Why my summer vacation stunk!

Barbecuing chicken on the grill!

Barbecuing chicken on the grill!

Mid-July. 90-degree heat. Humid.

There’s nothing like the aroma of chicken smothered in barbecue sauce as it sizzles when it hits the hot grill of the barbecue. Envious neighbours can smell the smoke for hundreds of yards away. If you’re lucky, it may even attract ‘someone special’ to pay you a surprise visit in your back yard?

This is going to sound like one of those famous cliché intros that are in men’s magazines but, on one hot, scorching day in July, I never thought it would happen to me! Well, A female ‘guest’ did show up.

She had big brown eyes, a cute little nose, with thick jet-black hair with a long streak of blond. However, she looked like she had a bit too much to drink as she kept stumbling and falling to the ground as she walked towards me. I was raised to watch out for this ‘type’, so I quickly turned off the barbecue and slowly walked back into the house. Most guys would think, “Are you crazy?” Not in this case. In fact, I wish it had never happened to me; my surprise ‘guest’ was…a SKUNK!

As I watched her stumble around the back shed and then finally making her exit through the hole in the back hedge, I cautiously went back to reboot the barbecue and try to salvage the half-cooked chicken breasts. The chicken was a bit overcooked on one side, thanks to the skunk, but I finished them off, and turned off the gas tank. I did a stealth-like check around the shed to make sure the skunk was actually gone; it was, so I didn’t think much more about it. Although I do remember calling ‘the city’ afterwards to find out what to do if it returned. After being on hold listening to ‘muzak’ for 15 minutes, I hung up. Anyway, by then, the skunk was long gone…so I thought.

The next day, I went out the front door and could smell the strong stench of skunk. Immediately, I went back in the house and looked up ‘Pest Removal’ companies. I found one that was  “humane certified” and called. A couple of hours later a ‘pest control/removal professional’ came by to ‘scope the situation’ around the front porch and the back shed where I originally saw the skunk. I was actually expecting a ‘Pet Detective, Jim Carrey’ type of character to arrive with night vision goggles, scopes, nets, high-tech pest removal gadgets or weapons of ‘seek and destroy’. But no, it was just a guy wearing colour-coordinated attire with a logo on his shirt that kind of looked like a face of a rabid animal attacking you. As we stood and talked, we could both smell the odour of skunk in the air. In fact, he dramatically commented, “I smell death” to which I replied to minimize the intensity of the drama, “it’s either that, or the wind from the city dump a couple of miles away?” After concluding that it I should just “wait and see” if the skunk returns, off he went in his sign-wrapped truck (which I’m sure drew attention from my neighbours).

“I smell death.” –Skunk Detective

It was the day after when things exploded (literally). Now my neighbours could smell skunk, not barbecue chicken, for hundreds of yards away! I walked out the front door and the stench of a thousand skunk sprays filled the air (a skunk has about 6 sprays in their sacks so I’ve learned); In a word, the stench was ‘rank’! I called the ‘Skunk Detective’ and said, “I need you to get over here ASAP!” A couple of hours later he arrived and knocked on my door. “I found your skunk” he said, “The good news is that it’s not under your porch or shed…the bad news…it’s dead and rotting in your window well along the side of your house!”

Apparently, the skunk had come back in the night and stumbled into, and died, in my side window well (skunks have bad eyesight so I’ve learned). I was told that it was probably poisoned by someone in the neighbourhood (hence the stumbling drunk mannerisms) on the day when I first saw it. So, in hindsight, that skunk may have been dead in the window well the day of the inspection…guess we could have looked in the window wells (coulda, woulda, shoulda)?

Let’s go back to the weather conditions at the beginning of this story; a scorching 90 degrees and high humidity. Now, combine that with a dead skunk lying in a window well directly facing the sun for 2 days and you get…’BOOM’…6 sprays worth of ‘skunk juice’ exploding inside my window well. I think I counted 238,671 maggots in there.

Later that night, the skunk was humanely removed, meaning shovelled up, put in a garbage bag, and taken to the city dump for incineration. The only thing that wasn’t humane was the cost to do it (I won’t get into that)! Did I mention that about a foot away from the window well is a vent leading to my furnace room? The skunk stench entered through that vent and stank up my entire basement! In hindsight (again), we should have noticed the vent location and it may have been a good idea to temporarily cover it up (coulda, woulda, shoulda)?

I spent the next 3 days working tirelessly doing whatever was necessary to get rid of that rank stench. How I did that is written below, just in case someone has the same misfortune. About five days later and after A LOT of frustration and expense, the smell gradually dissipated and, once again, the aroma filling the air from my back yard was once again that of barbecued chicken, not barbecued skunk.

All I have left to do now is to figure out how to get rid of this annoying twitch I get every time that I can smell skunk odour in the air!

Here are some skunk odour removal tips. See what works for your situation, but this is what I did:

– Immediately, get on the web and do a search, “How to remove skunk odour/smell”.
– Close up (temporarily) any nearby vents where the skunk died.
– Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet and furniture and leave it there. I left it there for 3 days! Vacuum it up. Warning: the stench never got out of my vacuum cleaner since the baking soda consistency is so fine, so I ended up having to buy another one (another expense)! Tip- buy the baking soda in bulk and use a cheap vacuum or rent one.
– Buy small tin trays (I bought about 20 of them) and put white vinegar in each of them and place them around the room(s); it will help absorb the stench.
– Buy a few air fresheners (that you lift/slide up). I bought the ‘apple cinnamon’ scent.
– Rent a commercial sized fan (another expense), open the windows, and face the fan so it blows the air out. I also placed the fan at the base of the vent to blow the smell back out the vent.
– I sprayed white vinegar and water into the vent. Not sure if it made a difference. I did have a little puddle form on the floor in the furnace room where it pooled in the vent ‘elbow’ and dripped through. Sigh.
– I used a small spray bottle and cleaned all surfaces in the basement with a white vinegar/water combination.
– Buy a skunk odour removal spray. I purchased mine at a pet store. It smells like cat litter so I ended up with a basement with a combined smell of skunk, cat litter, vinegar, and apple cinnamon. Nice.
– Buy a few face masks so you don’t have to smell the stench (as noted above), but also, so you don’t want to inhale the skunk spray as you frantically spray it everywhere! Wear goggles or glasses too.
– As a future preventative measure, check that your shed or porch doesn’t have entry points where skunks could get in and decide to make a new home.
– I actually ended up finishing the job in the window well, since I could still smell a hint of skunk even after it was removed. In this order, I put on my mask and gloves, shovelled down to the mud base, removed all the rocks, poured bleach and water into the well, then poured in boiling water to kill any of the 238,671 remaining maggots, next, liberally poured in white vinegar, doused the base, with baking soda so it looked like a 2” snowfall had fallen in there, and finally finished off by putting all new stones back in the well.
– Last, at the end of it all, you may need to hire a professional carpet/upholstery cleaning company to clean up and rid of any remaining odour of white vinegar, skunk spray and baking soda.

Good luck!

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