Last week Leonard and I noticed a striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) lying on the dike surrounding Pond #5 at Ash Creek Wildlife Refuge (Modoc County CA). Over the past couple weeks we discovered several dead skunks in the Wildlife Area and feared this skunk suffered the same fate.
As we approached, the skunk did not move at all. Not certain if the skunk was indeed dead or if it simply did not hear us, I clapped and talked loudly. Startling a striped skunk and getting sprayed was not on the day’s schedule. We noticed the barest bit of movement, but the skunk settled right back down. It was one of the warmest days of the spring and occasionally a sunbeam would break through. Mr Skunk was enjoying his siesta in the sunshine and refused to be bothered.
Striped skunks have poor vision (but acute smell and hearing). They can spray up to ten feet away. Since we were going to pass that close on the trail I definitely wanted the skunk to know we were there. I kept talking loudly and making noise as we got closer. Finally the skunk stirred and looked around, at last realizing Leonard and I were nearby. It stood and immediately went down the burrow next to which it was sleeping.
I love the picture of the barely-awake skunk looking to see what was causing the commotion. It looks so cute – and confused. We were enjoying spring with a hike, while the striped skunk was doing the same with a nap on its doorstep.