Hello faithful readers and new comers, alike. Brian has asked me, Susie Anderson, to write the article this week. Thank you for reading and enjoy your fall. Maine is absolutely enveloped in spectacular fall color…
The Farm Crew at Johnny's is in the throws of harvesting pumpkins and squash for seed extraction. Five to six people swarm around the harvest wagon like gulls around a fishing boat, lobbing pumpkins into the wagon. The air is crisp and the leaves are golden, yellow, orange, red, scarlet, and every color in between. The farm is beautiful and there's excitement as we wind the season down for winter.
Other creatures are readying themselves for winter, too. There's a lot of what we on the farm call "mammal blight” on the fruits we're harvesting. Small animals such as skunks, groundhogs, squirrels, and chipmunks have been feasting upon the fruit of our labor for the past two months. We set out live traps baited with all sorts of tasty treats like carrots, apple slices, and peanut butter on a beautiful flowered paper plate to entice them away. In most instances the fruit that we are trying so hard to protect is the object of their desire and the traps sit empty.
We have caught a skunk or two. One poor soul on the farm crew was unfortunate enough to find a Mephitis mephitis in a trap one morning. Fortunately he had full rain gear on therefore getting spray only on the impermeable that he was donning. The Latin name for the striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis, means, literally, Stench stench.
Skunks are omnivores, foraging at dusk and dawn mostly. This type of activity in mammals is known as crepuscular, active at the beginning and end of the day. They have poor vision, fabulous senses of smell and hearing, and are a primary predator of honeybees. The most famous feature of the skunk is the potential to emit a foul-smelling liquid from two anal glands, one on either side of the anus. This odiferous ooze consists of sulfur-containing compounds that smell like rotten eggs, burnt tires, strong cloves of garlic, or any other description that someone may feel befits the offensive stench. A skunk may hiss, dance, lift its tail, or growl before it sprays due to a limited number of sprays it has in its arsenal.
Most animals know to stay very far from this smell except the skunks' primary predator, the great horned owl. This raptor, like most birds, has a very poor sense of smell making it practically immune to the skunks' defenses. We as humans can smell skunks from almost a mile away if the wind is NOT in our favor! It took many months for the sulfury perfume to wear off the truck bed where our trapped skunk rode the short trip to its release site. Our farm crew member survived, although his raingear had to live outside for quite some time.
The striped skunk will be much less active in the winter, feeding sporadically and spending most of the time in a den in the ground. We gladly say happy snoozing to our striped friend. Amazing to think that some people domesticate this animal and bring them into the home, glands removed, of course! Happy autumn to everyone, including Stench stench!