One late spring day I was on my way to work, an evening shift, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed something moving on the shoulder of the highway. As I approached, I realized that what I was seeing were eight tiny baby skunks, running back and forth around the body of their mother, who was apparently killed earlier by a passing car.
Someone else would probably have just keep driving, but I could not leave them there alone, so dangerously close to the highway and speeding vehicles. I pulled over to the side of the road, got a cardboard box and a blanket from the back seat and got out of the car, with hopes of catching the little ones. I must say I underestimated them. Even though they were little, they moved quite fast. As soon as they saw me they ran toward tall, thick grass, scattering in all different directions. Miraculously I was able to catch four of them. I looked around for the remaining four, but the grass was thick and they hid well. Reluctantly I left with only four in the box. That night I found it very difficult to sleep. All I could think about was the remaining babies and their safety.
First thing the following morning, I took the four skunks in the box to a local Wildlife Rescue. I explained to people who worked there that there were four more and told them that I would be going back to find them. I asked them to make sure that when I brought the rest of the litter they would keep them all together with the ones already in their care.
That evening I went back to the same part of the highway. The mother’s body was still there and to my greatest disappointment one of the babies was now laying dead next to her. I searched everywhere for the remaining three, but had no luck finding them. I went home with a heavy heart. Once again I had a sleepless night. All I could think was hungry, scared little creatures, dangerously close to the road and death.
First thing in the morning I was back at the spot. Thank God there were no more dead bodies. However, the remaining three were nowhere to be found. I decided to come back in the evening.
It seemed they came out around the same time, after 6pm. I thought my chances of seeing them then would be better. I was right. When I arrived, the remaining three were walking aimlessly around their mother’s body. When they saw me approach they scattered. Fortunately I was able to catch two out of three. They were later reunited with their siblings. I was happy that the six of them were safe, however I could not stop worrying about the last one.
The next day time seemed to move very slowly. It seemed like it took forever for the evening to come. Promptly at 6pm I was back at the spot, but I could not see the last baby anywhere. Not only that, but now the body of the dead baby was missing as well. I remember thinking “Who would want to take a body of a dead baby skunk?”.
I was disappointed once again. As I turned to go back to the car something caught my eye. It was a tip of a black and white tail amidst tall, thick grass. It was not moving. I held my breath and prepared myself for the worst. Slowly I approached the spot and parted the grass. I was afraid of what I might see, however what I did see took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes.
The last tiny baby was sitting in the grass, hugging the body of his dead sibling. Even as I approached and reached for him, he would not leave his dead sibling alone. He hissed at me and was prepared to protect his brother to the very end. It seems that during the night he dragged the body of his dead brother into the grass, away from danger, and then sat there until I arrived, protecting him. He didn’t even try to run away when I picked him up. He just made a whimpering sound as he looked at his brother one last time before I carried him off to the car.
Next morning, as I was surrendering him to Wildlife Rescue, my heart was breaking. This little one truly touched me. I wanted to keep him, make him safe, protect him, take care of him. But I knew that this was not what would be best for him. While I was sad to let him go, I was happy that he was reunited with the rest of his family. I was happy that seven little skunks were now safe. It was unfortunate that one out of eight was killed, but I think that saving seven out of eight was a very fortunate thing to do and I will remain forever grateful that I was able to do so.
I will always remember the last little one, who touched my heart in a very special way. To this day when I remember his little face and think of his loyalty and bravery, it brings tears to my eyes. However, what surprises me the most is when I tell this story to others the question I get asked most often is, “Didn’t they stink?”