Eye on Wildlife: Who’s the boss?

A trail camera showed the fascinating interaction between a pair of raccoons and a skunk, who's laid temporary claim to a space under an urban deck in Hamilton.

By Michael Howie

How do you react when you’re on a walk and suddenly see a skunk? As it turns out, I tend to respond the same way as raccoons.

Using a trail camera, I was able to learn that a skunk (or skunks) had put claim to a space under a high traffic shed in my urban Hamilton yard. I was fascinated to learn more about this skunk (or skunks) and whether they were living full time under the shed, or were just using it as one of many den sites or caches in the area.

Over time, the camera has revealed that the skunks are just visitors, using the shed space only occasionally. The moving in and out of a table saw, gardening supplies, and the awful, horrendous, terrifying screeching of the steel door (there isn’t enough WD-40) has likely made it less-than-desirable for a full-time residence.

However, the camera also captured a wonderful interaction between a skunk and two raccoons who were passing through one night.

While I’m no animal behaviour expert, it appears clear that the skunk was saying, “Get off my lawn” and the raccoons were saying, “Oh, geez, okay, we’re sorry!”

It’s fascinating to see the skunk use only posturing and their tail position to ward off two raccoons, both of whom are much larger than the skunk. It’s a reminder that when we see wildlife in any community, their body language and posturing doesn’t necessarily mean attack or threat – it means communication. In the same way that we may tell people to stay off our lawn with a verbal command, a sign, or a Clint Eastwood impression, skunks (and other animals) have their own way to express it, too.

This also serves as invaluable information for me as a person who shares their home with a dog – I will ensure that I speak with my human voice every time we go outside, have set motion lights to activate when we come outside, and have left safe passage out of the yard. Each of these steps reduces the chance that my dog or I will have a negative encounter with those who visit our yard at night.

Have you any great trail cam footage around your home? Tag us on social media or share it to us via info@TheFurBearers.com and we may use it in an Eye on Wildlife article in the future!

Michael Howie is the Director of Communications for The Fur-Bearers and host of the Defender Radio and The Switch podcasts. He is based in Hamilton, Ontario, the traditional territories of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas.

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