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88   COMMISSION OF CONSERVATION

for his work. About the first of August, the skunks dug a hole in the pen and made their escape. That veritably settled my skunk-raising, but, in the fall and winter, I do considerable night hunting with dogs, which I have trained not to take hold of them. I catch them alive and use the pen I have to keep them in until their fur is prime. In that way I have live skunks from the first of November to about the first of January."

The following notes are made from the accounts of Ernest Thompson Seton, who has kept these animals in captivity:

"Gestation is about six weeks. The young run from 4 to 9 in a litter. The young come out to eat when two months old and can be admitted to the general run when four months old. They should be fed heavily in autumn in order to produce the fat on which they mostly exist in winter. The colder the weather, the better the fur. Not more than 50 or 60 can be kept on an acre. A diet of all meat will kill every skunk. Feed once a day in the evening. If the bodies of the skinned animals are fed, they should be thoroughly boiled with vegetables. The oil rendered from the skunk fat is valuable."

The skunk is a burrowing animal and, therefore, like the Habits of fox, requires a sunken fence around the enclosure in which the skunk he is kept. Woven wire is best for all underground fences as it does not interfere with the drainage and is cheapest. To stop a skunk the fence need not extend more than a few feet above ground, but it should be built at least six feet high with no overhang in order to provide for snow banks and to keep other animals out. In northern regions, where the best fur can be produced, a wooded area will be found the best because it is secluded, provides shade and because the snow there lies level. The nest should be a warm insulated box with a passageway entrance similar to that of the mink nest. All nests should be only barely large enough for a mother to move about in without trampling her young and should not be more than 6 or 7 inches high. Thus the interior will be sufficiently warmed by the body heat.

A method of killing skunks by drowning is mentioned elsewhere. They can also be dispatched easily and painlessly in a poison box, using carbon bi-sulphide gas or hydrocyanic acid. The latter is a deadly poison and is very dangerous in the hands of an inexperienced person. They can also be killed by a blow over the back, which paralyses the muscles and destroys the power to scent. They are skinned by the case method. The skins should be carefully cleaned of fat to prevent heating and should be packed separately for shipping.


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