By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
Ron Hansen thought he finally had them beaten after weeks of battle.
Then his dog Kai got sprayed once again last Thursday night, and it was back to the shower. Vinegar. Ketchup. Baking soda. The gag-worthy, homemade concoction to remove the skunk smell that stands in stiff competition with the odor itself.
This is the third time in less than three weeks that the two have gone through the ritual because the 5-year-old German shorthair can’t seem to stop herself from charging the skunks despite the consequences.
His other dog, 2-year-old Skeena, is a bit smarter, but she too likes to roll in anything remotely smelling like a skunk.
“They’re like a couple of kids,” Ron told Cowboy State Daily Friday. “If it stinks, they find it.”
And there’s plenty of stink to go around as the surfeit of skunks continues to wreak havoc on Camp Hansen, despite the dispatching of 12 skunks to date.
If he wasn’t laughing about it, he would be crying, Hansen told Cowboy State Daily last week as he chronicled the events leading up to the latest smelly assault, a tale he shares with many readers who have been following it on his Facebook page.
From The (Smelly) Beginning
It all started in the last week of September when Kai got sprayed the first time. At first, it was no big deal. Hansen had grown up on the ranch 7 miles west of Lander and later built a house for his family on the land. Over the years, he’d seen a few skunks in the field where he was haying, and yes, occasionally the dogs would get sprayed.
That first night the skunks invaded, it was just a mild inconvenience. He cleaned up the dog and figured the skunk would move on.
The next night, he saw one running out of his garage. He keeps the garage door cracked to give his handful of cats access to their food bowls. The dogs also hang out on the couch that he put there for just that purpose. It’s worked for the past 17 years and has never been a problem.
When he investigated after seeing the intruder flee the garage, Hansen couldn’t believe his eyes. It was a full-on party. One skunk ran into the corner, another cozied up under the dog’s couch and others milled about cautiously as if they owned the place.
“It was a whole herd of them,” he said. “Everyone was looking at each other like a Mexican standoff.”
Worse, the skunks had the upper hand and seemed to know it. The last thing Ron wanted to do was make them nervous enough to spray, so he waited them out.
Operation Stink Bomb
It was time, he decided, to go “full-on Western” and “Operation Stink Bomb” was launched.
Step one, arm himself with a couple pints of Fireball Whisky.
Step two, know your enemy. He did the research, learning that skunks are nocturnal and forage for food at night and typically gather in a group – or surfeit – to mate. From the numbers he’d seen, he figured there was plenty of mating going on.
“So, I now operate and live in a whorehouse for skunks,” he wrote in one post. “Great, at least I found a new term that makes me look smart to my kids and those who I challenge in trivia – surfeit.”
Step three was to gather the ammo for his 15-year-old son Craig, who told his dad he would do the shooting while Ron held the flashlight. Luckily, Ron owns both a liquor store and a sporting goods store in Lander.
Finally, no successful plan is complete without a little pep talk, so Hansen created a video with outlaws shooting up skunks to “get the team pumped up.”
That night, they set out some live traps and caught a few invaders who Bob the cat was conscripted to guard overnight. But in the morning, not only were the skunks gone, but they had escaped with the food in the garage as well.
Bob, a stray cat who adopted the Hansen family by walking into their living room one day, was put on notice and his loyalty called into question as he was relegated to the couch. Eventually, he wormed his way back into Ron’s good graces, although the skunks did not.
Wanted: Scarface Le Pew
By then, they had clearly worn out their welcome, and Ron had put one in particular — nicknamed “Scarface Le Pew” — on notice with a “wanted” poster describing both the culprit and crime.
“This suspect made a daring escape from live trap jail during the evening of 9-28 between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.,” the poster read. “Suspect is considered armed and dangerous. Last seen wearing a long black coat with two white stripes down the back.”
The suspect was described in the poster as being approximately 3 feet long and weighing around 20 pounds with a large hairless scar on the right side of its face.
At this point, Hansen gave up on the live traps and decided it was time to bring out the big guns. Subsequent operations were looking good with “three enemy soldiers eliminated…and several others holing up in hostile territory.”
The battle went on for several days with the high point being when Hansen finally dispatched Scarface, who Ron said was the size of a cow, along with a few of his mates.
The euphoria didn’t last long, however, as the skunks just kept coming and the overwhelming odor perpetually hung in a cloud over the family’s home. After more than a week of late-night reconnaissance, Ron was feeling the pain.
Fun Was Fleeting
As he noted in a post, the first night was kind of fun, but by day 10, he wasn’t sure his liver could take any more Fireball. In short, it began to feel like a circus and Ron was the clown.
In between bouts, he sought advice from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, where officers told him that such a gathering of skunks was rare, but did occur. He was also told he was doing everything right to ward them off, including shutting the garage door and putting food for the cats on the porch.
Others weighed in, recommending that he set traps for the interlopers, but as an animal lover, Ron didn’t like the idea of accidentally injuring one of his dogs or a baby antelope.
Now, however, it appears that the skunks have the edge, multiplying in number and morphing into ninjas who stay one step ahead of Ron and his son. Ron knows the skunks are there because he can smell them, he said.
“These ones are half-cheetah. They caught on,” Ron said, describing how he and Craig chased several down the driveway with guns and flashlights blazing.
And though he thought the cold weather might slow them down, Hansen was discouraged to see little tiny paw prints in the fresh snow last week. In addition, the family house continues to smell like a “skunk testing ground.”
The War Rages On
The battle continues as Ron tries to make sense of this freak invasion of skunks that for him is a first.
“I’ve seen lots of crazy stuff out here,” he said. “I’ve had my truck stolen, high-speed chases and fires and even had a porcupine invasion that killed off the trees when I was a kid. I’d seen a skunk or two but nothing like this.”
In the meantime, he’s trying to come up with Plan No. 4,023 to eradicate the smelly pests.
“They are here because I smell them, but damned I if can find them,” he said. “It might take Yellowstone blowing up to solve this issue.”