“There is something freaking out in the backyard. Stop! Listen, listen….shhhh!” It was 11:30 on a Saturday night, and I had just finished watching an NBA playoff game in the quiet confines of basement. My girlfriend, upright in bed and bug-eyed, her hands with a swift gesture freezing me mid-step – I stood motionless, “THERE! Hear THAT!?!”
There was no subtlety to the desperate, shrill shrieks piercing the quiet of my backyard. My mind raced, What WAS that?!? Raccoons, possum fight, cat brawl – what could be creating such a blood-curdling sound? I burst through the backdoor and was hit with the unmistakable smell of a skunk and that wild, primitive shriek.
A barrage of scenarios involuntarily filled my imagination until I saw the swift movement in the swimming pool. “THERE’S A SKUNK IN THE POOL!” I yelled to no one in particular. “NO! There’s TWO skunks in the pool!” They were panicked and desperately clawing over each other in hopes of turning the other into a stepping stone. They were aimlessly swimming to and fro, stopping only to scream at each other in a hissy fit of blame.
We quickly found the local animal control hotline only to be greeted with a ridiculously long set of directions to leave a message on their answering machine. I needed to come up with a plan that worked for me and the skunks, fast.
At the time, the pool was new to us and the thought of being thrown into a dual skunk rescue situation was the furthest thing from my mind. I had saved a couple of spiders, some crickets, and even a cricket from a spider – but that took little more than a flick of the leaf skimmer. I’d only been a pool owner for a month.
I live in the Midwest so my imagination didn’t veer to the potential of alligators, snakes, bears, giraffes, or even wolverines. Depending on your region, a menagerie of animals could potentially decide to purposely or accidentally take a dip in your pool. It’s a hard thing to prepare for and something you can’t always be present to monitor. However, there are steps you can take to ensure that wild animals, no matter how big or small (usually small!) have a safe way to escape the water or prevent them from entering the water at all.
POOL ALARMS: In the case of my skinny-dipping skunks, an alarm wasn’t needed. I’m actually surprised no one called 911 because the sound was beyond unsettling. However, there are many inexpensive, simple-to-install pool alarms that sound when something enters the pool water. It’s an ideal and affordable way to monitor your pool when within earshot of the alarm system.
FENCES: Most towns require a pool fence or a fence around the yard if you have a pool. Depending on the size of the animal and the fence, this will work just fine. However, a pool fence does nothing to prevent smaller animals like squirrels, chipmunks, possums or skunks from belly flopping knowingly or unknowingly into the pool.
RAMPS: My pool does have steps. However, they are steep steps and in the case of my waterlogged polecats, they were too steep to pull themselves out of the pool. The steps in my pool are useless for rodents and smaller animals. My 100 lb German Shepherd can barely get out with them. On some days, I can barely climb them.
Products like the Skamper Ramp are dogs and critters that need a gradual slope to make their escape. Ramps are simple but highly effective safety measures that can save money and time and can save the animal’s life.
Those are products designed with the specific purpose of water safety. Again, in my case, I hadn’t thought of water safety for two freaked out skunks. I had to Macgyver a way to rescue them from my soon-to-be-shocked pool. Their lives depended on it.
The Humane Society offers these inventive tips for dealing with a wild animal in your pool:
- When building a pool, design swim outs or a shallow tanning shelf from which animals can easily escape.
- Place buoyant devices like foam lounges in the water along the pool’s edge to allow animals to get out on their own.
- Place knotted nylon ropes along the sides, securing them to the pool edge. Make sure the knot is at the water’s surface, so the animal can more easily climb out. (This only works for climbing animals such as raccoons, mice, and squirrels).
- Small animals: Scoop them out with a net or pool skimmer…If you don’t have a skimmer handy, try the bristled end of a broom to lift them up and out of the pool.
- Large animals: Use chaise lounge of a partially deflated float as a makeshift ramp. Anchor the ramp on the pool steps with a weight such as a cinder block or tie it to the ladder rail.
- For any animal: Always use caution to avoid being bitten from a scared and exasperated wild animal in the pool.
Back to the Drama at Hand – the skunks’ panic escalated to new heights as they tried to determine whether or not my presence was benevolent. The large skunk was clearly wearing down and splashing in the shallows of the pool steps. I ran to the garage and grabbed the first thing I thought would work as a booster step. It was one of those brown plastic crates you get from a grocery store that usually holds cartons of eggs. Half-wondering how the heck I came into possession of such a crate, I ran over to the steps and valiantly, heroically placed it on the top step and meekly prance-skipped away from the water’s edge. The skunk was smart and quickly climbed atop the crate, and slowly, almost mockingly drifted backwards into the deep end.
At this point I didn’t know skunks could be sarcastic. But I’m pretty sure that he looked at me like, “Great plan, buddy! THANKS!”.
If only my skunks had been as smart as this skunk, perhaps they could have figured out how to exit through the pool skimmer. But sadly, most wild animals don’t find an easy exit.
When we both knew the plan was definitely not going to work, I grabbed my pool brush and stuck out to him. He flinched and swam further away. The smaller one was running out of gas, so I hooked her gently with the brush, towed her to the ladder in the deep end, got the broom under her butt—and lifted her up and out of the water. In a soggy flash she was gone through the bushes. Ok, smell ya later! I was going to need a LOT of Skunk Strength Super Shock.
This left me with the big guy. At this point we had developed a human-skunk eye contact communication. I know he knew I was trying to help him. His girlfriend made it out, he would soon follow. The pool brush lift technique worked again, and as he ran into the darkness I’m pretty sure he stopped and gave me a nod of approval as he disappeared into the abyss of my neighbor’s hedgerow.
So ended the skunk in the pool episode. Since then we’ve not had any more visitors to the pool, at least none that I know of ~ Do you have any wild animals in the pool stories? Leave a Reply!
InTheSwim Staff Blogger