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Elmhurst Patch: Deluxe Accommodations at the Skunk Hotel

posted Mar 20, 2011, 9:35 AM by Jake Parrillo

ORIGINAL ARTICLE PUBLISHED HERE.


Elmhurst resident wages ongoing war against these indigenous creatures.

By Paul Marcotte | Email the author | March 19, 2011

In early February, after the Great Blizzard of 2011, little paw prints appeared in the snow on our front porch.

There was a collective sigh from the family: “Oh, no!”

A day or two later, the snow prints were accompanied by a strong whiff of skunk odor which permeated the first floor and basement of our home. Next to a downspout, a new hole under the porch was evidence that a skunk had burrowed its way under the porch. On the opposite side of the porch, there was a second small hole near the steps.

This was not the first time we had experience with skunks. A few summers ago, after our yellow labrador was sprayed in the face, we hired a skunk removal company, which captured several skunks near our front porch. Sparky had also been sprayed several years before, but we didn’t know where that skunk resided.

Following the previous expenditure of several hundred dollars for skunk removal, we attached a wire mesh sheet to the porch, dug down and out from the porch, covering the wire mesh with dirt, so that a metal mesh barrier would forever prevent skunks from returning to our skunk hotel. We were highly motivated to prevent skunks from returning as our guests. It all seemed to work until this winter.

For several weeks after the first skunk sighting this winter, I was engaged in a daily, futile battle. It called to mind images of Bill Murray doing battle with the gopher in "Caddy Shack," or an adult trying to figure out if he is smarter than a fifth-grader.

One evening, after seeing a skunk heading out across the front yard, I saw my chance and created a new barrier of rocks, stone and a large box extending out several feet from the hole near the downspout; at the same time large stone, wire mesh and plastic was placed to cover the hole near the stairs.

For a few nights in a row, there would be a whiff of odeur de skunk as the angry varmint tried to return. The next morning there was evidence of skunk burrowing across the entire porch barriers, but the castle defenses had kept him out.

Each night, the skunk would burrow, and the next morning more rocks, stone, plastic and mesh were added to the barriers. However, it was a makeshift defense because the ground was still frozen and covered with snow. The front yard started to look like a junk yard, as new barriers were erected each day.

One early evening after hearing what sounded like cat cries, I walked onto the porch and saw two skunks rolling around in the middle of Fairfield Avenue engaged in amorous activity. When the couple was finished, both skunks sauntered towards the porch seeking to return to the skunk hotel by separate entrances. I realized that the problem was bigger than a single skunk.

During the day, more bricks, rocks and plastic were added in attempts to fortify the castle defenses. During the night the skunks would burrow their way back. The skunks would stop their burrowing if spotted, but nonplussed, they would return a short time later to continue with their digging after humans went indoors.

Finally, after the skunks successfully burrowed 3 feet under a large box and below the porch, I called the city of Elmhurst. The person on the other end of the phone said the city couldn’t help, but gave the name of a recommended animal removal company.

The morning after the live trap was set against the porch, the first skunk was caught. Shortly before dawn, two skunks frolicked in the front yard near the trap, while a third tried to free its trapped colleague. At daylight, the three free skunks scattered across the neighborhood, leaving the captured skunk to be removed later that morning.

Just before dawn on day two, two skunks tried to burrow in under opposite ends of the porch, and a short time later a second skunk was caught in a trap.

On day three, skunk number three was caught.

On day four, skunk number four was caught.

A few days later, skunk number five was caught.

A few evenings later, skunk number six walked across our porch.  

Skunk number six currently remains free. It’s been about a week since skunk number six was first sighted, and he appears to have no interest in getting caught. We still haven’t received a final bill for the current skunk removals.

I understand that the city of Elmhurst is under a budget crunch, and may not have a lot of resources it can dedicate to skunk removal. However, the Illinois Department of Health notes that skunks are a common carrier of rabies in Illinois.

There are public health issues involved with a skunk infestation, so the city may want to reconsider whether it chooses to place the entire burden on homeowners to remove skunks from neighborhoods.

Our home is only about block from the mayor’s house. If our uninvited skunk guests could read, I would place a sign near our porch pointing towards the mayor’s house stating: “Deluxe accommodations, only a short walk from here.”

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