I wrote recently about a brown rabbit’s unwelcome visits to our backyard vegetable patch, but our neighbors up the street would love to trade bunny trouble for their own standoff with a surfeit of skunks. “Surfeit” is the official name for a group of skunks, and I have never heard a more appropriate collective noun. After our neighbors spotted four young skunks in their backyard, they decided the quartet would be much happier in the countryside, beyond walking distance from Moscow. They bought a humane trap with a spring-loaded door and a tunnel too narrow for a skunk to lift its tail and spray. On Trap Night, they laid a trail of cat food to the cage’s door and invited their hoped-for guest to check out the peanut butter at the end of the tunnel. In the morning they found the skunk, cozy in the trap and probably expecting a slice of bread for his peanut butter sandwich.

After some online research about the trap, I asked the neighbors if they had followed the manufacturer’s hints for avoiding a pungent outcome. “Hold a large towel or sheet in front of you, down to your toes, as you walk towards the trap. Approach calmly, humming softly as you near the trap, in order to avoid startling the animal. Drop the towel or sheet over the cage once you reach it. Skunks don’t like to spray if they can’t see their target.” Hmmm. Humming. Maybe the Looney Tunes’ theme song for Pepe Le Pew, the cartoon skunk with a French accent?

Our neighbors carefully transferred the caged skunk to the bed of their truck and released him into a rural area. Way out. So with one skunk now settled as a country squire, how hard could it be to send Pepes II, III and IV into the wilds to join him? The next evening, our neighbors saw several skunks hanging around the baited trap, but in the morning the cage was empty. The skunks apparently had dug underneath from the outside of the trap and pulled out the wax paper with the peanut butter on it.

After that strikeout, our neighbors planned to take a day off and regroup, but their friends across the street sent a photo of a young skunk sleeping in their window well. Our neighbors helped lower the trap next to the drowsy skunk, and then everybody waited until morning – when they found an empty trap and no skunk. Since skunks reportedly can’t climb or jump like cats, how did this one make its getaway?

Our neighbors trapped another skunk in their backyard earlier this week, but after they chauffeured it out to the countryside, it wouldn’t come out of the cage. They left the trap in some tall grass with its door open and hoped Pepe II would depart that night. So I deducted half point on a technicality from the neighbors’ score and added half a point for style to the skunk. Our neighbors trapped the skunk, but it still outfoxed them by forcing a return trip to retrieve the cage. As of my deadline for submitting this column, two skunks were still hanging out at the Peanut Butter Cafe. It’s easy for me to treat all this lightly, because I’m not the one who found four skunks in her yard. So I tip my garden hat to our valiant and compassionate neighbors, who are relocating the young Le Pews without harming them.

Sydney Craft Rozen is thankful that the bunny who occasionally visits her backyard garden leaves behind no lingering essence of Le Pew. Email her at scraftroze@aol.com

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