Updated on September 13, 2014
The great skunk journey
The other evening while checking the cattle we saw an odd looking lump of black 200 to 300 feet away across the field. I could see that it was something alive and turned the truck to go investigate. My stepson, Steve, insisted that it was just a few crows and not to waste our time.
As we approached I could see that at least one was a skunk (Striped Skunk in Missouri, Mephitis mephitis). To both of our surprise upon closer examination we could see that it was a mother skunk leading her brood across the open field. That in and of itself was a real oddity. I have lived in the country, California and Missouri, for over 40 years and I have never seen more than one skunk at a time, of any age. This seemed so much more unusual in that there were several other possible avenues for this family to cross the field from forest to forest without being in the open for such a distance.
The little family looked very odd, moving in what appeared to be a lump. As we approached and undoubtedly disturbed the mother she separated slightly from the rest of the group. Immediately the balance started circling in a tight little knot. I am used to the odd behavior of the Watusi in what is known as glum, a tightly packed group, but this was all in the world like a dog chasing its tail. The big difference here was that each one chased a sibling’s tail. When they did make some movement other than a tight circle they moved in an erratic fashion. Mom came back briefly, but they did not follow her and self preservation apparently took over. She made a mad dash for the woods that she was originally headed towards.
With Mom gone the brood just continued to circle. Steve got out to take a look at the same time that the cattle let curiosity get the best of them. I kept an eye out for Mom, she did come back up the hill a little where the youngsters should have been able to see her. She paced back and forth, about 100 feet from the knot, but did not approach them again.
Left alone the confused knot immediately turned towards my truck, that was when the closer photos were taken. I moved further away and the cattle, starting with a group of heifers came to explore. After they wandered off several adult cows came to inspect, one of which did not seem to like what she found. The poor little skunks are lucky that she was just expressing her disapproval of them as she reached her horn into the group and sent several of them flying through the air. They were not injured and turned right back around for her to do it again.
We waited for the watusi to move away before we left with the hopes that the family would have a reunion if we got out of the way. I choose the believe that they are all still together on the Eastern perimeter of that field happily eating through the bugs of the forest.