Striped skunks are making their appearance at nightfall near the summer cabin and out on the back roads in a reminder that summer is winding down. The skunk kits, which are born two to ten in litter around May and are as cute as kittens, are now full grown and the first cool nights of late summer have apparently ignited their appetites. Even though full sized, they act like teenagers; more ready to spray than older skunks but more tentative, too. 

Last summer, I was sitting in the outdoor kitchen at the summer cabin, which was fully illuminated by a gas latern, nattering away to my mother on the cell phone when a youngster came around the corner into the kitchen. I yelped and jumped on the picnic table. Just as quickly, it did a U-turn and disappeared without a challenge. 

Skunks are relatively mild-mannered, for all their smelliness. When threatened, they stamp both front feet, usually twice in a row, then pause before doing it again. They lift their tails. They might hiss. If that doesn’t work, they curl their butt around and aim to spray. 

People ususally take the hint. Dogs are less apt to.

Come winter, they will be in a woodchuck hole or under a shed sleeping without actually going into a full coma-like hibernation. By February and March, the males are on the prowl for mates and food, sometimes in the road, which is why squashed skunk is one of the first scents of spring.

Christine Parrish is up in Baxter State Park this week for a hike in the woods.