LAUREL CANYON—You’d think it was the Deepwater Horizon all over again when you talk to the neighbors.  Arguments between old buddies, calls for criminal indictments, the canvassing of neighbors, flyers left with those who didn’t answer their doors.

What’s all the stink about?

Well, the hills are witnessing a population boom among skunks, and people are not happy.  At all.  Spring is skunk pupping season.  Babies are called kits.  A pack of skunks are called surfeit – you need to know that if you play Words With Friends.

When I saw our local pack of skunks waddling (yes like ducks) across the Laurel Pass, I thought – oh how cute. With the same breathe I said to myself, “keep my dog at arm’s length.”  The sighting made me recall that I had caught a whiff of skunk through my open windows in the evenings.

One set of neighbors concerned about their dog, and knowing that skunks carry rabies, called a local private animal recovery company.  They charged $100.00 per skunk to humanely capture and relocate the skunks.  They re-homed 5.  The family I saw crossing Laurel Pass was 1 adult and 4 shortyies (hmm – should slang be subjected to the rules of grammar?) Another neighbor was apparently enamored of the skunks, and at the same time was feeding them and sideling up to as close as 18” to the family when they visited.  And one other family had their dog skunked.  With no tomato paste at hand, the dog got a bath in marinara sauce which apparently de-skunked it.  Thankfully the little dude – a dachshund – was fine.

There you have it – All of our choices about co-habiting with wild animals in a nutshell.

So where does the truth about skunks lay?  They’re native toNorth America, and were often domesticated as excellent mousers by the Native Americans.  Christopher Columbus noted their existence in his journals which documented his travels to the new world – calling them squunck.  Skunk pelts were also used for coats and frequently passed off as “American sable.”

The dietary needs of skunks is a controversial topic.  I don’t know (admittedly I didn’t ask) if the neighbor who was feeding the skunks had read the manual on skunk ownership.  Indeed they need a wider variety of food than most pets. There is a big debate among skunk lovers as to what the proper diet for a pet skunk is, but they all agree that yogurt is on the approved list, as are graham crackers or vanilla wafers. However, they tend to get fat, so don’t overdo it.

With honeybees suffering from hive collapse, there is another side to skunks.  They are one of the primary predators of the honeybee.  They depend on their thick fur to protect them from stings. The skunk scratches at the front of the beehive and eats the guard bees that come out to investigate. Mother skunks are known to teach this behavior to their young.

I guess the deal is make the skunk a pet, and care for it kindly and enjoy its company, or leave it be.  I think our neighborhood has put our division to rest in favor of respecting the right of wild life to live peacefully, even when that’s our backyard.

Where do you stand?

By Joann Deutch