especially the corn, strawberries, and tomatillas) stand with weedy siblings that don’t inhibit their growth. I see it as beautiful.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bill says:

        I agree. A garden planted in May should have grass and weeds in it by August. I don’t see how that can be prevented except by methods that aren’t healthy for the soil.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Yep. It’s August. The corn has been harvested and the okra is tall enough that the grass in the alleys is irrelevant.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aggie says:

        I thought it would be prudent to mulch (living or not) to minimize that pesky grass coming back. Thank you.for telling me how you handled it.

        Like

  3. Victo Dolore says:

    Gah!!!!!! I fear that every time we set our trap. Good to know. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like

    • Bill says:

      As I mentioned, I’d had it happen once before, but I never thought about it when I set this trap. I didn’t know there was a way to release a skunk without getting sprayed, but having managed it, it really seems fairly simple. The hardest (most nerve-wracking) part was opening the door. That can’t be done without exposing your fingers. And the first time I opened it and stepped back, the door slammed shut again. Using a screwdriver to hold the door open is important.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. BeeHappee says:

    Good one. Good thinking! Why is it that sometimes I feel we run from a skunk faster than we run from a lion. Yes, thank goodness for YouTube. I used it for things such as how to remove training wheels and pedals to how to make catapults and pies.

    Like

  5. shoreacres says:

    YouTube is a wonder, isn’t it? That’s where I first came across fiberglassing turtle shells. I honestly believe you can find out how to do anything on that site: although it’s often good to search around until you find two or three people advising the same thing, just so you don’t end up taking the bad advice of the mad scientist.

    Like

    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      Phew!; )

      Like

    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      So you do Turtle Rescue?
      Does your patch need to stay on long; I’m assuming the shell would heal eventually, or no?
      My dad used to recondition old Cedar Strip Canoes and swap out the old canvas for clear fibreglass. So beautiful! *sigh*

      Like

    • Bill says:

      Yes, I agree. There was a video with some bad advice on there, and plenty of comments advising shooting the skunk. But I found and watched 3 that all showed this method. I’m impressed with the people who share the videos.

      Like

  6. smcasson says:

    I bet you felt accomplished after that. Nice work.
    The skunk was a happy fella too, huh?

    Like

  7. Laurie Graves says:

    Bravo!

    Like

  8. Sue says:

    Excellent tutorial–thanks!
    That would be very nerve wracking to do……but beats shooting it.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I really didn’t want to harm the skunk. Glad I discovered that it wasn’t necessary. But I’ll admit to being nervous, especially when opening the door.

      Like

  9. avwalters says:

    I’ve used the internet for recipes for bug repellent. It’s a wonder! We don’t have to go back and do it by trial and error! Congratulations on your successful skunk liberation.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I’m a big fan of the internet. ๐Ÿ™‚

      You’ll appreciate this. For a while I attended a CLE conference on advertising law every year. I don’t recall the year, but one year it was in New Orleans and one of the speakers was a professor from Cal Berkeley or Hastings or somewhere out there. She was talking about how the internet was challenging the boundaries of advertising law. She asked for a show of hands for how many in the audience had heard of YouTube. Only a few hands went up (mine didn’t). By next year, she said, you will all have heard of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, yup, that’s how my cousin did it. Only he actually transported the little varmints across the Missouri river into Iowa and turned them loose over there. He used to take them to the Humane Society until they told him not to bring any more to them. I’m sure relocation to another state is not really legal but it does work and they can’t find their way back. Coons are smart little varmints, aren’t they. They stripped my sweet corn to the bone but left my neighbor’s decorative corn completely alone. The little rascals are definitely a match for the gardener. I’m determined to defeat them with out murder. At the family reunion this last weekend the relatives wondered if it wouldn’t just be much easier to buy from the farmer’s market but it’s become a challenge more than just about sweet corn. My gardening endeavors have always been about the challenge of growing in new and different ways. It’s really not about preserving the harvest or living from the produce grown. It’s the challenge that intrigues me the most. Maybe some day it will have to be about surviving but not yet.

    Have a great skunk releasing day.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      The videos I watched all included moving the skunk. I didn’t need to do that here, so I was spared that part of it.

      A couple of years ago I tried everything I could think of to save our corn and the coons got it all anyway. Luckily this year they didn’t get it all.

      Like

  11. EllaDee says:

    Another day in the office… difficult client! โ˜บ

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Reminds me of the time we were dog sitting for some neighbors and a skunk settled under their dog house overnight (while the dogs were in the garage). Next morning, the dogs went nuts barking at their dog house. We could just see the skunk in the opening to the hole. We put the dogs back in the garage and left the gate to their pen open. Then, my husband tipped the dog house over keeping it between him and the skunk before darting out of the pen and we let the skunk find a new place for the day. I safely watched from a distance like your wife. I should have taken photos!

    Like

  13. Fascinating. I too have come to rely on YouTube for all sorts of assistance. It’s truly astounding how many people have thought to video such a diverse range of “how to”. We don’t have skunks on the Island by the way, for which I’m grateful, just skunk cabbage – but hubby, who is a Maritimer, has plenty of skunk stories.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I’ve used YouTube a lot for “how to” stuff, some of which was so basic I could hardly believe someone would go to the trouble of making and sharing a video about it (while being glad they did).

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Reminds me of a “vinyl cafe” radio episode. http://youtu.be/v0ll0E5_z9Y

    I’m having trouble with raccoons too. Not sleeping much with the dog on alert. I went so far as to look up recipes and eat the problem. But I haven’t the heart or the constitution for it.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I’ve never eaten raccoon, and it doesn’t sound very appetizing to me. But several people, including commenters on the blog, tell me that it tastes good.

      When they were wiping out our corn a couple of years ago I set traps and I went out in the middle of the night with a shotgun, intending to shoot them. They ate every ear in the garden and I never saw them.

      Liked by 1 person

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