From Pipi’s Pasture: Skunks and a rattlesnake
I remember a summer of about two years ago when there were lots and lots of butterflies of every shape and size flying around Pipi’s Pasture. In fact, the insects were all around the county. We saw them at summer pasture when we went up to check the cows. They flew onto the car’s windshield as we drove along the highway. They were pretty, and they didn’t do any harm. There were just a lot of them all of a sudden — probably caused by some phenomenon of nature.
To contrast this summer with that summer of the past, we have seen few butterflies, except for the little white ones that fly around my cabbages. It seems that there is always one kind of animal, for some reason, in the spotlight each season. This year, here at Pipi’s Pasture, anyway, it has been the skunk and a rattlesnake.
It’s not that we have never had skunks here before. I remember watching a mama cow chase a skunk out of Pipi’s Pasture one calving season. She wanted him away from her newborn calf. Amazingly, the skunk never sprayed her. He just squeezed through the fence and escaped into the yard.
We’ve seen skunks out around the cats’ feed pans during the day. My husband Lyle says they’re around because I feed the cats, and he’s probably right. They’re out around the corral, too, so I try not to do chores in the dark. We’ve even watched a mama skunk lead her babies across the pasture.
This year, however, the skunks are extra brazen. We’re sure that there are two of them — a bigger skunk and a smaller one — but judging by the odor there seems to be one hundred of them.
One morning Lyle came in to report a problem. The skunks had dug a hole under the patio and taken up residency. It’s a handy place to live because I leave food for the cats on the patio. As soon as I fill the cat pans and leave, the skunks come for food, too. Not only that; each day they try, unsuccessfully, to drag one of the pans through the hole and under the patio.
One day I put a ham bone out on the sidewalk in the back so that the cats could enjoy the meat left on it. I should have known better. A little later Lyle saw a skunk trying to get it under the patio. It was quite a sight since the bone was bigger than the hole.
One day Lyle also noticed a kitten that decided to go under the patio. The skunk was right there to protect its home. The mama cat saw what was going on and didn’t hesitate to growl and bat her feet at the skunk. She got between her kitten and the skunk and stood guard at the skunk’s entryway.
With all of this activity going on, it’s amazing that the skunks haven’t sprayed around the house in the daytime, but, except for the corral, they seem to reserve spraying for the dark. We don’t know what it is that upsets them at night, but sometimes it’s pretty odoriferous around here when we’re trying to sleep. Take the other night for example. A thunderstorm rolled through here at about midnight. The thunder sounded as if cannons were going off — overhead — and lightning lit up the sky. As if the skunks were reacting to the storm, they let loose with spray. It wasn’t pleasant.
So the skunks are in the spotlight this year, but then there’s the rattlesnake. In all the years we have lived here, we have never seen a snake of any kind. We have always known that there are rattlers across the road, and earlier this year we heard reports about lots of snakes being sighted all around on that side of the road. But then last weekend our neighbor told Lyle that they had spotted a rattlesnake in our driveway! I’ll take a skunk anytime!
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On a summer morning in southern Idaho, the day breaks early, before 6 a.m. The air is stale, never fully cooled from the heat of the day before.