February 14th is here, and the aroma d'amour is in the air.
Especially if you're a striped skunk.
For it's the time of year when Pepé wanders far and wide in search of love.
And, while doing so, not only do skunks waft a little scent to broadcast their availability, they also commonly get smacked on roads, creating musk explosion zones.
Ooooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell?
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you
- Lynyrd Skynyrd
Not sure all the roadkills are a bad thing, btw. Striped skunks are favored and live in high densities around us humans, so thinning with wheel-whacks might be a necessary evil population control. Either that, or we need more great horned owls, which are their typ top predator.
But, unfortunate endings aside, they are a wonderful animal, and my cam traps commonly capture their increased roamings as Saint Valentine's approaches.
And while they generally just look like black & white clones, with good photos you can usually identify different individuals.
For example, these 3 from the same spot are obviously different skunks. Note their scars and stripes - especially the ones on their faces:
However - sometimes they don't give the camera a good look:
Or they give it too much of one...
But occasionally, they're picture perfect:
They're also smart, social and curious, and not only do they hang with other skunks, they also sometimes den and forage with raccoons, opossums and feral cats.
And, although they do have the bad habit of digging divots in lawns for grubs and cutworms, they also do us a solid by keeping ground hives of yellowjackets and wasps in check.
A couple of examples of striped skunk clean ups:
But, you ask, how do they avoid getting stung a thousand times?
They dig 'em out at night, when the wasps are cold and can't see well.
See - smart.
Hopefully enough will learn to avoid our roads.
Because I stepped in a hornet's nest once, and it was not a pleasant experience.
So - the next time your nostrils catch a whiff of le pew - as you scrunch your face also keep your eyes on the asphalt. And say a thanks to los zorrillos.
Or, perhaps a hearty "Happy Valentine's Day Pepé! Get some, but be safe!"