Hot Tubbing With Skunks
Ah yes, that would be a small skunk in the above photo, and that would be our hot tub behind it! Over on the left you can see the bowls of cat food and water that I keep out for two feral tomcats who are regular vistors.
We have an infrared motion camera on the deck to record who/what comes and goes 24/7 and we've had a larger skunk show up quite often at night to share in the bounty. Skunks love cat food. We have never smelled skunk spray. In fact they eat side by side with the tomcats and get along just fine. Apparently cats see them as rather strange relatives, though technically they aren't. It has never been a problem, since skunks are nocturnal and only come to eat after dark and when we aren't around.
Monday night things went a little differently. When John opened the door he saw a young skunk at the food bowl who quickly departed when John flipped the light on. (We always check before exiting so as not to surprise one, that could go very badly! ) He then turned the light out and we climbed into the hot tub, which is so very relaxing in the hot water underneath the canopy of stars! We were laughing and talking, and didn't think anything further about it, knowing that wild animals are afraid of humans and avoid them when possible.
A short while later, as I climbed down the steps to return to the house, I looked down in the dark and saw a shadow at the food bowls. At first I thought it was our cat who had stayed out late. But no... that little tail was MUCH to fluffy to be Chloe. YIKES... a skunk! Apparently it wasn't pleased that it's dinner had been interrupted earlier and came back to finish! It calmly continued eating as I madly scrambled back into the hot tub, hoping to avoid any sudden burst of skunk spray! John splashed some water over the side which sent the little one skittering away into the night. Thankfully, it was too young to be a stinker. We are guessing that it might be one of the big skunk's offspring who has learned that it is much easier to eat our cat food than forage for a meal. We were amazed that it opted to come up and visit while we were present. I guess he assumed that as long as we couldn't see him down there he was safe! My foot was on the bottom step when I noticed him. If he'd have been any closer I would have stepped on him! We laughed about it all night!
Sadly, the skunk cafe will have to close down. From now on I'll put food and water out during the day, as the tomcats also come up during daylight hours to eat. When it gets dark the food and water will disappear, discouraging nocturnal striped visitors. I really, really don't want to encounter a big skunk by surprise... that would not be fun at all. I also can't afford to feed an increasing skunk population if word goes out about the great food on deck!
It was fun seeing them show up on the "cat cam" each night, and I regret having to send them on their way, but it would be difficult to explain to the insurance folks how I fell and cracked my head open on the hot tub while scrambling to avoid a skunk. It would not be a pretty picture, there will be no film at eleven. Sorry Mama Skunk and Junior, the all-night cafe is going out of business.