Do you smell something? 15 steps to a skunk-free basement

When you wake up in the morning, you never know what life is going to present to you. Today, it presented me with a skunk, rattling around in the window well outside my basement window. So today I learned the 15- step process for skunk removal. I feel bad for the skunk – he didn’t mean to end up trapped where his short little legs couldn’t climb out. But I also feel bad for me whose basement still smells vaguely skunklike. If it ever happens to you, here is the procedure:

1. Notice odor.

2. Go outside to investigate.

3. See top view of skunk in window well.

4. Run back into house and slam door.

5. Call the village you live in. They chuckle and tell you to call county Animal Control.

6. Animal Control tells you that they cannot help you because the police in your town are responsible and Animal Control cannot come out unless they are authorized by said police department.

7. Call police department who nicely don’t want you to get sprayed trying to do anything yourself. You appreciate that. They leave the phone and come back to say that the police can’t get involved in anything like that but can give out the numbers for two services who can.

8. Call the first service whose phone is eventually answered by a robot voice who takes your message. There is no mention of pests or animals or removal.

9. Pace, waiting to see if you get an immediate answer which you don’t get.

10. Start to dial the second option which has a far-away area code, but default to the old-fashioned way and get out the yellow pages and look under Pest Control. Wade through numerous bug services and jump on the first one that mentions skunks and brags about Humane Removal of All Wildlife. Leave message.

11. This one calls back right away and promises to be out within the hour. Meanwhile you hear your neighbor out pulling weeds right across from said trapped skunk and go out to warn him.

12. Nice man in big reassuring-looking unmarked pickup pulls up. He looks into the well and proclaims the skunk a juvenile, making you feel bad, but really, where was his mother? And he’s old enough to stink up the place. Nice man asks for a hose to minimize the risk of spraying,  then notices the disturbed earth under the concrete steps and suggest a trap because that may well be where the skunk family lives, unless you’d prefer to try moth balls first. You do not prefer.

12. Go back inside because why expose one more human to skunk spray? These people are professionals.

13. Nice man bangs on back door and presents bill for $225, including trap and trap maintenance, payable by credit card. He offers several possible scenarios of how this juvenile ended up here – his family lives underneath the steps, he was orphaned when his mother came to a bad end, he wandered off and got lost, etc. We’ll never know, he concludes. (He puts me in mind of Louis Burgo, our first pest control specialist in our old town, who guided us through several raccoon events inside and outside of our 100 year-old house. I don’t know if he really had an Italian accent, but that’s how I remember him. “Ah, she will climb up this ramp – you will see. She wants to get out of here just as much as you want her to go, I’m telling you.”)

14. Calculate airline points you accrue thanks to today's skunk surprise.

15. Wait for the odor to dissipate. And wait a little longer. It’ll be gone by Labor Day, surely.

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