IN EXCESS : P.U. in P.V.

I'm over at Grace Murphy's house the other day (she lives in Palos Verdes Estates--she's my therapist) and I'm coming out the front door when I spot this huge skunk on the porch. I almost hemorrhage, but Murphy, Zen-like, shoos the thing away. "They've been coming around for years," she says. "They like the cat food--it's Trader Joe's."

There's a skunk problem on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. I live on the back side of the peninsula and practically every other night you can smell skunk.

Douglas Buck with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Southern California Humane Society says it's not that there are so many skunks, it's just that their nocturnal feeding range is two or three miles. If they get startled by a car or cat, you can smell them "several blocks away."

And if a skunk should come through the cat or doggie door--it happens, Buck says--shut all the doors but the one leading outside, then lure the animal out with bacon or peanut butter. You probably won't get sprayed.

Paul Piercy, owner of Harbor City-based Animal Trapping and Removal Service, has been sprayed "lots of times" and says it's no big deal. You just shower and clean your clothes (some recommend washing yourself with tomato juice). Once in a while, Piercy will get caught in public,freshly sprayed. "People will say to me, 'Do you smell skunk?' And I'll say, 'I sure do!' Then I'll look around with the rest of the folks for the SOB that did it."

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