by Carl Strang
Twice in November, when my noontime walk has taken me into the former friary site at Mayslake Forest Preserve, I have seen a striped skunk out and about. The first time it was close to a known den hole, and the sighting was a novelty. Occasionally I have encountered other nocturnal mammals, including raccoons and opossums, out in the middle of the day over the years, and though I had not seen a skunk doing so, it’s also true that skunks are less common than those other animals. But then I saw the skunk the second time.
It was moving in the usual gait at the usual speed, apparently stopping frequently to pause, dig a little, apparently eat an insect, and continue. But then at one point it stopped and lifted its head, turning it in various directions and sniffing. The eyes looked strange.
Another possibility is that the animal is blind. This likewise would not be unprecedented. When I worked at the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s Willowbrook Wildlife Center, I knew of several opossums that had been brought into the clinic over the years, opossums that had been congenitally blind. They were healthy otherwise, and had functioned well enough to achieve adulthood, but had wandered into places where they got into trouble. They could not be released, however, into an unfamiliar area, and so were kept on as exhibit animals.
Skunks, likewise nocturnal, also live largely by their noses. If this one is blind indeed, it seems to be staying in a part of the preserve where it will be able to maintain itself without negative encounters with dogs or people. There is no point in trying to trap it and take it to Willowbrook. The Wildlife Center’s permit from the state requires its staff to euthanize any skunks or bats that come in, because they are the animals most likely to have rabies. I will be interested in following this skunk’s career. After all, it may not be blind at all, just odd.