A skunk rescue at Blackfalds Skateboard Park was no big, stinky deal, thanks to the skunk whisperer from Medicine River Wildlife Centre.
Wildlife conflict specialist Gwenevere Marshall was called out Thursday morning to rescue the skunk that had likely fallen into the skate bowl overnight.
“The sides were too slick for it to get out. They tried putting a lattice down, like we recommended, but the skunk was too tired to climb up the lattice to get out on its own. It needed help,” Marshall said.
It only took Marshall about five minutes to calmly approach the animal in a non-threatening way, get close enough to cover it with a towel, then manoeuvre it into a cat crate.
The skunk, which turned out to be a lactating mom, was then released in a green space across the road and ran away.
“When she left, she looked like she knew where she was going,” said Marshall.
She said it was her first animal rescue in a skate park.
“They really are quite slick,” she said of the areas. “I had trouble getting out of the bowl, never mind an animal that can’t jump. I can see if there’s not an escape built in, critters can get stuck.”
During a skunk rescue, Marshall said she talks to the animal the entire time, so it knows she’s not a predator. But if the skunk happens to lift its tail to release its spray, she doesn’t mind.
“I’ve never really been able to smell skunk. If one sprays right next to me, it smells very faintly of garlic toast.
“If I hadn’t started working with the wildlife centre, I probably would have never figured it out. It makes me very well suited to my job,” said Marshall, who has been the centre’s wildlife conflict specialist for seven years.
Thursday’s unwelcome visitor did not feel the need to spray, so the skate park was ready for users.
“For the most part, I can keep them from spraying. They really don’t want to spray. It’s only if they feel that their life is in danger that they go off.”
She said during baby season, it’s better that people don’t trap skunks, because they may be taking them away from their young.
“We always say, if you have a concern, please call us before doing anything. I’d much rather come in and help a person properly evict a skunk instead of coming in after it’s caught in a trap and clean up the mess afterwards.”
She said during the last month, she went out about 30 times to help people evict skunks efficiently.
Marshall first shines a flashlight under the shed or step where the skunk has made its den, and says hello, so it knows it’s been found. Then a hole is dug on the side of the den, and possibly coyote urine is applied, so it smells like a predator has dug it up.
Next, a light is put in the den, so the skunk doesn’t feel safe.
“That combination of deterrents and knowing that it’s been found, it dosen’t feel safe. It packs up and it leaves.”