By Rob Samuelsen

The noise woke me up in the middle of a dark summer night – the scratching and shuffling noise right underneath my cot. I was sleeping in an old style two-person wall tent with two cots and a wooden plank walkway in between the beds. My tired body tried to ignore it but the noise was moving around underneath me. Annoyed, I finally grabbed my flashlight and peered under my bed only to find myself staring eye to eye with a large black and white skunk!

Horrified at the prospect of getting sprayed, I very gently rolled back onto my cot and tried to be as still as I possibly could. In my brief midnight encounter with my odiferous friend, I noticed he had been rummaging around several discarded candy bar wrappers. At camp, we had a litter-free challenge called “pogge bait” which required the litterer to buy the offending product for the benefit of the tattletale but in our tent, my tentmate declared our space to be a pogge-bait free zone. He used the underside of my cot to be his personal candy wrapper repository.

Somehow, I managed to fall back asleep dreaming about skunk encounters and different recipes for scent-removal. I believe the only thing that saved me from a smelly bout of anal scent was my flashlight and my quiet retreat. I probably blinded it with my bright torch.

Skunks are social creatures and have no known mammalian predators. Jeez – I wonder why! I’ve seen many of these aposematic black and white critters walk into camp as if they were a beloved family pet. I’ve seen them mill around the food box curious but not as well equipped as raccoons for a covert break into the commissary. I’ve witnessed roadkill many times but usually by testimony of my olfactory glands more so than sight. And pop composer Loudon Wainwriight even wrote a hit song in 1972 about a “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” based on his own true story. If you do get victimized, it’s an odor that is unpleasantly unforgettable.
My midnight masked marauder must have liked my camp because in the wee hours of the waxing morning, my tentmate made a run for the privy only to find our four-legged friend had beat him to the punch.

Somehow with admirable courage and miraculous tenacity, he managed to capture Mr. Skunk in a box without any ill effects to either critter – human or mephitid – or the latrine! Skunks will hiss, foot stomping, and take tail threat postures before spraying but if they do spray, they can do so with a high degree of accuracy up to ten meters away. Probably because the small box didn’t permit the tail-raising attack position, the skunk remained quietly in the box. Ultimately, though, my tentmate decided to release it in front of 200 unsuspecting onlookers. As the varmint exited the box, he raised his tail, did his little dance, and witnessed 200 fleeing humans scattering as fast as they could. Without a specific target to aim for, he decided not to spray and wandered off into the nearby woods. I wandered off too, grateful for my uneventful encounter.

Rob Samuelsen is an executive and adventurer supported by his long-suffering but supportive wife!

About author View all posts

Guest Author