The winter here in west central Wisconsin has been one to remember. The average monthly temperatures have set record highs since October. Sure has saved on the woodpile but that too just doesnít seem normal. Speaking of not normal, here it is February already and weíve had a total of only 5 inches of snow for the whole winter and even that has melted away. My friends who look forward to cross-country skiing have been very disappointed this year.
When itís warm enough outside, it may lure some animals out of hibernation and they will start showing up as road kills along the highways. Any time the temperature goes up above freezing you can see possums and skunks out and about. I have seen these animals every month this winter.
At sunset, after a 50 degree day on the 22nd January, I watched in amazement as a brown bat flew around the house. He seemed to be searching for flying insects. This seemed silly, after all it was the third week of January. Then I spotted a couple of small moths silhouetted against the twilight sky. I donít remember ever seeing a bat out hunting here in the dead of winter.
Is this the winter of no winter? For many animals it is. For them it doesnít always feel like winter. They think its spring and they are hungry.
A warm night has brought the most colorful weasel out looking for something to eat. A handsome striped skunk has wandered into the barnyard as he searches for food. He chews on the kernels of corn dropped on the bare ground by the cattle. His pungent scent is so strong that it drifts to every nose within a quarter mile. He canít hide his presence.
Itís warm and the farmer has his bedroom window open a bit. The skunk has entered his dreams and wakes him up. He knows the skunk wonít do any harm so he lays back down and hopes the cow dog has enough common sense to stay away from ole bushy tail. If he gives the skunk a rough time it could mean living with a skunky smelling dog for a few weeks. He doesnít hear the dog bark out an alarm and figures the dog has enough sense to stay comfortable in his warm doghouse. After closing the bedroom window, the farmer drifts back to sleep. The scent of skunk lingers around the barn for a couple of days and is then just a memory.
If youíre taking a walk down natureís trail and happen to cross paths with ole mister skunk, give him plenty of room and watch from a safe distance. He can spray his foul odor 15 feet or more and it sticks to whatever it touches. So with this in mind, give a skunk the respect he so justly deserves.
The striped skunk can be found anywhere in the continental U.S. and may show up at your house even if you live in town. They are some of natureís best scavengers and are harmless if given their space. They, like most wild animals just want to be left alone so they can go on about their business of finding a meal.
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