Not fit for man nor skunk

I saw a skunk in a subdivision less than a km from downtown Guelph this morning. This was on my normal commute route but I was still surprised to see it as you don’t normally see these nocturnal creatures at all in daylight (it was about 7:30 AM and the sun is getting stronger again) and especially not in winter. They don’t hiberate but they do little at this time of year beside mate. Perhaps this guy or gal was looking for some action. It crossed Forest Hill Drive, probably from the large wooded property behind the houses on the side of the street where it crossed from. It went up the walk and by the front door of a very nice and large (and probably very expensive) bungalow.

I didn’t want to get too close since it didn’t seem to me that there was much of a distance from its current backwards-pointed-parallel-to-the-ground tail position to cocked-and-ready-to-spray position and all that goes with that! I’ve only been closer to a skunk once before when I was on a hike in Rockwood Conservation Area as a teenager and I was extremely lucky to have avoided getting sprayed then because I nearly stepped on the poor thing. Today’s skunk kept an eye on me and I watched it too as I slowly went past going up the hill.

In the endless and inexorable tide of development even these last refuges in the city like that wooded property are being subdivided by those who don’t care for lots of private, natural space any more. This same woodlot is having a big chunk of it taken away as a house is being built at the end of James St. now. I find that sad. I’m sure many adults who grew up around this small island of nature will have many happy memories from a childhood blessed to have been spent there. “They pave paradise and put up a” brand new home.

Island Biogeography teaches us that as islands of wild space decrease in size the local species extirpation becomes swifter and swifter. Soon there won’t be anything left but a few relics kept for their shade. Ironically even the preserved trees face a greater risk of death without their erstwhile companions. They will suffer from loss of water, changes in soil temperature and nutrients, sunburn (it’s true!), exposure to wind and greater predation by insects.

If that skunk is smart, he or she will have turned left and gone down Forest Hill, turned right on James, left on McCrae Blvd. and gone past McCrae House to get down to the river. There it should have turned left or right and gone two kms in either direction to get to the protected floodplain lands about the Speed and Eramosa rivers. I can always hold forth hope! I certainly wasn’t going to prod it along the way. You’re on your own fella!


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