Skunk debate brings back memories

Larry Woody • Updated Mar 9, 2016 at 1:30 PM

A proposed "skunk bill" that would have made it legal to possess a pet skunk was defeated last week after raising a stink in the State Legislature.

It is against state law to keep a wild animal captive, but the "skunk bill" would have granted an exception for de-scented, vaccinated, domesticated skunks.

That seemed reasonable. We're allowed to possess domesticated rabbits and ferrets, so why not domesticated skunks? Pet skunks are legal in 17 states, selling for as much as $1,000 each.

I can understand why someone might like to have a pole-cat for a pet. They are fascinating, easily-trained little critters.

I speak from experience. When I was a kid I had a pet skunk. His name was Squiffy. (It was some 60 years ago, so hopefully the statute of limitations has expired on the unlawful possession of a skunk.)

Here's how it happened:

I was about seven years old. My kid sister and I were walking down the lane that led to our house one spring morning when a mama skunk waddled across the road with a half-dozen baby skunks parading along behind her in single file.

I immediately pounced on one, and yelled for my sister to grab her one. Younger but wiser, she declined. The mama skunk scurried for cover with the rest of her brood, while I dashed home with the wriggling little stinker I'd captured.

I named him Squiffy. I kept him in a chicken-wire cage. When the weather turned cold I moved the cage into my grandmother's barn, which also served as her chicken house.

When I captured Squiffy he resembled a little furry black-and-white striped tennis ball. He grew fast and fat on a diet of table scraps and pet food. By the following spring he was as plump and round as a football.

Squiffy was docile. He would eat out of your hand and let you scratch his ears.

Unlike commercial pet skunks whose scent glands are removed by a veterinarian, Squiffy was not de-scented. Though fully loaded, the only time he ever fired a shot -- so to speak -- was one night when a neighbor's dog ran into the barn and started barking at him.

It scared Squiffy and rattled the chickens, so Squiffy hiked up his tail and unloaded on the meddlesome mutt with both barrels.

Squiffy never had any more pooch problems, but it took several days to air out the barn. We also tended to stay down-wind of the chickens, and grandma's fried eggs tasted odd for awhile.

Finally, along in the spring when I'd had Squiffy for about a year, I felt guilty about keeping him caged. What had he done to deserve a life sentence?

So one balmy morning I carried his cage out to the edge of the field and opened the door. Squiffy poked his head out, looked around and sniffed the air. He waddled out, moseyed across the field, and disappeared into a fence row to start a new life.

I like to think he met a Miss Squiffy and lived happily ever after.

Sometimes on a warm spring evening when I detect a whiff of skunk-scent in the air, I think about Squiffy. Smells like one of his pungent progeny is acting up.

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