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Searching for Skunks (And Faith in Humanity) in the Mods

I stood in front of my closet this weekend with a single question in mind: What does one wear to a skunk hunt? 

Is it bad, I wondered, to wear all black and blend into the night? After all, I wasn’t trying to hide too effectively and then scare the skunk into spraying me. My roommate told me not to bother coming home if that happened. She loves me.

I turned to my trusty sidekick, Gabi, whom I had coerced into joining me on this journey. Dressed in all-black sweats, she looked up from her phone and rolled her eyes at me. She told me it didn’t matter. 

In case you’re not conversant in teen girl, somewhere between the eye-roll and the answer she really said was, “You’re lucky I’m wasting one of the precious Saturday nights of my youth and of our fleeting college experience—Saturdays that the media, parents, and random people all tell you are the best times of your life—to look for skunks with you.” 

I turned back to my closet and grabbed sweatpants, a t-shirt, and Converse. Basically, pajamas with shoes. It was time to get down to business. 

The idea of skunk searching first came to me last Tuesday. I was walking back from a productive evening at O’Neill around midnight when I saw what I thought was an absurdly large squirrel. The flash of tail was so voluminous, so fluffy, that I stood aghast as it slipped underneath a car in the parking lot outside of the Mods. 

I looked around for someone to confirm that I had just single-handedly discovered a superior species of squirrel. A girl walking a few yards ahead of me, who could apparently still see this creature on the other side of a car, whipped her phone out of her pocket and took a Snapchat video. I felt validated by her excitement. 

As I rounded the corner of the car, I realized—with a squeal of delight as real as it was embarrassing—that this was no squirrel. This, dear reader, was a skunk. 

Coming from a semi-urban suburb, the closest I had ever been to a skunk was watching Bambi on VHS when I was 5. Now, in the Mod lot, I felt like I was in a freaking National Geographic special. The tech-savvy pseudo-Gen-Z-er I am, I, too, reached for my iPhone and attempted to capture the majesty of nature to show off to my friends later. See blurry picture above. 

I’m clearly an excellent photographer. 

After going home (and talking to the girl on the elevator about the whole experience—she, too, was enthralled by the skunk), I turned to my best friend and greatest mentor: Google. Google told me that skunks have a penchant for infesting college campuses. Notre Dame, Northwestern, and Mississippi State University have all published articles regarding students’ skunk sightings and encounters. Upon reading this, it occurred to me that perhaps others at Boston College had also unintentionally rendezvous-ed with skunks. I polled my eight-man, and seven out of eight of us have seen skunks on campus. Expanding my search, I discovered that virtually everyone I know has a skunk story.

You would think this would merit significant attention, but I checked The Heights, The Gavel, and even The Rock, and there are zero articles regarding the BC skunks. 

Not content to leave The Heights woefully free of investigative skunk journalism, I bravely took it upon myself to bring answers to the great people of BC. Thus began my plans for a skunk-searching excursion for some up-close observation. A (non-violent) skunk hunt. 

So, that fateful Saturday night, Gabi and I set out in search of skunks. Things went wrong right away. 

First of all, we started our search at 9 p.m., objectively too early for skunks. We retreated to Lower for a flatbread and strategy session, deciding that midnight would be a more suitable time for skunk sightings. After biding our time discussing our greatest regrets and debating whether or not Gabi’s life is “in shambles” (I say no, she says yes), we set out once more. 

We stepped out of Lower into the muggy, music-filled air and I felt a drop of rain hit my arm. Rendered temporarily incapacitated by my dismay, I shouted anxiously: 

“Do skunks even come out in the rain?!” 

Ignoring the suspicious glances I received from fellow late-night attendees, I turned to Google once more. Google informed me that skunks are animals that live outside and therefore remain outdoors regardless of light showers. In essence, Google called me stupid. Great. 

Armed with renewed confidence that skunks would be on the prowl, Gabi and I embarked. We checked everywhere people had reported skunk sightings. We walked the outskirts of Stayer, the perimeter of the entire construction site where the Plex used to be, and all of the parking lots on Lower campus. We did not see a single skunk. We did, however, see a lot of alcohol-related litter. 

(As a community, we should really work on booze recycling—just saying.) 

Ultimately, we walked back to Walsh feeling sad and defeated. The majestic skunks eluded our best efforts to become friends. My investigative journalistic abilities apparently could use some work. 

While this investigation is far from over (note the convenient caveat in the title), upon reflection I already have some interesting takeaways from this animal adventure. First of all, I found out that skunks are actually really great at getting rid of vermin, so we should all be very grateful for their presence. Secondly, I realized that at a school renowned for the classic BC Look Away, people are surprisingly willing to talk to total strangers. I approached multiple people in elevators, on sidewalks, and at the dining hall to talk about skunks, and, instead of running away, they had some really interesting conversations with me. 

I guess this is the cliché part of the story where I talk about how the journey is more meaningful than the destination. Gross, I know, but hear me out. 

I spent a week engaging with new people, swapping stories and skunk tips, and realizing that their lives weren’t all that different from my own. Sure, most people aren’t going to go out on a Saturday night in search of skunks, but far more people than I expected were excited to help me achieve my goals. People offered up key skunk-sighting locations and even potential skunk bait suggestions (peanut butter, chicken). They wished me luck and asked me to update them. It turns out that people like helping you if you give them the chance. I’ll think twice next time before writing off the BC bro in the Patriots jersey as someone completely disinterested in my existence and pursuits. 

So, maybe my search for skunks wasn’t so fruitless after all. Maybe, instead of their presence, the skunks gave me the gift of restored faith in humanity. 

Then again, maybe I’m just over-compensating for failure. We’ll find out in part two.

September 22, 2019