Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First Snow Skunk

Today, the Ann Arbor area received its first snow of the season -- not a lot of snow, mind you, but enough to stick to the blades of grass and rooftops. It seemed fitting for the beginning of December.

On her way to work, Stephanie spotted a dead skunk on the side of Ann Arbor-Saline Road, so she called to tell me about it. This scenario has happened a number of times, though this was the first of its kind in Ann Arbor. It was also the first time I've photographed roadkill alone in this city -- which is a rather nerve-wracking ordeal, certainly more so than in Marquette.

This particular stretch of Ann Arbor-Saline Road cuts through farmland, and it's an absolute death trap for animals. I've seen a deer body linger in the ditch (not far from where this skunk was found, actually) for over a month, and raccoon corpses pile up on the side of the road.

At first glance, the skunk seemed to be in good condition. Its winter fur was thick and soft, with the classic skunk markings, and there was no blood -- or stink, for that matter.

December Skunk

I moved the skunk a few feet further from the pavement, and it was then that I realized the body was frozen solid. What I had thought were drops of water on its face was actually ice. I didn't have much to work with, and the steady stream of traffic passing by made me nervous, so I focused on photographing the skunk's face. Its mouth was frozen in a grimace, eyes were shut, nostrils as pink as those on a live animal. Snowflakes fell and stuck to its dense, black fur.

I didn't take too many photographs; the wind was chilling me to the bone, and the cars (all slowing down as they went by) stressed me out. I returned home, and after studying my photographs, I noticed that the skunk's lower jaw was distorted and gruesome -- it was likely struck in the head.

In the past few months, I've gotten to know a live skunk, named Stinky Pete, while volunteering at the Creature Conservancy. He is lively and playful, and behaves very much like an overgrown ferret. He's a delightful animal to interact with, and is a reminder that each of these animals -- including the ones killed on the road -- have a distinct personality.

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