Above all, try something. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Saturday, May 8, 2010

All Good Things Must Come To An End......For Skunks

It all began on an evening hike above the house one night after work. I was cruising along, looking for deer and elk anter sheds and exploring our new backyard. I felt like a kid again, wandering through the woods behind my house in Connecticut, getting excited over every little discovery. What began that night was a 3 week long string of events, that led to yesterday morning at about 8 AM.

That evening I came upon another beautiful area on my walk, and constantly found myself thinking that this would be the coolest campsite ever. Only this time, in this area, was a deer carcass. Chewing on the final morsels left behind by the ravens, coyotes, and whatever other scavengers that happened to be in the area, was a SKUNK.

I know that skunks do their deal and spray when they're scared (I really don't know anything about these critters) but I wasn't sure how far their spray reached. I decided to test my boundaries by creeping up on it. The skunk finally caught wind of me and perched his tail up, kind of hunched up to make himself look big I would guess, and took 3 hops in my direction. Here's where I screamed out loud and ran the other way. Once I gained my composure, I got the camera out and tried filming him in hopes he would do it again. Instead he ran off. Here's a little video:

So I continued on, not worried about a thing (although I was carrying bear spray Mom, don't worry) and enjoying a beautiful evening.

After flipping up a couple bones, one nice mule deer shed, another smaller deer shed, and an elk spike, I sat and enjoyed a beer and an amazing view looking down the canyon towards the town of Ennis.

I told my story of the skunk to my boss and he claimed that in the 16 years of living up here, he's only seen one skunk. So I shouldn't worry too much about the dogs moving up here.

Well, a week later, the story continues. After an evening working on the shelter for Katie's goats, we both jumped in the hot tub to soak and enjoy the starry night. We had a late dinner and just about when we finished, at about 10:30 PM, I realized that I forgot to close the barn doors where the pigs are living. I've been closing the doors because the pigs are still small and I don't want any predators to get a craving for pork.

So I got on the 4-wheeler and drove through the woods to the barn with a headlight. I opened up the tack room door to find the same skunk eating some spilled pig feed. He was about 3 feet from me and slipped through another door and into the barn area. There was no way I was going in there, so I climbed the fence and closed the barn doors from the outside.

I have noticed the skunks tracks around the house as well. The first time I noticed a quick walk-by the chicken run. Then the next time it snowed, it looked as if the skunk had made 3 laps around the chicken run. Then one evening our yard exploded in skunk odor. I never did see him that night but the smell made it into the mud room and lingered there for hours as the dogs cried inside, wanting to be out with me looking for the skunk.

Katie got 3 new baby chickens in the beginning of March. After a few months they are ready to introduce to the flock, however there usually is a few days of pecking and fighting. They usually aren't allowed in the coop right away so Katie made a make shift shelter in the run made out of plywood, and filled it with wood shavings for their first night outside, away from the heatlamp. We were a bit worried but didn't think too much of it.

Yesterday morning we had plans to drive to Bozeman to do errands so I decided to give Hattie our lab/german shepard, some quality fetch time. On her first retrieval, she sprinted to the chicken run and was going ballistic, climbing up on it and everything. She usually cares less about the chickens so I knew something was up. I ran down the hill and walked around the chicken run. I didn't see the baby chicks, but I did see a skunk tail sticking out from under the chicken coop!! Then I noticed the baby chicks under there too, although they didn't make it through their first night. The skunk stuck it's head out, and I took note of the small stripe down its forehead. The same skunk from 3 weeks ago!

I ran up to the house to get Katie and tell her the bad news. I needed her to stand guard with a stick to keep the skunk under the coop so I could go borrow a .22 from the guy I work for. A friend told me that skunks can't spray if they can't lift their tail, so I figured we were OK since it was under the coop.

I returned with the gun, and was able to get a shot by laying on my stomach and sneaking the barrel through the chain link fence of the chicken run. Luckily he gave me a shot. All I could see was the sillhouette of a skunk head under the coop. When the strong skunk odor was released I knew he was dead. I'm hoping (knock on wood) that it's the end of our skunk problem. Now we need to prepare for battle with the next predator. Whatever that may be........


Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Hills Are Alive

Today we got a bit of a spring storm. (It is May 6th by the way.) They were calling for way more snow than we got of course, but the little bit that we did get, provided a fresh white canvas for the wildlife around our house to do their thing. It's amazing to see what has been out and about.

When we moved to Montana, I began working for a General Contractor in the area who is an avid Mountain Lion hunter. His daily stories and observations after a fresh snow storm, inspired me to keep my eyes on the side of the road instead of ON the road like I should. Katie will attest to this.

So after my morning duties in the lower elevations at The Double F, I headed just above our house at 6000 feet armed with a camera. I was hoping to find that skunk that has been bothering us lately, but right out of the driveway was a fluffy tail track:

Once in a while you're rewarded for for your efforts with a really fresh track. Sometimes it may be a deer, a fresh grouse track (mountain chicken), or occasionally you will be excited about a bobcat or even a lion crossing the creek on a snowy log. Today I came up over "the beaver slide" and saw this, a large wolf track:

Not much further up the road was the track of a coyote.

And just a bit up the road, was a mule deer track. I really don't know, but I would think that the wolf was taking a close look at this deer.

And since I had my camera, I took a shot of the boulder hole on Jack Creek, just above the house. I am anxious to fish this creek that goes through our front yard, and as I write this I wonder what I was doing taking pics and not fishin. Today, the water visiblility in the creek was the clearest it has been since I've moved in. Spring runoff is right around the corner, and this creek will be raging with melting snow, mud, and sticks.

Here's a self-portrait shot of the conclusion of my long day today. A full day of work (with a little screwing off and taking pics on the way), then a few hours working on Katie's shelter for her goats, and a bit of splitting wood to top it off.