Animal #38 — Spotted Skunk

spilogale putorius

Monday, December 27, 1999 — 11:20 am

Stuttgart, Arkansas — Stuttgart Municipal Airport

We were in Conway spending Christmas with the Sperrys. I drove to the Suttgart Airport on Monday to look (successfully) for Smith’s Longspur and Sprague’s Pipit, both of which had been reported from there all winter long. The guys who worked in the terminal building were friendly and helpful. They directed me to the exact spot where the birds were being seen. I found the longspurs, then searched for the pipit. I saw it during a few brief flights as it flushed and disappeared in the short grass along the main runway.

I was told to watch for airplanes. If one came in or took off, I was to walk off the runway and turn my back so the pilot would know I wasn’t about to walk in front of him. As I was looking for the pipit, a small jet taxied out from the terminal and lined up on the runway right next to me. I walked off into the grass and stopped just at the edge of a strip of tall weeds that divided the airport from a large field of mud.

As I stood there, looking away from the runway, I heard a scurrying noise in the weeds. I soon saw a small black animal nosing through the grass. I knew it was a skunk, but I wasn’t sure what kind. It was about two feet long from tip of nose to end of tail, with the tail taking up half the length. The tail was very bushy. Its legs were short. The fur was mostly black. There were two startling white eyebrows about two inches long and a half inch wide. In other areas on the body — around the base of the tail and scattered around in places on the body — there were traces of white fur. But in no place other than the eyebrows was there bold white.

It nosed around in the weeds, probing in the dirt. At times, it disappeared under clumps of grass. As I watched, the jet took off behind me. The skunk paid no attention. At one point, it came within ten feet of where I stood. Except for occasionally looking up and sniffing at the air, it showed no indication that it was aware of me or the plane. After watching for a while, I walked on to look for the pipit. Fifteen minutes later, I walked back along the runway and saw the skunk, still nosing through the strip of weeds maybe 30 yards from where I first saw it.

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