Portland resident Willa Wirth had just let her 6-month-old puppy outside Sunday morning when she noticed him perk up and look strangely at the house.

“He started running towards me and I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ ” said Wirth, 45. “Little did I know a skunk was running past my legs and was already in the house.”

That was just the start of a two-hour ordeal that saw the skunk spray several times as Wirth attempted to evict it from the house she rents on Munjoy Hill.

She eventually caught the intruder with the help of Portland police, though she was left with $1,000 in estimated damage and cleaning bills.

The Portland Police Department receives dozens of calls per week about nuisance animals, injured wildlife or displaced baby animals, though most that enter homes are squirrels or birds.

A wildlife expert said it is unusual for a skunk to enter a home and cause the damage Wirth experienced – ruining the carpet and many belongings, and having to hire a cleaning service.

Seconds after the skunk entered the house, Wirth’s puppy, a golden retriever named Tommy, bolted through the door and started pawing at it. He was sprayed in the mouth before the skunk continued to the living room and sprayed the couch.

Wirth grabbed a broom and tried to herd the skunk back out the door, but he tunneled through a crack between the couch and the wall and went upstairs.

“At that point I was like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God,’ ” Wirth said. “The skunk was making his way upstairs and my puppy was drooling in the kitchen. He had no idea what hit him. He’s just looking at me while the skunk is taking the tour of my house.”

The skunk sprayed again on the stairs, which have wall-to-wall carpet, and at the top of the stairs, hitting the carpet and the wall.

From there he made his way to Wirth’s bedroom and behind her desk, where it sprayed again.

At that point, Wirth used books under her desk to build a wall around the animal and then ran for a trash can, thinking she could lure the skunk into it and transport it outside.

She also grabbed the broom and some carrots and peanut butter, hoping a snack would entice it into the trash can.

“The smell was so pungent,” Wirth said. “It occurred to me that maybe it’s rabid and maybe I should not trap it myself.”

So she got her phone and frantically Googled for help. A professional trapper didn’t answer and she had no luck reaching an animal control officer.

Finally, after making a Facebook post asking friends what to do, Wirth called Portland police. Officers Kevin Haley and Patrick Landrigan and Lt. Robert Doherty responded.

“These guys were amazing,” said Wirth. One of the officers captured the skunk in the trash can and covered it in a towel. He then released it down the street, Wirth said.

Lt. Robert Martin, a police spokesman, said in an email Tuesday the skunk did not appear to be rabid. There was no need to euthanize it because it did not have human contact, Martin said.

Sarah Kern, community engagement specialist at the Center for Wildlife, a nonprofit outreach and conservation organization, called the incident unique and said most wild animals hibernate in the winter.

She said it was possible the skunk smelled dog or cat food in the house and took its chances when Wirth left the door ajar.

“The skunk was exhibiting pretty natural behavior,” Kern said. “They get confused whenever there’s an emergency. Between this poor woman and the dog in the house it sounds like a crazy scenario and I’m glad she called the police.”

After the incident, Wirth said, she spent hours doing laundry and cleaning before taking a friend up on an offer to stay at her house. On Tuesday, she had a cleaning service come in and pull up the carpet.

She said her landlord’s insurance should cover the carpet, but not personal belongings like the printer under her desk or her couch, which she was still cleaning.

Tommy had a bath and appears to have gotten the taste out of his mouth after several meals, Wirth said. Despite the stress, she said, she is trying to look at it positively.

“When a situation like this happens it’s not the end of the world,” she said. “This situation taught me someone always has my back. This time it was in the form of a friend saying, ‘You can stay at my house.’ Sometimes really nasty things happen but they can help you start in a new direction.”

 


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