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Denver is invaded by skunks


           Trying to pass the smell test    (AP)

Southwest Denver is beginning to look like a cartoon. Nearly the entire cast of Looney Tunes has taken up residence. We have bunnies, ducks, puddy cats and wittle birdies, chickens, no roadrunners but lots of coyotes and there's even a guy who talks like Elmer Fudd and dresses like him on cold days.

This summer, skunks were added to the dramatis personae. Lots of skunks. It's as if Pepe Le Pew and all his relatives immigrated to Denver from Paree. Mon Dieu! Four skunks were seen late at night a couple of weeks ago frolicking under a full moon. Were they looking for something to eat or for Penelope Pussycat? Who knows. It's best to leave them alone. N'est-ce pas?

What do you do if you encounter a skunk? According to keep quiet and don't make any sudden movements:

Because of their terrible eyesight, skunks often confuse quick and loud movements with those of a predator. Therefore if you move slowly and talk softly during skunk encounters you will usually avoid being sprayed. Should you and a skunk come face to face, the skunk will usually warn you before spraying. Skunks run directly toward a threat, stop (sometimes within inches), then stomp and hiss or squeal. They can make sounds like a squealing pig, grunt, whine, screech and even chirp like a bird. Skunks can only run at a rate of about ten miles an hour, which explains why so many are killed by cars. Drivers expect them to move away, just as other wild animals do—but instead a skunk will stand still, getting ready to spray.

If you find them living in your backyard, recommends:

Skunks sometimes raise their young in cavities such as those under decks. Since skunks are nomadic by nature, they will usually leave when the young are old enough. The simplest solution is to wait for the skunks to leave on their own, then seal off their entry hole with hardware cloth. The Fund for Animals does not recommend trapping because starving young are likely to be left behind. Spraying a repellent around the area, or poking some ammonia-sprinkled rags underneath (careful not to poke the skunks), might encourage them to leave.

So, a Denver coyote can't find a roadrunner and finds a skunk instead, what would happen? It would be messy, loud and smelly.

Heads up: Skunk rabies is on the rise in Colorado. If bitten by a skunk or any wild animal, get the medical care you need and report the bite to the State Health Department at (303) 692-2628.