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By Pam Burke 

View from the North 40: Part 2 of the the two-part 'Ewww' series


November 1, 2019

Last week’s Part 1 of the “Ewww” series was about our resident over-the-door bat that made its way into our house, but this Part 2 really ups the ewww-factor, proving that we are not living the glorified Disney-like country life at the North 40.

After we herded bat back outdoors to find a hibernation spot that wasn’t currently occupied by humans, I had about a week’s reprieve, in which the only wild ewww-things we had to contend with were the perpetual mice and a few mean feral cats – oh, and the raccoon that was not happy about getting caught in the trap set for the feral cats, but there’s no story here. I just said move along, little trash panda, find yourself a winter den, because I have a bigger problem.

I started smelling a skunk scent when I was out feeding horses.

The first morning I thought I was smelling the lingering scent of a skunk that might have passed through the yard during the night. That evening, the scent was faint so I thought I’d guessed right, but the next morning the skunk smell was a little stronger again. Two mornings in a row? I thought, we probably have a resident skunk. Dangit.

I can guess what you’re thinking, at this point and assure you this story doesn’t end like that.

The third morning, I started thinking it was a bit odd that the smell was worse in the morning dampness — and worse on the north side of the bale. This weirdness required investigation.

Sure this tale hasn’t been very interesting as far as sleuthing goes, and the summary of the next events just involves me sniffing different things every trip out there, even the horses one time. I’m not very bright, so it took me a while to decide that, from the smell’s location and the fact that it was getting stronger with each feeding from the round bale, the smell was coming from inside the hay bale.

Yeah, it gets ewww-ier, especially considering that this means it was a very real possibility that the skunk had met its end from machinery at some point in the haying process and I would discover a carcass baled into the hay.

Before anyone gets their PETA party in full swing, I want to point out a few things: No hay farmer wants a dead thing in their hay, specifically not a skunk, but haying accidents happen. Also, we are talking about the smelliest mammal in existence, followed closely by the billy goat and the bore pig, in that order. Also, because of that smell, skunks are a dime a dozen, not like an endangered manatee or a fragile monarch butterfly.

Besides, we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves in this story because, so far, all we know for sure is that my hay bale smelled.

Just in case, though, I started peeling off the hay at each feeding with greater care, looking for signs of a dead thing. But other than the increasing skunk spray smell, I was finding no signs of a little stinker.

I realize this story sounds disgusting, so you might be mortified to know that, eventually, I got to thinking: If I get to the center of this bale and don’t find anything, I’m going to be hugely disappointed.

It takes two weeks to feed out one of those bales, so this was like the slowest unwrapping of a present. Ever.

Now I have to admit that, despite my care, I initially missed the prize, the answer to the great and smelly mystery.

I came out to feed and discovered that the horses had left a small pile of hay in one feeder. Amongst the hay stems I found no carcass (what a relief, right?) just the tip of a skunk’s tail. The tip!

My best guess is that instead of running away from the oncoming machinery, little Pepe Le Pew decided to make a defiant statement against The Man.

It paid the price of freedom with a bit of its plumage, some pride, and a good portion of that day’s supply of musk, but I like to think that, somewhere, skunk is bellied up to a bar telling its war story, and even the badger is impressed by the stump-tail scar.


In defense of my slow-witted investigation, who among you thought: “A skunk smell near a hay bale? Why, of course, Dr. Watson, a skunk — the striped-back Mephitis mephitis, as we scientist say — is almost certainly wrapped inside the hay bale’s grassy depths, the victim of a most anti-bucolic tragedy” at http://www.facebook.com/viewfromthenorth40.com .


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