What’s black and white and red all over? A postoperative Molina’s hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus chinga)! The subject of today’s installment of “Animals Among Us,” the skunk, is the most misunderstood animal since the microraptor, a species that went extinct due to a malicious rumor spread by the goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) over 100 million years ago. Ever since a 2002 skunk attack landed me in an extended hydrogen peroxide bath (my fault for stargazing during mating season), I’ve found skunks to be one of the most fascinating animals in the whole wide field behind my grandfather’s shed. And after reading this column, I hope you do, too!
Infamous for smelling like Jonestown five days later, the skunk has the special ability to spray sulfuric fluid onto potential threats from scent glands located in its anus. As a result, the skunk’s only regular predators are the great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) and the car — neither of which have an impressive sense of smell, with the exception of the Honda Civic (Hondus civici). Detectable by the human nose at the impossibly low concentration of 10 parts per billion and up to a mile downwind, the skunk’s spray can induce temporary blindness and, in my case, complete isolation from family and friends for upward of a month. Skunk, do you even know your own strength?
According to the Native American Abenaki tribe, the skunk received its distinctive smell and black-and-white color scheme as punishment for vengefully tying down a single wing of Day Eagle, which plunged half of the world into darkness. When the Jesuits arrived in America, however, they didn’t give a hoot about why the skunk looks and smells like it does. “No sewer ever smelled so bad. … Your heart almost fails you when you approach the animal,” reads “The Jesuit Relations,” the 17th century’s worst action-adventure novel. “It is unworthy of being called the dog of Pluto.” However, along with the whole “perpetual chastity” thing, this is where the Jesuits are wrong: skunks make great dogs.
Due to its social nature and likelihood of being the subject of a lucrative lawsuit after neighbors accidentally kill it, the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) can be domesticated and kept as a pet. Though only legal in 15 states (35 states have clearly not read “The Federalist”), keeping skunks as pets is as simple as removing their scent glands and performing an unbelievable amount of upkeep which dwarfs that required for other common pets. Known to be intelligent, sensitive and highly curious animals, skunks are way better than most people I know, and I don’t regret saying that for a second. If you are interested in obtaining a pet skunk, it’s as easy as contacting your local skunk breeder or wandering into a moonlit forest with some poisoned arrows and a dream! Of course, as I said before, you cannot have a skunk without first having its scent glands removed. For this reason, I am about to perform scent gland removal surgery on an anesthetized skunk and will document it below.
Make an incision into the skunk’s lower half. Anywhere will do as long as you work around the organs to find the distinctive scent glands, which are shaped like the crest of ET’s skull. The skunk bleeds more than you may expect, so have a pile of paper towels or cut-up diapers somewhere near. Woah, yeah, a lot of blood. OK. Shaky hands. Alright, I found them. And…snippity snip snip… diaperty diaper diaper, soak up the blood…they’re out! I did it! Get ready to be domesticated, skunk! These glands are kind of squishy, like those Chinese-made rubber balls filled with liquid chemicals that you can get at a dollar store. What a weird texture! They just burst in my hands, and I’m covered in skunk juice. This is disgusting. Just vomited into the skunk’s open wound, now trying to clean my vomit off of the skunk’s exposed stomach with a piece of an Elmo diaper. I can’t go to work like this. Need to sterilize the skunk. I am so sorry, readers. Sewed the skunk up, administered painkillers. About to retreat into my room, will not leave for upward of a month. Will burn all sheets at end of self-imposed quarantine.
Thanks for reading “Animals Among Us!” I hope that you learned a lot about the animal kingdom, and I hope you learned a little about yourself, too. Be sure to check back in whenever I smell like myself again and get another one of these puppies (Canis lupus familiaris) published. Until next time, remember: animals!
P.S. If you’d like to pick up a scratch-and-sniff skunk sticker, please visit The Hoya’s office in the Leavey Center, room 421.
“Doug Freide” is a rising senior in the College. Animals Among Us appears every other Sunday.