Suggested headline: Woodward’s tips for dealing with skunks

(Though my regular column is suspended during the pandemic, we’re running some old ones I thought readers might enjoy. They originally were published in The Idaho Statesman early in my career there. Many are humor columns from the 1980s. In times like these, we need humor.)

  Spring must be here. Buds are swelling, crocuses are thrusting their heads through the soil and evenings are fragrant with the springlike aroma of …

  Skunks.

  Yes, friends, the scourge of spring is upon us. In some places this isn’t a problem. Where I live, it is the problem. Skunks consider my neighborhood their personal sanctuary.

  As a public service to those who may have to confront them but have little knowledge of how to avoid the horrors of being sprayed, the following is offered as advice on how not to deal with a skunk. Rest assured that the author has researched each of the techniques and can vouch for their reliability:

  1.  Do not leave doors open to the house at any time during skunk season, roughly spring through October. While some experts suggest deliberately leaving doors open to lull skunks into a sense of false security, I cannot recommend the procedure for anyone lacking a backup house.

  I thoughtlessly broke this rule in the wee hours one morning while taking a letter to the mailbox. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

  The letter was important enough that upon waking in the middle of the night and remembering it hadn’t been mailed I got up and ventured outside to the mailbox with it. It was a warm evening so I wasn’t wearing a whole lot, but it was 3 a.m. Who would see me at that hour?

  Walking back from the mailbox to the house after putting the letter in the mailbox, I was surprised to see a dark figure lurking on the sidewalk. A dark, sinister, hissing figure. The hours when most of us are sleeping are, of course, the time when nocturnal skunks are at their menacing best.

  I remained calm, except for one small scream. This frightened the skunk, which immediately reversed course and boldly headed for the front door I had carelessly left open. Barring a quick counterattack, the skunk would be inside the house within seconds. 

  What to do? Luckily, a visit from any skunk, let alone one about to waddle into your house, gives a person an adrenalin rush. Blessed with insufficient time to think about it, I sprinted down the sidewalk, leaped over the skunk and bolted into the house just in time to slam the door in its face.

  It had to have been a strange sight, a man wearing nothing but his Fruit of the Looms, hurdling over a skunk in the dead of night.

  At least there wasn’t anyone around with a camera.

  2.  If you think a skunk is in your house, do not attempt to rout it with a baseball bat. I realized this while attempting to rout a skunk that proved to be a Batmobile under my son’s bed.

  Yes, as a matter of fact, I did feel a little silly. The experience taught me a valuable lesson however. When routing a skunk, the weapon of choice is not a baseball bat. A better option is an attack dog, preferably one you never want to see again.

  3.  If you have a dog as a pet, do not under any circumstance allow it to establish visual contact with a skunk. This will trigger a chase impulse the dog is powerless to resist.

  Our dog Molly, after being sprayed by a skunk and scrubbed almost to the point of hemorrhaging, saw another skunk the very next day and almost broke the door down trying to go outside and get sprayed again. So much for the myth of canine intelligence.

  4. Do not waste time bathing a pet sprayed by a skunk. It doesn’t work, at least not very well. The only thing that does work well is time. Lots of it. 

  Another option is to immerse the pet in tomato juice, followed by treatment with a product specifically designed the remove skunk odors. Then give the pet to someone you don’t like very much.

  5. If the worst happens and a skunk actually does get into your house, get rid of it immediately. The house, not the skunk. A house sprayed by a skunk is the ultimate in lost causes. If you’ve been up close and personal with a skunk, you know this. If not, trust me.

  This is what you do:

  Do not disrupt or frighten the skunk in any way. Get the family out of the house, go to a neighbor’s house to borrow a phone and call a Realtor. Have the Realtor put the house on the market immediately, priced for a quick sale. Do not mention the word “skunk.”

  With luck, the loan will close before the new owners discover your secret.

  This concludes Woodward’s tips for dealing with skunks.

  Have a nice spring.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.