Winter Walk and an unexpected find

P1060109The winter sun shone weakly through the clouds. The temperature hovered just below 0. While our van was getting oil sprayed we took advantage of a nearby path P1060110to explore some nature. We saw tracks (mostly dog, some cat, some bunny… did I mention this path is in the middle of the city?). One person whined about being thirsty. Another decided his legs were too tired to walk any further.

But as we rounded another corner, we came across such a strange sight that all complaints and whining ceased immediately.

We followed a trail, clearly made by an animal. But I had never seen a trail such as this – circles?

P1060107 P1060106 P1060105

We finally came across the source of the curlicue trail.

P1060091

The poor striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) had clearly seen better days. I felt sad to see his demise clearly portrayed across the snow. He had staggered in circles, fallen, gotten up and staggered around some more before his final resting place. At first I wondered if he had been scared to death by dogs, but the only tracks there were his own. After a bit of research online it looks to me as if the poor striped skunk suffered from either rabies or distemper.  Both of these diseases attack the neurological centers, causing, in the final stages, disorientation, stumbling, clumsiness, staggering, and finally, seizures and death.

P1060102

Here are a couple of links to articles about diseases causing death in wild skunks:

http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Rabies/2ColumnSubPage/STEL02_166324.html

http://www.wildskunkrescue.com/rabies.htm

Still, it was quite the interesting find. I had never before seen a skunk so close up before!