Saturday, January 17, 2009

A little romance













We've been getting just a taste of the intensely cold weather the rest of the country's having. Thursday was extremely chilly here, with enough wind to make walking outdoors less than blissful. I hiked about half my usual distance and decided that was enough. At one point on the trail--which was completely deserted except for me and one scrambling chipmunk--I encountered an overpowering odor of skunk. That seemed a little odd. Cold weather generally encourages skunks to stay huddled in their dens. I figured some unlucky guy had ventured out in search of a snack and become one. Skunks are a favorite food of great horned owls.

Friday morning's temp was around 3 degrees Fahrenheit, which was cold enough to keep me inside, but I was out again today, happy to get some exercise and fresh air--until I ran into another skunk stink, in almost exactly the same spot where it had been before. I kept an eye out and walked on for about 50 yards, then I heard a critter noise up ahead I couldn't quite identify. It was a sort of squealing trill, accompanied by the sound of rustling leaves.

I had to stop and look around for a while before I spotted them: A pair of beautiful, silky skunks locked in an amorous clutch, rolling and romping like porn stars. They were about 40 feet ahead of me, right next to the trail. The noise was mostly coming from the female, who appeared much more enthusiastic about the encounter than her feline and canine counterparts usually do. The male was very busy and intent. He kept changing position. The boy had technique.

The boy had stamina, too. I thought they'd soon finish their procreative business and I could walk on, but no. Fifteen minutes passed and they were still hard at it. I did something I almost never do when I'm out hiking. I pulled out my cell phone and called Dave--"Hey, guess what I'm doing? I'm watching skunks have sex." For some reason I just felt the need to share. He was suitably amused.

Interspecies voyeurism only has so much entertainment value, and I was starting to get cold, so I finally decided to turn back and leave the devoted couple alone. I felt happy. The world doesn't especially need more skunks, but it's always delightful to see life beget life, especially when everyone involved is having fun.


Photo from birdphotos.com via Wikimedia Commons.

6 comments:

Mary said...

Love it! There must be a den nearby where she'll have her babies (skunklets?) in the Spring. And kudos for braving those temps for your walk!

BitterGrace said...

Baby skunks are actually called "kittens"--I love the idea of having one as a pet, though I know that's a bad impulse.

February is the usual mating time for skunks hereabouts, so these two were getting an early start. Their babies should show up in late March.

Margaret said...

When I was a child in the late 60s and early 70s, people did keep descented skunks as pets. One followed me out of the pet department of Grant's department store in Birmingham once, waited patiently while I browsed through the Nancy Drew section of the book department, and would, I believe, have hopped into the back seat of my family's car if my mother hadn't screamed when I joined her at the cash registers. When I turned around and headed back to the pet section, the skunk kitten duly followed me back there, as well, whereupon a clerk scooped it up and returned it to its fellows in a wire pen near the door. I still wish I could've taken it home.

BitterGrace said...

They sold pet skunks at the department store? I know that's not good--and yet, somehow it makes me think more highly of Birmingham ;-)

Bozo said...

Have you ever seen a mother skunk carry her babies by grasping them on the scruff of the neck and transporting them one at a time across a road? The kittens are about the size of your hand and make a funny percussive "kak" sound.

BitterGrace said...

Oh, I totally need a pet skunk now. As soon as I get that miniature horse settled in ...