Monday, September 03, 2007

I caught...something

I woke up this morning to the news that something was in the trap. But what? "What will I do if it's a skunk?", I wondered. I had no idea.

We've already caught one of the neighborhood stray cats, who apparently went into the trap to eat the bird seed I'm using as bait (along with some fruit). We let her go. Eventually we plan on trapping the stray cats so we can get them spayed and neutered, but for now the focus is on catching the groundhog.

I went out to the trap, which is against the foundation to the house behind some bushes. The part I could see looked empty. I came up closer.

A triangular black-and-white head peered at me through the bars of the trap.

I jumped back. Skunk! OK, what was the plan again? Oh, right, there was no plan.

Skunks are not my favorite woodland critters, but I do not consider them pests. Not like groundhogs. I came up with a plan to safely release the skunk without disturbing it too much. I would cover the trap with a tarp of some sort, release the skunk around the corner of the house while staying out of range of its scent glands (which apparently had so far gone unused), and then reset the trap.

We didn't have a tarp handy, but we did have an old plastic tablecloth. I draped it over the back and sides of the trap, picked up the trap, carried it around the side of the house, and opened it.

Nothing came out. I tipped it forward a bit.

I'm not sure what came out. It was black and white with a triangular head, but that's all I'm sure of. It had white markings on its head and shoulders, but the rest of its body was black, except for the tip of its long, thick, non-bushy tail. It was fat and waddled as it tried to run across my side yard.

It didn't look too much like a skunk. Its head was shaped like the head of a badger, though there were no stripes on the face. The tail was thick and long and reminded me of nothing so much as the bear's tail from the legend How the Bear Lost His Tail. (Have you ever wondered why both Ursa Major and Ursa Minor have long tails?)

I didn't get a picture - getting a picture wasn't a high priority - so I can't really ask for identification help. I know it wasn't a cat or a bear cub, and I don't think it was a badger. I've looked up pictures of baby skunks and they look more like miniature versions of an adult. This didn't have the characteristic white stripes, or the characteristic bushy tail. Plus it was large, about the size of an adult skunk. So what the heck was it? Maybe if I catch it again, I'll get a picture. Maybe.


Anonymous said...

Possum? They are hideous, they don't run, really, and they aren't black...but maybe?

D.B. Echo said...

I'm pretty sure it wasn't a possum - too dark, tail too big, head too small relative to the body. I did once see a dead juvenile opossum up close. It was pretty dark in color, and the open mouth and human-like hands were extremely disturbing. As was the fact that there was a dead juvenile opossum in the road in front of our workplace.

Gort said...

Big game hunting is an adventure

joy said...

Could it have been a possum? The first time I saw a live one, I thought it looked like a giant rat. Now I have a friend at work who rescues baby possums (yes, she checks fresh roadkill for offspring in the pouch....EWWWWW) and has kept two as pets into adulthood. Turns out possums actually have a rather pretty black & white face. Whitisth-gray fur. Cute little pink ears. And really big teeth.

D.B. Echo said...

I've looked up lots of photos on the internet, and for a while I was thinking this might have been a Spotted Skunk - but they may be too small. I have found a few pictures of the common Striped Skunk that showed a lot more black than white, and no characteristic stripe down the back. Assuming it was holding its fur close to its body, and was almost completely black except for stripes on the head, shoulders, and the tip of the tail, I suppose it could have been a skunk!

betz said...

i read gorts comment and now i can't stop laughing long enough to write my own comment!