Categories: STEEL TRAPS AND THE ART OF TRAPPING.
This disgusting animal has won the unenviable but deserving reputation
of being the most foul-smelling creature on the face of the globe.
He belongs to the weasel tribe, and all these animals are noted
for certain odors which they possess, but the skunk is pre-eminent
in the utter noisomeness of the horrid effluvium which it exhales.
This scent proceeds from a liquid secretion which collects in a
eath the insertion of the tail, and the animal has the
power to eject or retain it at will.
It must have been given to the creature as a means of defence,
for there seems to be no animal that can withstand the influence
of its fetid stench. Dogs are trained to hunt the animal, but until
they have learned from experience the right method of attacking the
fetid game, and have discovered the whereabouts of the animal's
magazine of ammunition, they are of little use to the hunter, and
are only too glad to plunge into some neighboring brook, or roll
in some near earth, in hopes of ridding themselves of the stench
which almost distracts them. The offensive propensities of the
skunk are only exercised when the animal is alarmed or frightened.
There are generally certain premonitory symptoms of attack which
the creature usually exhibits, and it is well to retire from his
shooting range as soon as they are observed.
When the animal is ready to discharge his battery, he suddenly
elevates his large bushy tail, over his body, and turns his back
on his enemy. The result of the discharge fills the air for a great
distance around, and man and beast fly from the neighborhood of
the indescribable and fetid effluvium, which fairly makes one's
A single drop of this disgusting secretion on the clothes is enough
to scent the whole garment, and it is almost impossible to rid
the tainted fabric from the odor.
It is extremely acrid in quality, and if a very small quantity
fall upon the eyes, it is very apt to produce permanent blindness.
Dogs, in their first experiences with the skunk, are frequently
thus blinded, and there are well authenticated instances of human
beings who have been deprived of their sight through their close
proximity to an infuriated skunk.
The writer, in his extreme youth, learned, through dear experience,
the putrid qualities of this noisome quadruped. It was on one bright
Sunday, in New England, and he was out in his Sunday clothing,
gathering wild strawberries. He suddenly discovered a pretty little
playful animal with bushy tail, romping in the grass near him.
The creature was seemingly gentle, and showed no inclination to
run away, and the pet-loving nature of the writer prompted an
irresistible desire to capture so pretty a creature. Encouraged
by its gentle manner, he eagerly ran towards the tempting prize,
and grasping it by the bushy tail, which the animal had raised
perpendicularly, as if for a handle, the pretty creature was locked
in the affectionate embrace of its youthful admirer. But alas! he
soon repented his rashness, and the treacherous pet was quickly
flung away leaving its victim in such a foul state of overwhelming
astonishment as can be more easily imagined than described.
Every article of clothing worn on that eventful Sunday had to be
buried, and it took weeks of Sundays before the odor could be thoroughly
eradicated from the hair and skin of the individual who wore those
Sunday garments. After this adventure, the youth became more cautious
with respect to pretty little playful animals, with black and white
fur and bushy tails.
There is hardly a farmer in the country but what has had some amusing
or serious experience with the skunk, and almost every trapper
has, at one time or another, served as a target for his shooting
propensities. Natural histories are replete with anecdotes of which
this animal is the mephitic hero, and volumes might be filled to
the glory of his strong-smelling qualities.
Perhaps it is through the prejudice of the writer that he cannot
enthusiastically recommend the skunk as a domestic pet; but it
is nevertheless asserted, on good authority, that these animals,
when reared from the young, become very interesting and playful
in the household, and completely shut down on their objectionable
Our illustration gives a very good idea of the animal, and it is
so unlike any other creature that a further description will not
be necessary. The prevailing colors are white and black; but these
vary much in proportion, the animal sometimes being almost totally
white, or altogether black. The fur is long, and comparatively coarse,
being intermixed with long, glossy hairs, and is most valuable in
the black animal. The body of the creature is about a foot and a
half in length, exclusive of the tail, which adds about fourteen
The skunk is generally nocturnal in its habits, secreting itself
during the day in hollow trees, or crevices in rocks, or wood-piles.
At night it ventures forth in quest of its food, which consists
chiefly of grasshoppers, worms and other insects, wild fruit and
such small animals in the shape of frogs, mice and birds as it can
capture. The poultry yard often offers an irresistible temptation,
and both fowls and eggs often serve to appease his appetite.
The skunk is common throughout the greater part of North America,
and in many localities the numbers increase very
rapidly unless checked. The young are brought forth in burrows
or holes in rocks during April or May, and are from six to nine
Skunk fur does not sound well when thought of in connection with
a set of fashionable furs; and for this reason the pelt of this
animal is dignified by the name of Alaska sable by all dealers in
the article. When known by this fancy title it suddenly becomes a
very popular addition to fashion's winter wardrobe, and is one of
the leading furs which are exported to meet the demand of foreign
countries. Foul as the animal is, it seldom soils its own fur with
its offensive fluid; and when carefully skinned the fur is as saleable
as that of any other animal.
The Skunk is trapped in a variety of ways; and as the animal is
not cunning, no great skill is required. The steel trap is most
commonly used, as other wooden varieties, box traps or dead-falls,
for instance, are apt to absorb and retain the stench of the animal.
In using the steel trap the size No. 2 should be taken. It may be
set at the entrance to their burrows or in their feeding grounds.
It should be covered with loose earth or chaff, or some other light
substance, and baited with small bits of meat, dead mice, or eggs
placed around it. The enclosure illustrated on page 143 also answers
well, and in all cases the spring pole, page 144, should be used.
The dead-fall, page 107, is often employed, and the twitch-up, page
43, is a particularly effective contrivance for their capture, often
preventing the evil consequences of the odor by causing instant
dislocation of the neck, and this without injuring the fur. A stroke
upon the backbone near the tail, by producing paralysis of the
parts, also prevents the animal from using his offensive powers,
and a dead-fall so constructed as to fall upon the animal at this
part will accomplish the same effect. To manage this it is only
necessary to place the bait far back in the enclosure, so that
the skunk on reaching it will bring the rear portion of his body
beneath the suspended log. The scent of the skunk is as we have
said, almost ineradicable, but we would recommend chloride of lime
as the most effectual antidote.
It is also said by some trappers that the odor may be dissipated
by packing the garment in fresh hemlock boughs, letting it thus
remain for a couple of days. This is certainly a valuable hint
if true, and is well worth remembering.
For skinning the skunk, see Beaver, Otter and Fox.