From the Publishers

Wildlife, chapter 2

by Chris Klein
few issues back I described how the local wildlife - skunks, possums and mice - were using my mulch bin as a diner. A minor penance for paving their ancestral homes, no great bother. Mistake number one.
Two weeks ago, on my way to bed after a late-night editing session, I heard a strange rustling noise in the kitchen. In the semi-darkness I could see that the 20-pound bag of cat food was tipped over, and the noise was coming from inside the bag. Our cats don't do this ­p; they're much too stylish to rut around in a bag of dry food. The light switch was next to the bag ... so I got a flashlight. Staying back as far as the kitchen geometry allowed, I shined the light in the bag and was greeted by the cute little face ... of a baby skunk.
Was it old enough to shoot? I backed off. The skunk trotted over to the cat door, and after several tries (the door is about 6 inches off the ground) popped out.
The rustling in the bag continued - its sibling was still nibbling. I made a noise. I made more noise. No response. I crept around back and tapped on the bag. Still nothing. Finally, I snatched the bag shut, quickly deposited it outside, and pulled the top open. It wouldn't come out. I finally had to tip the bag up, spilling the baby (and most of the food) on the cement. It gave me an unconcerned look and waddled off.
Well, maybe they were scared off. Mistake number 2. Later the same night, I found mama skunk at the bag, with the kids waiting patiently outside.
Now, this was a problem. For reasons you can probably guess, sealing the cat door for the night was not an option. Cats that are used to going outside leave you little gifts when you lock them in.
My next thought was - purely mercenary, temporary, I know you shouldn't feed wildlife, please don't write letters - maybe if I put some of the food outside, they won't come inside. Mistake number three. First they ate the food outside, then they come in for seconds. The next night there were four of them queued up at the back door.
I'd heard that they don't like light, so the next night I turned on bright lights inside and out. Our back porch looked like a tanning salon. Mistake number four. When there's free food afoot, skunks are willing to forgo mood lighting. That night there were seven: a mom, two teens and four babies. Two is cute. Seven is scary.
I started to think about litter pans and where I might move the cat door. But I decided to try one more trick: my wildlife advisor said they don't like voices. It was worth one more try. So I set the kitchen radio to KPBS, since it features all-night broadcasts from the BBC that are all talking.
And it worked. At least, I haven't had the bag tipped over for about a week.
I must say, the skunks were always very well-behaved. As soon as they saw me, they would leave without a fuss (or smell). I later learned that they generally only spray when threatened, and I was always careful not to corner one.
But if they ever develop a taste for a British accent, I'm screwed.