Monday, April 23 , 2018, 5:05 am | Fog/Mist 54º

 
 
 
 

Captain’s Log: Sharing Space with Wild Critters

Believe it or not, it's even possible to coexist with a skunk

We all share our space with wild critters. If you think you don’t, just take a closer look around.

Small critters — small mammals, rodents and bugs — are plenty happy to share space with us. Critters do understand the concept of staking out and defending a territory, but it really only applies to critters of the same species or to critters who directly compete for a limited food source. Most do not mind sharing space with humans as long as we refrain from threatening them.

Predator pets such as cats and dogs can upset this natural order because they tend to adopt our attitude of defending space against all critters, though most cats and dogs don’t concern themselves with bugs. Some pets just don’t seem to care, and some can even be intimidated by the wild things. If you have no possessive pets, then you have wild things.

Awhile back, I had an infestation of rats. My family is not fond of them (understatement), so we engaged in battle. Winning that one wasn’t quick and it certainly wasn’t easy. When I felt we had the last one, I made the comment, “OK, we’re inviting back the spiders.” I saw a sea of puzzled faces, so I asked if anyone had seen so much as one single spider while we had rats around. Nope, no one had seen any. In fact, we were pretty much bug-free.

With the rats gone, sure enough, we soon had lots of crawling things. It is a manageable trade-off. Spraying liberally with poison is an option, but personally I don’t think it is a wise and healthy method of managing critters.

One of the more interesting and generally enjoyable space-mates of late was a skunk. It took up residence in a seldom-used part of the backyard that is fenced in. The fence didn’t slow down the skunk, but it did help the skunk by keeping out larger predators.

That skunk was great. It kept the bug population down, and there were no rats or mice either. It didn’t get into our stuff much, except to hunt for smaller critters. The only downside was an occasional slight odor whenever the skunk was upset by competitors or predators. It didn’t really spray its foul stuff, but an agitated skunk kinda dribbles the stuff a bit.

We coexisted nicely. We were careful not to scare the skunk, and it was careful about staying out of our way. It did get itself stuck in a tight spot once and I had to go pull away a piece of wood to free it, but we both came through the incident with our dignity intact.

My adult daughter had an enjoyable relationship with the skunk. She would go out to the garage for a smoke. The skunk would sometimes walk into the garage and sit under a car about 10 feet away from the chair my daughter used. Sometimes my daughter would talk to the skunk, and it seemed to enjoy that. Often she would have the phone out there and talk with her family and friends. We suspect the skunk thought she was talking to it because it would just sit, listen and watch her until the phone call was over. Then the skunk would saunter out of the garage.

The skunk left after several months, and my family misses it.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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