Phenology is the study of seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life. Watching the way nature changes with the calendar can be a neat way to track the world and make ridiculous comparisons and conclusions about fragrant animals, diapered babies and bow and arrows, and old cartoons characters with a French accent.
Living in Ohio, we never know what the weather in February will bring. We can assume snow, but even the most astute student of phenology will tell you that weather (not climate) is not what makes most things in nature happen.
So I go to two reliable signs of February: Love and skunks.
I’m sure everyone will agree that February is the month of love, with the whole big candy-filled Valentine’s Day smack dab in the middle of it. But skunks?
If you don’t believe me that February is the month of skunk, think back over the past few weeks… you’ve smelled a skunk, haven’t you. You probably even saw a poor, deceased skunk on the road.
Skunks, like people, start to wake up after the coldest winter months. They don’t hibernate, they just kind of sleep off the super cold weather, snuggled in dens, presumably under down blankets with good books and loads of snacks and hot tea. When the weather warms up enough to venture out, they do (most likely for more snacks), and then go back to bed while the winter winds blow once more.
Until February, that is. February is when these guys and gals officially emerge looking for love, as if they somehow felt the pressure of the holiday of heart-shaped heart-felt pledges of adoration. The males, all Pepe Le Pew, look for love by releasing a bit of stink to attract female skunks—not the black cat with a white stripe as in the cartoons. This cologne is meant to be a romantic wake up call for prospective mates. The females, if not attracted by these reeking dudes, release their own scent to try to encourage them to hit the road and stink up some other lady.
All this wooing and loving and stinking back and forth and waking up from a month of lazy naps makes for one roller coaster of a month for these striped little critters. Mostly they’re just trying to do their skunk thing at the right time of year, based, I’m sure, on when the boxes of chocolate and roses go on sale.
So as much as it stinks, be respectful to your striped starry-eyed-in-love furry neighbors. Remember how groggy you are when you wake up from a long nap and are looking for just the right mate, and the best way know you can convince each other is to release a little perfume from your hind quarters.
Ooh la la! C’est magnifique!
Originally written 2.22.17