Just once, part 4

skunk, possibly striped skunk Mephitis mephitis, foraging in yard
I find it hard to believe this myself, but not only have I featured a skunk only once here on the blog, I think I have just one other set of images in my entire stock, from many years ago, of a juvenile that had been live-trapped.

For reasons unknown and completely perplexing, skunks are incredibly scarce in this area of North Carolina, and bear in mind that I used to work with both animal rescue and wildlife rehabilitation, as well as advising about wildlife encounters. Throughout all of that, to say nothing about being a photographer and wanting to get more images of them, the actual contacts that I’ve had were just barely enough to maintain that they existed and little more. There was one section of the whole region where I suspected they might be, if not prevalent, at least present in small numbers, and that was from smelling their evidence there perhaps three times in over a decade.

This image of a (likely) striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) was therefore taken in Ohio, in the suburban front yard of friends of mine, and my exposure to one had been so many years previous that I was peering at this black animal for too long, trying to determine what it was – granted, it was night and the skunk hadn’t yet revealed the white spot on its head, but still. I was nonetheless delighted, knowing that skunks are actually pretty mellow and require a fair provocation before they’ll let loose with their defensive spray.

Twice while up in New York a few years ago I found skunks, both during the day, yet neither time able to snag a photo. One had emerged from deep weeds right alongside the car while I was stopped in a wildlife refuge, but I was unable to focus in time before it realized I was there and disappeared back into the weeds, never to be seen again – it would have been a great portrait, too. Three decades back when I lived there and used to go out for walks on the road at night, I encountered them a few times with never any defensive response; one realized that I was following it down the road and turned to face me quite deliberately, alert but not yet threatened, and continued on its way once I’d held still for a few moments. You gotta admire that kind of panache…

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