By Barbara Walvoord
First published in Lathrop Lamp Post of July 21-27, 2018
Skunks seem to be on homeowners’ “most wanted” list of criminals. The internet is full of ads by companies that will get rid of them for you.
At Lathrop, though, we want our skunks.
We do? But won’t we get sprayed? Not likely. Skunks are not aggressive. They move about mostly at night and try to avoid contact with us. When threatened, they spray their scent only as a last resort. First they will hiss, growl, and stamp their front feet.
A Canadian government website calls skunks one of the most beneficial animals for gardeners and farmers. They eat chipmunks, voles, mice, and rabbits, as well as grubs and insects that destroy crops. In fact, skunks proved such an efficient enemy of the hop Continue reading Wanted: Skunks
By Barbara Walvoord
Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Feb. 10-17, 2018
Our skunk females at Lathrop have not been truly hibernating, though they have been hunkering down in dens, sometimes with several other adults, sinking into a torpor, but emerging during balmy nights to search for nuts, seeds, old berries, mice, voles, garbage, and food left out for birds, cats, or dogs. Skunks prefer a second-hand den dug by foxes or woodchucks, but if they have to, they’ll dig their own den, which might extend 3-4 feet below the surface and be up to 20 feet long, ending in a comfy chamber lined with grass and leaves.
About mid-February, our lady skunks are beginning to look for love, though from our point of view, it’s hard to tell what a gal sees in this mating thing. When she finds a guy, he holds her by the scruff of the neck with his teeth and climbs on from the rear. After sex, he wanders off to find other females, and when the babies are born, about two months later, he takes no responsibility for any of them. In fact, if he finds them, he may even kill them. Continue reading Single Female Seeks Polygamous Male for Hookup. No Childrearing Responsibilities
by Barbara Walvoord
Several recent columns have featured pregnant Lathrop creatures. The most recent one was the porcupine, which is well defended against most predators, but has one special predator–the fisher–that knows how to overcome the porcupine’s defenses.
Also pregnant about now is another well-defended Lathrop resident–the skunk. Our skunk mom has emerged from her winter torpor–not quite a hibernation, but a slowing metabolism, during which her body temperature may have dropped 20 degrees. Invigorated by spring sunshine, she has mated with a polygamous dad, but for her, once is enough, and thereafter she has fought off all other suitors.
She’ll have her 4-8 babies in May or early June. She can dig her own den, but prefers to move into a used one, or, as some of us know, a spot under a porch. At 8 days old, the babies can emit their smelly defenses. Continue reading Expecting at Lathrop, Part 4