The first time I smelled a skunk was when I was driving along the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW), the highway linking Toronto with Buffalo, New York. I didn’t even know what it was. I just knew I had never smelled anything like this before, and it almost made me feel sick. “How awful!” I thought while I was turning up the air conditioning in the car hoping the smell would go away soon.
The same week, on my way home I passed a dead animal lying on the side of the highway. Its fur was black and white, and it seemed like it had been hit by a car. Before I could even think about what kind of animal this could have been, the same penetrating smell I had experienced a few days earlier came through the car’s ventilation system.
After these two nose irritating incidents I decided to do some research. I knew skunks only from movies and comics, but the animal on the side of the road looked a lot like what I had seen on TV. I don’t think there are any wild skunks in Austria, or at least I don’t know about them. So before I came to Canada, I had no idea what it would smell like when a skunk feels threatened and sprays. I figured though that the smell had to be bad, since the literal translation of the German word for skunk used in everyday language is “stink animal”.
My research confirmed my suspicion, and from that moment on I closed the vents as soon as I saw a skunk on the side of the road and reopened them a minute or two later. I am still doing that, by the way. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work at night or when you are stuck in traffic. This is the worst, because there is no way to escape the smell – except if you are wearing a protective mask. But whose civilian’s car is equipped with that?
One night, not too long ago, my husband and I walked home from the train station. All of a sudden a small animal – it was black and white and had a puffy tail – ran across the street. “Is that a skunk?” I asked. “Yes, it is,” my husband answered. As soon as the skunk was out of sight, I grabbed my husband’s hand and continued to walk at a much faster pace. This was my first encounter with a living skunk – not smelly, but still a bit uncomfortable.
A few days later we saw the skunk again. It crossed the street at the same spot, but instead of disappearing right after, it decided to hang out on one of our neighbours’ front lawn for a while. I stopped and gave my husband the “What now?” look. He said it would be fine to simply walk by the skunk, but I wasn’t convinced and let him go first. Since the skunk didn’t seem bothered, I started to walk towards my husband. All of a sudden the skunk turned around, put its tail up and started to run in my direction. “That’s not cool.” I thought, walking backwards. Then the skunk sped up, and I started to run as well. I ran until I couldn’t see the skunk anymore and decided to approach our house from the opposite direction than initially planned. It was a 15-minute detour, but I thought coming home later was better than getting attacked by a skunk.
I haven’t seen it again, but I am always cautious now when I walk by the house where the skunk appeared the first (and second) time. I will let you know if it shows up again. How about you? Did you have a similar skunk experience? I would be happy if you shared your story in the comments section below.