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Title: Fur Farming For Profit - With Especial Reference to Skunk Raising
Author: Laymon, Hermon Basil
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
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     FUR FARMING
     FOR PROFIT

     With Especial Reference to Skunk Raising

     [Illustration: Skunk]

     Price $1.00

     The LAYMON FUR FARM CO., Spencer, Ind.



     LIVE
     MINK
     WANTED

     ALSO MINK PELTS
     GINSENG YELLOWROOT ETC.


     Highest market price
     paid for A1 Live Mink and
     Mink fur. Write your dealer for
     quotations, then write us. We
     pay express charges and remit
     same day goods are received.


     WILLIAM WEDDLE
     SPENCER, IND.



     FUR FARMING
     FOR PROFIT

     With Especial Reference
     to Skunk Raising

     By
     H. B. Laymon
     Proprietor of the Laymon Skunk Farm

     1913
     The Laymon Fur Farm Co.
     Spencer, Indiana



     Copyrighted 1913
     By
     H. B. LAYMON


     PRESS OF THE EPITOMIST PUB. CO.
     SPENCER, INDIANA



CONTENTS.


                                                                 page

  Introduction                                                      5

  Frontispiece                                                      8

  Chapter I                                                         9
    General Character of the Skunk--Skunk a Clean Animal--
    Grading.

  Chapter II                                                       19
    Fur Farming--Supply and Demand--Opinions--A Bright
    Future for Fur Farmers.

  Chapter III                                                      26
    Enclosures--Dens--Food--Care--Breeding.

  Chapter IV                                                       39
    Trapping--Skinning--Shipping--How to Handle Skunk
    without Being Scented.

  Chapter V                                                        51
    Habits of the Skunk--Breeding--Size of Litters--Ideas
    of Trappers and Farmers.

  Chapter VI                                                       58
    Miscellaneous Information--Removing the Scent Sacs--
    Laws Relating to Skunk Raising--Dye Markings--How
    to Ship Live Skunk.

  Chapter VII                                                      72
    Questions and Answers on Many Subjects.



  [Illustration: Breeding Range, Constructed of Galvanized Iron.]



INTRODUCTION.


"I came from a family of hunters and farmers." This reminds me of a
quaint saying I heard when I was a boy. We were talking about hogs at
the time. A young girl overhearing our conversation, remonstrated with
us because we appeared to have some of the habits of hogs wrong. We
asked her how she knew we were wrong in our diagnosis of the hog? And
she answered:

"Well, I guess I ought to know, I was brought up among hogs, lived among
them all my life!"

This is my case exactly, I have been brought up among skunk. I have made
a study of skunk, and I think I know skunk. I know this much well:

Years ago the thought struck me that there ought to be money in raising
skunk for fur and breeding purposes. To prove the right or wrong of
this, I started to raise skunk. I captured a female and her litter,
later got a star buck, and with this beginning I have succeeded in
establishing one of the largest and most successful skunk farms in
America, and I am proud of it.

I do not mean to imply by this that I think I know "it all" about skunk.
Far be it from that. But what I know has been learned by diligent study
and the best of all "practical experience." My farm was not a success
from the start. It took a few years for me to learn the "how of things,"
but I am glad to say that things are looking bright for yours truly. I
firmly believe a few years more will see me independently rich, and from
an old piece of land which would be practically worthless for any other
use.

My motive for writing this book is to benefit my fellow man. Hundreds of
people have written me for information about skunk. It would be
impossible for me to courteously answer one-tenth the mail I get in a
personal way. It struck me, inasmuch as there was no book on the market
devoted to the skunk that by compiling this information in readable form
I would be accomplishing a certain amount of good.

I feel this, too, if I had had the help in the first place--the
information contained in this book--I would be worth twice as much more
and saved myself years of trouble and much financial loss. I was the
pioneer, and was blazing the way for others to make success.

To all those who are desirous of trying the raising of fur-bearers for
profit we say: read this book carefully--study it,--and then if you feel
that you can make it a paying business, make a small enclosure and try a
half dozen animals. By the end of a year or two, you will know whether
you are going to like it; whether you can make a success of it or not,
and will have acquired a lot of very necessary knowledge regarding the
animals, that could not have been obtained in any other way. You will
know then whether to go ahead or not, and if the former, you will also
know how.

While the U. S. Government is actively engaged in raising elk, buffalo,
deer and other animals including fur-bearers, few bulletins are issued
which give any direct valuable information on skunk. Government
officials (the kid-glove kind) stick up their nose at the lowly skunk,
and without reason. The skunk is a clean animal, easily domesticated,
and known to be one of the most valuable animals to have around the
farm. Only recently has this been thoroughly demonstrated. Such
information as could be obtained from government sources has been
incorporated in this book.

I have had no hesitancy in utilizing the information from other sources
also. Chief among them has been the Hunter-Trader-Trapper Magazine
published by A. R. Harding Pub. Co., of Columbus, Ohio, also his book on
"Fur Farming" and such catalogues and guides as Andersch Bros. and
others fur firms issue to their trade.

I differ with them when experience has taught me that my way of raising
skunk is easier or more profitable, and I agree with them on many
general principles. I have incorporated in this book also the experience
of many other farmers and trappers. I have found many helpful hints in
their letters which have been very valuable to me. And for what
knowledge I have gained from them, I hereby acknowledge my indebtedness.
"May they live long and prosper."

     H. B. LAYMON.
Spencer, Ind., July 10, 1913.



  [Illustration: Laymon Handling an "Unaltered" Skunk.]



CHAPTER I.

General Character of The Skunk.


The skunk is a little understood animal. By this we mean, that ordinary
people, other than naturalists or scientists, little understand the
habits and value of skunk. By some the skunk is classed as a reptile or
varmint, and on account of its odor, is detested. Other animals throw
scent, notably the mink and muskrat, of course not to the extent that
the skunk does.

It is on account of this scent, that skunks are detested. We have
animals on our farm which have never thrown a grain. And are yet in
their wild state. They do not easily become frightened, hence have no
use for their means of protection. That's the only time they use it, and
seldom when fighting among themselves.

To make a success out of anything, it is admitted one must know the
thing. To be a successful farmer one must know what to raise and how. So
with raising of skunk, one must understand skunk, just as one
understands horses, cows, sheep or poultry. And skunk, when properly
understood can be raised in captivity at a great profit. 500,000 skins
were shipped to London last year, besides the skins which were used here
in domestic manufacture.

It is surprising to note the change in conditions, due largely to the
enlightenment of the rural population to the benefits of the skunk, also
to the rapid increase and value of their pelts. Many skunk farms are in
existence, the owners making a business of raising these animals for
their pelts. While this may be a queer business, nevertheless it is
perfectly legitimate, and as far as known, profitable. A ready sale of
the pelts is to be had, and the skins from these domesticated animals
generally bring higher average prices, being well handled and killed at
a time when the fur is at its best. The domestic animal like cultivated
fruits, are larger and in every way more valuable than the wild animal.

The skunk is found in nearly all the states and territories of the Union
and climate and geographical conditions are responsible for the great
variation in size and color of its pelage. There are very few
fur-bearing animals as plentiful, and especially in the civilized
sections, that bring such a handsome income to the farmer as does the
skunk. As noted, the chief difference in character, besides the size of
the animal itself, lies in the color of its fur.

The body is 16 to 22 inches long, its tail from root to farthest point
of fur, 12 to 16 inches, the latter being covered with hair, the color
of which varies, depending upon the color of the fur on the body. For
instance, the fur on the tail of a black or short striped skunk is black
or nearly all black, (first grade) while that of the broad or narrow
striped skunk is interspersed with black and white hairs. While the skin
of the animal is very valuable, the tail is rarely used, though
manufacturers of late years have consumed the hair in the manufacture of
brushes and similar purposes. The legs are short and close to the body,
the paw is naked and the five toes on each foot are closely grown
together like that of the badger. The foot is well adapted to digging,
but they dig very little in the tame state. The toes are not webbed; the
head is small, with short, rounded ears and rather long, projecting
nose, with two small piercing eyes.


The Skunk a Clean Animal.

The skunk in general appearance is always neat and clean, and in walking
seemingly takes special pride, like the peacock, as when promenading,
its tail is erect and its back peculiarly curved. Very few animals are
as harmless as this creature and were it not for the peculiar odor which
it distributes when in danger, it would be more hunted and probably
eradicated in sections. Its principal weapon, as heretofore noted, is a
peculiar secretion and fluid possessing a very disagreeable odor. This
fluid is of a pale yellow color and is discharged by the animal when in
danger, in thin-like streams and with such accuracy and aim as to strike
any object within 6 to 12 feet. The fluid is secreted in two annal
glands from which by the contraction of the sub-caudal muscles and by
uplifting of the tail it is discharged in the form as stated above.
These sacs are now removed with very little trouble by farmers, and
without endangering the fur or breeding qualities of the animal, or
ill-effect to the operator.

The removal of the scent sac has a tendency to increase the size of the
animal ultimately. We believe, too, that it requires less food to
sustain life, consequently it is considered a profitable operation to
perform. It is certain that the altered animal becomes more easily
domesticated.

Learn to remove the scent sacs and thus avoid all complaints of
neighbors and any personal inconvenience. If you learn to do this you
can sell your striped skunks for pets or curiosities and in this way get
good prices though the skins would be of small value.

The animal is carnivorous, nocturnal, not entirely terrestrial, as
occasionally he is known to climb trees, perhaps not of choice but
rather compulsion, being forced to this fancied secure position by the
hunter or his dog. Consequently his arboreal, like his amphibious
habits, are rather undeserved credentials. The theory that the animal
climbs the trees in search of food and birds, is discredited. The animal
is beneficial in many ways to the farmer, and his eradication from any
farming community should be prevented, and laws prohibiting the wanton
destruction encouraged.

The contrast in size of the animal and the important variation in the
color of its pelage, due to climatic and geographical differences,
cannot be denied. The breeding and inter-breeding of the different
colored furred species is the principal explanation why the young of a
litter are so much unlike in color. The color usually dominates to the
black. It is proven that 50% of the young of a white female will breed
blacks if the male is black. To breed stars, the male and female should
be all black, if possible. 90% of such young will be black, and it is
possible to raise to maturity 90% of such litters. It is our experience
that the female at rutting time will cohabit with more than one male
like a dog or rather like a cat which it more generally resembles.

The predominating color of the fur of all species is black and white
with the exception of the Texas skunk, which due to a peculiar soil, is
of reddish cast. Some of the animals have a clear coat of fur, others
are all black excepting a small white star, but the majority have two
stripes, some terminating at the center of body, on others the stripe
continuing from the forehead over the body, terminating at the tail.

This carnivorous and nocturnal animal is unlike most every other animal
possessing these habits. He can be seen in the early morning returning
to his haunts, and once in a while in the middle of the day; at no time
is he in a hurry, or will he discommode himself by getting out of your
sight or especially away from your path. His mode of locomotion is slow,
and rarely will he be found away from his haunt a greater distance than
one or two miles. His abode is usually in a hollow log, under some old
barn or granary, or in a hole on the sunny side of some hill. He enjoys
a sun bath, probably more than does the bear or the badger. His meal is
made up by free consumption of worms, bugs, grasshoppers, mice, birds
and eggs. In some sections he is known to be quite a vegetarian,
consuming as he does, roots, berries, vegetables, and fruits.
Occasionally frequents the hen-roost, not only for eggs, but for the hen
as well. The young like bread and milk, while we feed the old hominy
hearts mixed with water and milk.

The animal passes the winter season in a state of incomplete
hibernation, and at regular intervals he will arise, come out of his
abode and expose his body to the sun, and judging from the effluvium,
empty its distended pouches, but the stench thus caused, soon ceases,
which is not the case when it is spurted under irritation or in
self-defense. Dr. Coues states "that the animal uses this secretion in
the relation of its perpetuation of the species, though overshadowed by
its exaggeration into a powerfully effective means of preservation of
the individual, is evidently the same as in other species of Mustelidae,
each one of which has its own emanation to bring the sexes together, not
only by simply indicating their whereabouts, but by serving as a
positive attraction."

In the case of the skunk, it would seem that the strong scent has
actually tended to result in a more gregarious mode of life than is
usual in this family of mammals; and it is certain, at any rate, that
the occupancy by one animal of a permanent winter abode serves to
attract others to the same retreat. Burrows are sometimes found to
contain as many as a dozen individuals, not members of one family, but
various adult animals drawn together. One other effect of the possession
of such unique powers is seen not so much in mode of life as in the
actual disposition of the creature. Its heedless familarity, its
temerity in pushing into places which other animals instinctively avoid
as dangerous, and its indisposition to seek safety by hasty retreat, are
evident results of its confidence in the extraordinary means of defense
with which it is provided.

In the domesticated state they do not use the scent only under extreme
agitation. Dogs create this excitement, man seldom, even when handling
them. When held by the tail, they are really unable to throw the scent.


The White Skunk.

The animal that has a clear, white-furred pelt is very sparingly found,
in fact so seldom, that many consider it a freak of nature and not a
distinct species.

Personally we do not find it pays to raise white skunk, save as pets, or
the females for breeding purposes. We dispose of them before they have
become an expense to us. It is the wise man who can judge when to kill
and when to keep.


The Black Skunk.

The animal that has a black coat of fur is found in many states, those
of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Eastern
Canada, are better furred, and in consequence command better prices than
those coming from the central states. The black skunk is also found in
Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina and
South Carolina, in fact in every locality excepting in the northwestern
states, also northwestern parts of Canada. The animal cohabits with the
other species, and there is no apparent rule governing the breeding and
inter-breeding and the probable coloration of the offspring. Somewhat
disregarding the color of the parents, the litter contains black, white,
short, narrow and broad striped youngsters. But 90% will "take after"
full black parents. If you use Star bucks you can reasonably expect Star
stock. The fur of the black skunk, especially the eastern variety, is
soft, wavy, and of a deep lustrous black. Those animals that have only a
small white furred star at the forehead are commercially called "black
skunk."

Great care should be taken in selecting the male breeders to avoid
in-breeding. A skunk matures, or its fur becomes prime and salable in
six months. The female brings forth young in a year. The life of a skunk
is from five to seven years.


Short Striped Skunk.

This animal inhabits the same section as the black skunk, the only
difference between them is that the small white star of the former
develops into prongs or two distinct white-furred stripes, starting at
the forehead and terminating at or about the shoulders or center of
body. Quite often the forehead is entirely covered with white fur, and
immediately beginning at the top of head the white hair continues in two
prongs, each varying in width from three-eighths to three-fourths of an
inch. Should the white stripes continue clear across the body and
terminate at the nail, such skins cannot be classed as short striped but
are known as long, narrow or broad stripe.

Short striped skins are second in value, the price being about one-third
less than that of the black skins. The white stripes are of no value to
the manufacturer, and for that reason the skin that has the greatest
amount of black fur is worth more and the value lessened by the increase
of the white stripe. The fur of the tail is black with intermingled
white hairs. The disagreeable odor is removed by the dresser (tanner)
and by the time the skin reaches the manufacturer, it is cleansed from
all impurities and ready to be made into garments.


Narrow Striped Skunk.

This animal inhabits nearly every state and territory of the Union and
greater part of Canada, and is the true American skunk. His coat of fur
is black, excepting two white stripes beginning at the forehead and
terminating at the tail. The width of these stripes varies somewhat,
depending upon the size of the animal, usually three-eighths to
three-fourths of an inch. There is always a goodly portion of black fur
between these stripes. The white stripes are narrow and close together,
but widen apart at center of back, and again narrowing when close to the
root of tail. The largest animals of the skunk family come under the
long or narrow striped species.


Broad Striped Skunk.

This animal is found in common with the previous species, and its
difference is only in the width of the white stripe which is wider, and
the quantity of black fur on the skin is lessened, thereby diminishing
the value of the skin. There is no apparent iron-clad rule, or a
dividing line between, or just where and when a skin should be called
broad stripe and not a narrow striped skin. This naturally must be left
largely to the judgment and discretion of the buyer or the manufacturer,
who, in grading, seeks an average more than any particular dividing
line. The tail is covered with hairs with occasionally interspersed
black hairs.


One Striped Skunk.

This animal has a long, horizontal white stripe extending from forehead,
continuing over the body, terminating at root of the tail; the latter is
covered with white fur and is probably more bushy in proportion to its
size, than the other northwestern species. The skin is of no great
value. The fur is rather coarse and the skins undesirable.


From the above description it will be noted that the value of the pelt
lies principally in the quantity of black fur; diminishing by the
increase of white and increasing by the lessening of the white fur.

It may be of interest to note that skunk fur after it is manufactured is
not sold as "skunk," but is a good substitute for many different kinds
of fur which has a higher value placed upon it.

Of late years the white stripes that are cut out of the skins are being
used in the manufacture of spurious tails which are dyed to imitate the
natural tail of mink, marten, etc. At other times these white pieces are
sold in connection with other fur scraps or cuttings to hat
manufacturers. Only those skins that are prime in leather and full
furred, command good prices.



CHAPTER II.

Fur Farming--Supply and Demand.


From the dawn of history in this country the fur trade has been an
important branch of commerce and had much to do with the rapid advance
of discovery and exploration in the early days. But the extensive
trapping operations since that time have sadly depleted the ranks of all
species of fur-bearing animals and some of the most valuable are rapidly
nearing extinction. This is especially true of the central and eastern
portions of the United States, and the time is approaching when the ever
increasing demand for furs must be met by some way other than trapping
the wild animals--but how? Fur farming appears to offer the only
solution to the problem.

The raising of fur-bearing animals is still in its infancy, but many
experiments have been tried out from time to time, and it is a proven
fact that if it is undertaken and carried out in an intelligent manner,
the industry is bound to be successful; and why not? All of our domestic
animals and fowls were wild creatures at one time.

There are practically no new and unexplored regions to trap and even in
faraway Siberia, which we are taught to believe a land of wilderness and
a fine fur-producing country, reports say that fur-bearers are becoming
scarcer each year. The regions which have not yet been explored by the
white men, have for many years been trapped by the savage inhabitants.
Fur traders push into all accessible districts, and the trappers also,
sometimes bring their goods hundreds of miles in order to trade with the
white people. South America produces some furs, but the catch is not
heavy, perhaps because there is not much trapping done there. But the
furs from the more distant regions are, as a rule, of the more valuable
kinds, and cannot supply the demand of the great middle class of people,
the largest consumers. Such furs cannot take the place of those of the
muskrat, skunk, raccoon and oppossum, for these furs are usually made up
to imitate the more expensive kinds. But as the supply decreases the
demand increases at an equal rate.

The skunk, mink and muskrat do well in settled sections. There is always
a cash market for raw furs and since the discovery of America, raw furs
have been an important article of commerce. An industry paying the
hunter and trapper probably $15,000,000 yearly is one that should
receive attention. The demand for furs is increasing as the population
of the world is becoming more and more. Again furs are being put to more
uses than ever. While the demand for furs is increasing, what of the
supply? The day, perhaps is not far in the distance when the demand will
call for two or three times as many furs as today. Where are they to
come from, if not from fur farming?

A well known fur dealer in Minneapolis sizes up the situation in a
nut-shell:

  "Under proper conditions, with intelligent care, raising fur animals
  can be made to pay. The raiser starting on a small scale and
  increasing as their knowledge increases. Most all successful business
  is built up by starting small."

Conda J. Ham, in the Hunter-Trader-Trapper Magazine, says:

  "Did you ever stop to seriously think where your furs and your fur
  coats would come from twenty or thirty years from now? At the rate
  fur-bearing animals are being killed off at the present time, there
  would not be fur enough thirty years from now to properly clothe the
  nobility of the old world, to say nothing of our American women who
  must have their new furs each season, and the others who must have at
  least one or two sets during a lifetime. The fur industry is
  admittedly fast dying a violent death. Some other remedy than those
  already prescribed must be discovered. We still have sections of the
  country where the same wild state of nature exists that could have
  been found three hundred years ago. We still have plenty of
  fur-bearing animals to keep alive their species if proper conditions
  prevailed. Therefore, it would seem that the problem to solve is, how
  can these conditions be best secured.

  "Mr. Norman A. Wood, expert taxidermist in the University of
  Michigan's museum, the man most familiar with the animal life within
  the state and one of the greatest authorities on animal life in the
  whole Northwest, declares the fur industry can be saved only through
  the medium of great fur farms. His study of the situation has
  convinced him that the commercial growing of fur is coming to be one
  of the great industries of America.

  "In various parts of the country such farms are to be found, and the
  profit derived from them has been sufficient to prove the success of
  the venture. Skunk farms have been started in various parts of the
  United States within the past few years and are proving paying
  enterprises.

  "It is no vague dream that prompts one to speak of fur farming. The
  signs of the times point that way, indisputably. Every year the price
  of raw furs bounds up to hitherto unknown levels, the demand is
  constantly increasing almost as fast as the supply diminishes, and
  with it having been demonstrated that fur-bearing animals can be
  raised, men are not going to let such chances slip by."

A. R. Harding, editorially in the same magazine says, speaking of fur
farming:

  "The business surely looks like a "gold mine" at present prices of fur
  and breeding stock. Even should prices be reduced by one-half or more
  the business bids to continue very profitable.

  "While scores, perhaps hundreds, will make good with the more valuable
  foxes--black-silver, cross--thousands will find that profits may not
  be so great (neither is the expense to get started) with the common
  red fox, skunk, mink, marten, coon, oppossum and muskrat, yet the
  raising of these animals is not apt to influence values. The world
  needs millions of these skins each year, and the market is not so
  limited as with the high priced furs. Looks like a great future for
  the raiser of these animals. There is no denying the fact that the
  supply of wild fur bearers is gradually becoming less, not only in
  America, but throughout the entire world, while the demand for furs is
  constantly increasing."

Here is a bright future to "Fur Farming." The person who knows something
of the habits of the animal or animals that they expect to raise, will
be the successful one. The same applies to fur farming. The farmer who
has given attention to fur-bearing animals are the ones most apt to be
successful. A good many attempts were made at raising skunks, a number
of years ago, most of which were failures. Some entered the business on
a large scale, knowing nothing of the animals, and of course failed;
others "penned up" a few skunks and as they were not properly cared for,
failure was the result.

The advanced price for skunk skins in recent years, has caused a revival
in their raising. This time, an entirely different class of people are
taking up the work, and they are going to succeed. Why? Because they
know something of the animal and are going at the business in a calm and
business-like way.

  [Illustration: One of Laymon's Stars.]

People are not investing their all in a business without realizing the
possibility of success or failure. More is known of the Skunk today. It
is not the feared animal that it was yesterday. The day is not far
distant when it will take its rightful place among fur-bearers and its
hides sold for what they really are. There is hardly a more finer fur
than skunk and it should not be necessary to hide its identity under a
substitute name.

The fur farmer, should the market be low for certain animals, can keep
over. Nine times in ten, this is the time to raise as many as possible,
for by another season, that particular article is likely to be in
demand. To illustrate: In the winter of 1908-09, No. 1 skunks from
northern and eastern sections were worth $2.00, while the following
winter the same skins were bringing just twice this figure. If the skunk
raisers who sold off their stock at low prices because the prospect was
not bright, had gone ahead they would have had a heavy crop of fur to
market at high prices by January, 1910.

Some reports from those who have experimented in a small way at raising
fur animals is to the effect that they do not fur properly. This is true
in regard to skunk, when kept in a box or a small enclosure for weeks
and fed largely on meat. They must have contact with earth and be
allowed to forage for food.

Skunk breed only once a year, unless the first litter are killed or die,
when another is sometimes born, and it might be said, such is frequently
the case.

One thing is important, and that is, get the animals accustomed to their
keeper as soon as possible. The old will be wild for some time, but the
young soon become tame. Skunk are easily tamed, even children have
safely handled them.

A man who has been in the fur farming industry for years, in response to
the inquiry, "Will the business pay?" says: "Yes, it will pay the right
man big dividends on the capital invested." The right man is one who has
natural aptitude for this sort of work, and who is "cut out" for fur
farming. If he has a liking for this sort of work, he will study the
nature and requirements of the animals and attend carefully to their
every want.

Fur farming as an industry is only in its infancy, in fact, not begun.
The future looks bright to those who engage in the business in a
business way. To those who expect to make a fortune at the business in a
year or two, we predict failure, but to all who are willing to go at the
industry intelligently, building a substantial enclosure, paying the
same careful attention to the feed and care of their fur animals that
they would to other "stock," to get the best results, far more than
ordinary profits should result.

Under ordinary circumstances skunk can be raised to maturity at a cost
of about 25c. The cheapest skin on the market will bring at least a
dollar, from that to live skunk at $15. Average profit will be over 400%.



CHAPTER III.

Enclosures, Dens, Food and Care.


The enclosure for a fur farm is one of the most important things for a
beginner to consider, for if it is not properly constructed, his labor
is in vain. We have heard of parties going to a great expense to procure
the animals and construct a fence to hold them, and because the fence
was not built on right lines, the animals escaped. This was unnecessary
had the netting or galvanized iron fencing extended about 18 inches
below the surface. Skunk seldom dig over a foot into the ground.

The proper size of an enclosure depends on the number and kinds of
animals you intend to start with. For 10 skunks or less and their
offspring the first year we suggest an enclosure measuring 3 rods wide
by 4 rods long or 12 square rods. This will even answer for a much
larger number, but we do not believe in crowding. For 20 skunks and the
first year's young the enclosure should measure about 4 rods in width by
5 in length.

You can successfully raise a hundred skunk on a single acre of ground.

After you have decided on this business the first thing is to find the
proper location and make a suitable enclosure. There should be a spring
on, or a small stream crossing the ground to be inclosed, but at the
same time the ground must not be wet; in fact, it should be of rather
dry nature, so that there will not be too much dampness in the dens.
That is the picture of an ideal skunkery.

But running water is not absolutely necessary so long as the animals are
furnished clear water for drinking purposes. There should be banks of
earth for the animals to den in and the ground should have a gradual
slope so that it will drain readily. If it is of a sandy nature it will
be all the better. Some who have tried skunk farming have located the
yards on a shore of a small lake or pond and have included a portion of
the pond in the enclosure. This is a good idea and it will not be
necessary to extend the fence very deep into the water, as the skunk is
not a water animal and will not dive under; however, where the fence
crosses a stream of running water the fence should reach to the bed of
the stream as the water will fall considerably during dry weather. Where
running water is not to be had a basin of water should be provided for
bathing purposes. They bathe about once a week. This is a habit little
known by the amateur fur farmer.

The enclosures should be large as possible. When the animals are
inclosed in small yards or pens they become infested with fleas, ticks,
etc., and they do not do well. By sprinkling the animals with poultry
powder usually used to destroy lice, and allowing the animal to den in
soft soil these parasites can be easily eradicated. Such small enclosures
will answer for a short time but as soon as possible they should be
placed in a large roomy yard.

To enclose a certain amount of ground with the smallest number of rods
of fencing possible, the plat or ground to be enclosed should be in a
square. While the cost of enclosing an oblong piece of ground would be a
few dollars more than if square, this should not stand in the way if the
oblong piece of ground would make a better home for your fur-bearing
animals. If one only desires to experiment with a few animals and has
the material on hand, he may make a fence of boards, but it should not
be depended on for long. Where stones are set up edgewise or cement
used, it is rather expensive and as galvanized wire lasts well either in
the ground, where not exposed to the air, or being galvanized, it stands
the elements well, it seems to meet the requirements of the fur farmer
for fencing or enclosure purposes. There should be some trees, or at
least shade, no matter what animals you are experimenting with.

For fencing material, galvanized wire netting of one-inch mesh is
generally used for the breeding yards, and 1½-inch for the outside
fence, as the young animals will escape through a two-inch mesh. The
outside fence should be seven feet in height. Under ordinary conditions
the skunk would not escape over a four-foot fence, but there is danger
in winter from drifting snow, and dogs and other animals must be kept
out at all times; therefore, the fence should be of the height mentioned
and it must be turned in at the top or a sheet of tin placed along the
edge to prevent the animals from climbing out.

Some skunk raisers simply place flat stones on top of the ground at the
foot of the fence to prevent the animals from digging out, and some say
that one of the most satisfactory ways is to place small mesh wire
netting flat on the ground at the foot of the fence, inside, of course,
and cover lightly with dirt. They claim that this is a very good way to
prevent skunks from escaping by digging, but on the whole we think that
the method of sinking the netting or galvanized iron about 18 inches
below the surface is best.

  [Illustration: Fence of poultry netting, covered with sheet tin,
   showing foundation.]

The persons who expect to make "fur farming" a business, can begin in a
small way and same need not interfere with other work to a great extent.
Year after year, as they learn more of the business, they can enlarge
the grounds. Farmers and others who from experience know much of the
animals, will no doubt be the most successful from the start. The ox,
horse and sheep were wild at one time, but they have become domesticated.
Why not the same with the fur-bearers? This is exactly what should be
done. Skunks especially, are very easily domesticated. When the raiser
learns this and furnishes an enclosure with dens and food similar to
that which they get when in their wild state, they will be on the road
to success.

  [Illustration: Fence of Netting, Showing Support and turned in top.]

On the Laymon farm we have been experimenting with galvanized iron or
tin fencing, and we prefer it to wire netting. The animals appear more
contented when they cannot see other and wider fields. This is
especially true during the breeding season. This fencing is a better
protection against dogs and prowling animals also on the outside.

In the case of galvanized iron fencing, we find that the fence need not
be over five feet, with 3 or 4 strands of barbed wire to keep out dogs
and prowling animals. The animals do not see out, nor prowlers in and
hence the skunk are less liable to become excitable.

The interior of the enclosure should be divided into compartments, using
netting or galvanized tin for the fences but they need not be so high.
The largest compartment would be for the females and there should be a
smaller one for the males, also one for the young animals after they
have become large enough to take care of themselves. Some also make
small yards in which to place the females, two or three together, after
the young animals are born. The most of those who have tried skunk
breeding, however, have not found this necessary, but there should
always be a separate enclosure for the males. When the number of animals
increases it will be necessary to have a few small breeding yards, large
enough for ten or twelve animals. One need not, however, make such an
elaborate enclosure in the start but can enlarge it as needed, adding
more compartments.

  [Illustration: Breeding Range Constructed of Galvanized Iron.]

In each compartment a number of dens should be made by digging a trench
and covering afterwards. While the animals will dig dens if necessary,
they prefer even while in a wild state to use dens already made. Boxes,
barrels or pens with board floors should not be used. Some of the
successful ones claim that this has a tendency to cause a thick pelt and
thin fur and say that it is absolutely necessary that they have natural
dens in the ground. The dens should be made quite deep so that there
will be no danger from frost in winter and in all cases there should be
plenty of straw or leaves for bedding purposes. Where the land is flat
it seems wise to throw up a few mounds of earth so that the animal may
dig into the soil. A hole can be started in a bank with a post-hole
auger and the animal will finish it, seldom burrowing more than a foot
further into the earth.

No matter what style of den is used it should be so constructed that
there is no danger of it getting damp. Banks of earth of a kind which do
not absorb and retain water make good places in which to dig dens, and
it is easy to incline the entrance so that water from rain or melting
snow cannot drain into the passage. The entrance should be made large
enough so that the animals can pass in and out easily, for if the
passage is small there is danger that the fur will be injured. There
should also be plenty of dens, so that if one becomes damp or infested
with vermin, the occupants can take up their quarters elsewhere.

On the Laymon farm we have several different kinds. The breeding pens
are built par-to keep out the rain. After we have once ascertained that
the young have arrived we do not disturb the female for several days,
save to see that she has plenty to eat and drink. Females are quite
devoted to her young. The entrance is of wood and in some cases tiling.
The opening should be large to avoid rubbing the fur.

The summer dens are of natural earth formed or dug into earth, built
around straw or wood, with tile entrance.

The winter dens are large, built like a well with a cave-like entrance.
These things are necessary only where skunk are raised on a large scale.
As far as possible, we do not allow the fur of the animal to come in
contact with rough surfaces other than earth. We only allow one female
in a brood pen at one time, and use galvanized iron fencing between the
pens. Females will steal one another's young when given the chance
causing the young animals to starve to death, and we don't give them the
chance.

The skunks are perfectly cleanly about the dens and always deposit their
droppings in one corner, or outside. They seldom discharge their scent
and unless he were to see it, one might pass close by a skunk "ranch"
and never know it.


Feeding.

Skunks should have plenty of food especially during the summer and they
should be fed at regular intervals, giving just enough for a meal each
time. It is advisable to give a mixed diet, partly animal and partly
vegetable. They will eat almost all kinds of flesh and fish, table
scraps, fruits, especially if very ripe, melons, sweet potatoes, berries,
etc. One of the most satisfactory foods is bread and milk, but it is
considered too expensive by some people. However, it should be given
occasionally. They will eat carrion, but such food should not be given,
for it is likely to cause disease. In the fall especially, when they are
laying on fat for winter, they should have plenty of food. In winter
they do not require so much. It is a lack of meat food that causes them
to eat their young and one should feed well during the spring and autumn.

Skunks feed largely on insects, grubs, etc., and if they have range
enough will supply themselves with the greater portion. They are fond of
eggs, either fresh or spoiled, and should be given a feed of this kind
occasionally if possible. They also have a fondness for poultry.

The matter of providing sufficient food is not as difficult as it would
appear at first glance. If the farm is located near a large town,
butchers, hotel and restaurant keepers will generally save table scraps,
stale bread, etc., on request, if one will make a regular habit of
calling for it. This is why it seems desirable to establish a skunkery
close to or in a city. Even in the country the neighbors will help out.
The farmers will be only too glad to have you take the dead stock,
poultry, etc., thus saving them the time and labor of otherwise
disposing of it.

As before stated, the Laymon Skunkery is an ideal farm. We have a large
range of gully land through which runs a natural spring, and is covered
with a dense underbrush. The skunk run wild here, male and female
breeders after the regular rutting season is over. We feed them only
once a day, at evening, and that mostly hominy hearts mixed with water
and milk. Just now, June 23rd, they are as fat as prime porkers and in
excellent condition. We are experimenting on cutting out all meat for at
least five days each week. We maintain that 25c will cover the expense
of raising a skunk to maturity. They are wild for mulberries and
"roasting ears." Enjoy ripe apples and roots. Relish clover, and like
cats get crazy over fish, and there is no doubt about them liking "cat
meat," and the flesh of rabbits, fresh or tainted.


Breeding.

The mating season comes late in February and in March and the young
animals make their appearance in May, the period of gestation being
about nine weeks. The young are born hairless or furless, and remain
blind from 4 to 5 weeks. The mother will wean her young at from 7 to 9
weeks of age. Care should be taken to note the symptoms, as when the
young refuse to be weaned, the mother is likely to injure them. They are
fully matured in six months, and their hides become prime and ready for
market. They breed when a year old and live about 7 years.

After weaning the young should be allowed to run wild in a pen where
there are other young animals. But not with the old males until such a
time as they are able to protect themselves.

One male animal will easily serve eight or ten females and he should be
left in their company a number of days. After that he should be removed
and to make certain, another male should be installed for a few days.
Two males should never be allowed in an inclosed pen with the females at
one time or they will fight and one or both may be seriously injured.
They seem to know enough to keep out of each other's way on the range.

We believe, however, that to allow the males and females to run wild (if
the range is large enough) has a tendency to create larger litters. We
believe that the females cohabit with more than one male at rutting time
and that additional young are created at each service. We know that our
litters are larger in number than is ordinarily supposed, ranging from
six to ten, whereas when served by one as above, the litters averaged
from four to eight.

Great care should be exercised in the selection of the males for
breeding stock. Only the large and healthy animals of good color should
be used and all others should be killed and their skins marketed, or the
live altered animals sold for pets, while they are in good condition.
Never allow a breeder to die of old age. Sell the pelts early and use
young stock for the purpose.

While the animals do not always breed strictly true to color, the white
markings may be greatly reduced and the general stock improved by
selected breeding. One should, each year secure fresh breeding stock
from other localities and related animals should not be allowed to breed
together or in a few years the result will be disastrous. One can not be
too careful in this respect for it is very important.

After the mating season the female should be separated, placed in small
enclosures and they should be well fed or otherwise they may kill and
eat the young. They should be allowed to remain in these small
enclosures until the young animals are large enough to take care of
themselves, when they should be separated and the females may again be
placed in the large enclosure.

From the commencement of the breeding season until late in the fall the
animals require a larger amount of food than during the winter and
especially during the breeding season and while the mother is still
nursing the young they will require plenty of nourishing food. They
require fresh drinking water at all times and the enclosures should be
so arranged that each compartment will be supplied.

As before stated one should use care in selecting animals for breeding
purposes as it is in this way that the quality of the fur will be
improved and the business made to be a profitable one. If you wish to
increase the number of animals do not be tempted for the sake of the
higher prices realized for the finer skins to kill off animals that
should be kept for breeding.

On the whole, one should study the habits of the animals on every
opportunity and attend to their wants. If one will give the proper
attention to the animals and take an interest in them there is no reason
why he should not succeed.



CHAPTER IV.

Trapping, Skinning, Shipping.


The skunk belongs to the weasel family, and is nocturnal in its habits,
but unlike other fur-bearing animals of the weasel family, lacks
alertness. It is exceedingly slow in locomotion compared with other
animals, and naturally falls an easy prey to the average hunter or
trapper.

The only drawback and reason why this animal was not extensively hunted
or trapped and the skin marketed twenty or thirty years ago, was the
danger of being sprayed with their peculiar essence. The fur is fine and
eagerly sought after, especially the black furred skins, which bring
high prices. As many as 500,000 skunk skins are marketed in a year.

The skins are generally divided into four or five distinct grades, and
each grade is then assorted accordingly to quality and size. Skunks
should not be killed for the pelt out of season, but this is true of all
animals, where the furred skin has a market value. The open season for
Minnesota, Dakotas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Montana and northern sections, is
from November 1st to February 15th, varying somewhat upon the weather.
South or middle states the season opens somewhat earlier, and naturally
closes on approach of warm weather. The fur of the skunk is the first of
all fur bearing animals to become prime, and is also first to suffer the
loss of its lustre and primeness.


How to Kill Without Being Scented.

There are many ways and methods in common use for capturing and killing
this animal, but probably the best is the use of steel traps, though a
long stick is equally as good, providing the one who holds it
comprehends his business and uses same advantageously. The author has
known two lads to kill and skin forty skunks in a day. Of course, great
care must be exercised to kill the animal without receiving a discharge
of the perfume. A six to eight foot long stick, one and a half to two
inches in diameter is the proper weapon and instrument to use in killing
skunks. A smart blow on the back about one to two inches beyond the tail
will readily fell the animal. This blow will paralyze and benumb the
muscles and nerves employed by the animal to distribute its obnoxious
fluid. An additional blow is necessary, and the latter should be given
on top of the head.


Steel Traps.

Steel traps are used with good effect. They should be set just before
the hole and be covered with loose bits of dirt, leaves or other
vegetation. Some prefer to use bait, the latter can be a beef head, a
chicken, or, in fact, any chunk of old meat or carcass. Drag same in
various ways and drop in a conspicuous place or in center of a nest of
traps. The trap should be attached to a clog, or loose bushes, never
attach two traps to the same article. Skunks often spring traps set for
mink, wolf and other animals, but seldom devour or even touch a victim
should they come upon same while making their nocturnal visits.


A Box Trap.

  [Illustration: Box Trap for Catching small Animals Alive.]

The usual bait for skunk is birds, bits of meat, pieces of chicken and
rabbit, whether old or fresh. A good method and trap is to bury a large
dry-good box; see that the top is even with the surface of the earth,
place light brushes, hay or straw across the opening, upon which
sprinkle a little loose earth. Some prefer to make an artificial opening
in top of box after same is buried, into which the skunk will descend,
rather fall in, but cannot get out. Some strong smelling bait should be
placed in the box, which is to attract the animal from a distance. As
many as eight skunks have been caught during one night by the use of
this style of box trap. This seems to prove that skunk do not make a
noise when caught.


A Barrel Trap.

  [Illustration: Barrel Trap. If Set on the Slope of a Hill, Will Capture
   More Than one Animal.]

Another method is the so-called barrel trap. A sugar, vinegar or whisky
barrel will answer. Remove the head and securely fasten the bait on
inside of bottom of barrel. Place the barrel in a slanting position,
open part toward the earth, and arrange by balancing the barrel in such
a way that when the skunk enters by crawling up in a barrel, being
attracted there by the bait, the barrel with the skunk will tip over and
Mr. Skunk fall on his nose inside of the barrel and be a captive. This
is a good and cheap trap and the victim cannot get out, though only one
animal can be caught at one time. Some trappers dig the skunk out,
others dig until they reach the cavity in which they usually have their
nests and are found huddled up together in a bunch. If found in such a
position it is an easy matter to suffocate them, thus obliterating all
possible chances of the animals distributing their obnoxious perfume.
All that is necessary after one sees the animals is to cover them up
with soft dirt, which should be lightly tamped every two inches of
filling and continued until about fifteen to eighteen inches is securely
tamped. In about fifteen to twenty minutes the trapper can uncover the
den by removing the earth, and he will find the animals suffocated.
After all, it is poor policy to suffocate whole dens of skunk. They
should be caught alive.

It is unnecessary, but we recommend for the trapper, (new beginners) or
hunters, to remove the perfume containers (glands) before skinning as
one is likely to cut into the bags and distribute the perfume, but if
removed all danger of coming in contact with the liquid weapon is of the
past.

Skunks, when located in holes, can be smoked out or suffocated, either
with common smoke or vapors arising from burning sulphur. To locate the
distance of digging, insert a long switch or telegraph wire into the
hole. The author has personally seen trappers dig down for a short
distance and then reach after the animals with their hands, and sure
enough they succeed in bringing the animals, one by one, from their den.
Strange as it seems no perfume was discharged. This is probably due to
the fact that the other trapper assisted by knocking them senseless
immediately after their heads appeared through the hole. A piece of
¾-inch round iron, about twelve inches in length, was used. Trappers
relate and claim that it is a positive fact that the skunk will refrain
from biting or discharging perfume while in their holes.

  [Illustration: A Battery of Brooding Dens on the Laymon Farm.]

Deadfalls, figure four and other home-made traps can be employed, though
the animal must be skinned promptly, and often the fur becomes damaged
from the instrument itself or by long delay and exposure to the weather.
There are many other methods and ways to capture and kill this animal,
but by the foregoing any one contemplating to trap or hunt will have the
essential knowledge.

The rifle can be used whenever possible, but the use of the shotgun is
detrimental to the skin, and its use should be prevented when the
question of its fur is taken into consideration. The animal should not
be entirely eradicated from any particular locality, as the skunk is
more beneficial than harmful to the farms, and again, the killing of
skunks out of season is entirely absurd and uncalled for, the animal
being harmless. The meat while not generally consumed, can be used,
though when fried, it is dry and tough, resembling bull meat in that
respect. The fat is used for medicinal purposes. Skunk oil is highly
recommended for sore throat, croup, etc.


Killing, Skinning and Stretching.

When "killing time" comes, care should be taken to not frighten the
animals left for breeding purposes more than is absolutely necessary.
All animals that are tame enough should be driven into a separate
enclosure and out of sight of the others before being killed. Perhaps as
good a method of killing as any is to use a good club, striking on the
hips just over the region of the scent sac. Skunk should be killed
without the enclosure becoming strongly scented. A pole several feet
long with a strong loop on the end can be slipped over their tails. The
animal can now be lifted clear off the ground and carried wherever the
killing is desired. Drowning is not recommended, as it takes the fur
hours to dry and is therefore extra work. Some even claim that the
water spoils the luster of the fur to a certain extent.

Skunk do not leave their dens during severe weather, so that it is
advisable to begin selecting those that are to be killed days and even
weeks in advance of the time decided upon. These should be placed in an
enclosure or pen by themselves so that the remaining ones will not be
disturbed. Animals selected need not be operated upon, though the scent
sac should be removed before skinning.

The animals that are to be kept for breeding purposes need not be fed so
heavily during the winter months or after those that were intended for
market have been killed. Of course in the spring after the females have
young, they must be fed heavily.

Some raisers as soon as the young are weaned, select those that are to
be killed the coming winter, keeping them separate from the breeding
stock so that they can be fed properly. That is a great saving of food,
as those for market should be fed much more than the breeders at this
season--say during the months of September, October and November.


Two Methods of Skinning.

There are two distinct methods of skinning fur-bearing animals, and
skins are known as "cased" or "open" skins, according to the method of
removing the pelt. Open skins are those removed by ripping the skin down
the belly and are stretched out flat. Cased skins are those drawn off
the body from the tail to the head, by ripping the skin on the backs of
the hind legs.

The skunk skins should be cased. Cut off the front feet with a knife or
hatchet, cut around the hind feet and rip down the back of the hind
legs, using care when cutting and skinning around the scent glands.
Split the tail about one-third of its length on the under side, and skin
it that far by using the knife; then strip it from the bone by means of
a split stick. Grasp the stick with your right hand, palm up, and with
the tail between the second and third fingers, tail pointing up; hold
the carcass by placing the left hand on the hind quarters; close your
right hand and give a steady pull upwards and the skin will be stripped
from the tail quickly and easily. Now draw the skin downward, off the
body, to the shoulders. Here two thin muscles will insist on hanging
fast to the skin; put your finger under them and tear them loose. You
can now get hold of the front legs, and strip the skin from them. Strip
the skin on down to the head, then feel for the base of the ears and
cut them off close to the head. Skin on to the eyes; here you must use
the knife again, but use care not to enlarge the eye aperture. Cut the
skin loose about the mouth and the end of the nose, but don't cut the
nose off the skin. The pelt now resembles a small, narrow sack, with fur
side in. Before you lay it down, turn it with the fur side out and thus
keep the skin clean until you are ready to flesh and stretch it.


Skins Should be Fleshed.

The skin of any animal should be fleshed and stretched as soon as
possible after it is removed from the carcass. If the weather is
somewhat warm and the skin remains uncleaned and unstretched a day or
two, it may start to taint.

For fleshing cased skins I use two boards, one about three inches wide
and three feet long for small skins, and the other five inches wide and
four feet long for larger ones. These fleshing boards must be perfectly
smooth and flat. They should not be beveled towards the edge like a
stretching board, but should have the edges slightly rounded.

Before fleshing a cased skin be sure that there are no burrs or other
foreign substances in the fur, for such would cause you to cut the skin,
then draw the pelt on the board, fur side in. Now with the base of the
board resting on the floor and the nose against your chest, shove the
fat and flesh from the skin with the knife or hatchet, from the head to
the tail. The instrument should be held at an angle of about 40 degrees.
Don't try to flesh on the edge of the board or you will injure the skin.
Turn the skin occasionally until you are all the way around and the pelt
is perfectly clean of flesh and fat. The thin sheet of muscle found on
the back of the skunk should not be removed, but the loose rolls behind
the shoulders should be removed down to a point where it appears to be
firmly attached to the skin. Don't scrape away at a skin of any kind
until nothing remains but the scarf skin and the fur. There is such a
thing as overdoing it, and one should remember that he is only to remove
the loose parts, which are not a part of the skin. Skunk, oppossum, and
muskrats are the skins which are the most likely to be overdone, and the
skunk in particular.


Stretching Important.

After the skins are fleshed they are ready for stretching. I advise the
use of the three-piece board. To use the three-piece board, turn the
skin with the flesh side out and insert the two main pieces of the
board, the flat edges together; draw the skin down to its full extent
and fasten the hind legs with two nails to each. Be sure that the skin
is on the board squarely, the back on one side, and the belly on the
other, then insert the wedge between the two pieces of the board. Put
the wedge in firmly, but don't drive it in with a hammer, for there is
such a thing as over-stretching a skin. Then draw the back down and
fasten it with two nails near the root of the tail. Then turn the board
over, and stretch the other side, fastening it also with two nails. Now
fasten all the edges by placing the nails 1½ or 2 inches apart,
keeping the legs one-half on each side of the board. See that the nose
of the skin does not slip over the end of the board and fasten the skin
of the lower jaw with two nails. The tail of the skunk must be stretched
out flat as far as it is split. Now take your jackknife and make a little
incision in the tip of the tail of all animals except the otter. This is
to allow the air to circulate and let the moisture drain out. If the
weather is very warm, put a little salt in the tail to keep it from
tainting. The loss of the tail will detract heavily from the value of
the skin, and in case the bone has broken off, as happens sometimes, the
tail should be opened on the under side and the bone removed. After the
tail is attended to, loop a string around the nails in the lower jaw and
hang the pelt in a cool, dry, airy place to cure. Be sure that it swings
free, and does not rest against the other skins.

A few remarks about packing furs for shipment may not come amiss. Never
ship furs until they are perfectly dry for they may taint in shipping.
It is not necessary, however, for the tails to be perfectly dry. Make
the skins up into a nice, neat package and sew it in a burlap. Don't
roll skins; pack them flat. It is best to wrap them in paper before
placing them in the package. Always put a card, bearing your name and
address, inside of the package to help identify them, in case the
outside tag gets torn off. Put two shipping tags on each package and
fill them out with your name and address in the place reserved for it.
When you give them into the hands of the express company, give their
true value, as near as you can, and be sure that the agent marks the
valuation on the receipt. Then in case they are lost, you can hold the
express company responsible.



CHAPTER V.

Habits of The Skunk.


Skunks are found in all parts of the United States, with the exception
of the mountainous district of the West. They occur again to the west of
the mountain ranges and also are found in most parts of Southern Canada.
They are found in the prairie country and in the hilly and mountainous
districts of the East, and are at home in the "wilds" as well as in the
thickly settled districts, however, they seem to thrive best in the
farming sections and especially if the country is of a hilly nature.
Their dens are located along the gravelly hillsides, quite often under
the roots of trees and stumps but in the prairie they den along the
washouts and creek banks. In thickly settled sections they frequently
make their home under houses and outbuildings, showing practically no
fear of man and often appropriate the den of the woodchuck.

They are nocturnal animals and as a rule do not wander far from the den
but in the fall they travel farther, looking for a good den in which to
spend the winter. Again, in early spring during the mating season, the
males travel considerably. While they are not a hibernating animal, they
stay in their dens during cold weather, also when the snow is loose and
deep, but are sure to be out on the first nice night.

The mating season of this animal is in February and early March and the
young are born mostly in May, although some will be born in April. There
are usually from four to ten young in a litter but occasionally there
will be a larger number.

The value of a skunk skin depends mainly on its size and markings, they
being graded by the buyers entirely by the amount of black fur,
providing, of course, that the skin is prime and well handled.

Being slow moving animals, they can not catch the more active animals
and birds as do the other members of the weasel family and their food
consists mainly of mice, insects and grubs, also of the eggs and young
of such birds as nest on the ground. They are very fond of poultry and
frequently visit the poultry houses, killing the young birds. They also
feed on carrion. When they can get it they will eat almost any kind of
animal food. Even in the wild state the skunk is not, strictly speaking,
a carnivorous animal as they will eat and in fact are fond of sweet corn
when in a milky state, also sweet potatoes, melons and wild fruits. It
appears that if the male skunk is not separated from the female at
breeding time, the female will kill the male, presumably to protect her
young. And on the other hand the male will kill and eat the young if
given the chance.

Robert B. Phillips relates the following in H-T-T:

  "I wish to relate an experience with the lowly skunk. I found some
  skunk signs near an old cave large enough for a small boy to creep in.
  I set one trap near the main entrance and another one about fifteen
  feet away both fastened to clogs. (I wish to state before I go farther
  that the cave has a sickening sulphur smell and in the winter time, no
  matter how deep the snow is elsewhere, you will not find any for about
  three feet around the mouth of the cave.) Well I visited the traps the
  next morning and upon arriving at the cave I saw two skunks about
  twenty feet from the hole. One was eating at the hind quarters of the
  other. Of course I thought they were both in my traps, but when about
  forty feet away the victorious skunk saw me and started climbing an
  embankment below the cave and I noticed he did not have a toe pincher
  clinging to him. The skunk was only two feet from his dwelling when I
  made a quick shot with a twenty two rifle. Of course I missed so I
  knew he was gone for the time being. I went to the other one and found
  him breathing his last. He had his entire tail, scent glands and the
  meat all eaten off the bones at the junction of the hind legs and the
  base of the backbone. In fact the hole in the body was so large that a
  full sized baseball could be put into the abdomen and the skunk still
  had a little life in him yet. Neither of them had thrown their scent.

  "Two days later I caught the other one, the largest male skunk I ever
  caught. When I went there he was leisurely eating a rabbit he had
  evidently caught. This happened in the beginning of December and both
  were male skunks.

  "I know of another case where skunks turned Cannibalistic. This
  happened to some young trappers who were in the habit of catching the
  skunks in September and early October and keeping them until they were
  prime. They had eight or nine in an old spring wagon. One morning he
  went out to see them and found they had killed and eaten one of their
  own number. There are a few of those fellows around here. They are
  afraid another fellow might catch one or two of them.

  "One time I caught a skunk and I got quite near it kept on digging in
  the leaves and every once in a while it would unearth a bug or insect
  which it would promptly devour. Some people have an idea that a skunk
  does nothing but steal chickens. This he does sometimes, but he makes
  up for that by catching cut worms and other insects which spoil
  thousands of dollars worth of crops annually. I have opened their
  stomachs already and found centipedes and angle worms and lots of
  beetles in them. Skunk also loves mice."


Breeding.

Earl Williamson says:

  "I see in the H-T-T where persons have found skunk dens with nearly
  all female skunks. My experience has been that in every den there is
  one male and two or more females; twenty-two being the highest I have
  ever heard of being taken from one den. The females and male den up
  early while the rest travel around in nice weather and stay in any
  hole in bad weather."

  Says a Nebraska trapper: "I have seen from 2 to 12 skunk in one den,
  but never more than 1 male with a den of females. The males of a
  litter seem to be forced to leave, only one remaining. The males so
  treated den themselves individually at a distance from the herd of
  females, returning in the spring. I have never known them to use their
  odor in a fight among themselves, neither have I known them to make a
  noise other than patting on the ground with their front feet."

J. M. Bray writes of Skunk Handling:

  "Norris Johnson, John K. Hallman and myself went into the ring and
  started the performance by taking a pair each of live skunks by the
  tails and holding them while the pictures were taken. Some of the
  onlookers thought that was wonderful the way we handled those skunks.
  Now, right here is where I want to say that you can do it just as well
  as I can, if it is necessary for you to handle them. Go to them with a
  quiet, but firm step; take a good hold on their tails and you can
  carry them anywhere you want to. I have had a number of inquiries
  whether my skunks were odorless. I will say they are not and it is not
  necessary to make them odorless. If you use them gently you can have
  them around for a year and no one would know that you had them. Some
  ask, will black skunks breed all black, or will some breed back into
  lower grades? It is a known fact that all animals will breed back
  sometimes, but by having black you will breed black. But I find by
  having black bucks and by having short stripe females (and no threes
  or fours) your breed will be from fifty to seventy-five per cent
  black, or No. 1.

  "Some have asked me what to feed them. Skunks will eat anything that a
  cat or dog will eat, also various fruits, such as apples, pears,
  persimmons, sweet corn or field corn (so long as the grains are soft).
  Where you have a number you will have to figure on the feed. Skim milk
  and stale bread, butchers' scraps, meat from dead animals, dead
  chickens or anything of that nature, but it will be necessary to vary
  their feed occasionally.

  "If you start with a pair or so for an experiment you do not need such
  a large enclosure, but if you want to make a business of it, then I
  would advise you not to be afraid to spend a few dollars on your pen
  and the larger the lot the larger the pen. Don't crowd them or you
  will be the loser."

Skunk have no means of defense other than their scent, but this is
sufficient in many cases and the majority of people will give them a
wide berth. This scent is only used when alarmed or frightened and in
captivity there is no trouble whatever from this source as they soon
learn that there is no occasion for alarm and become quite tame.


CULLED FROM CORRESPONDENCE.

  "While trapping this last season I caught a skunk each night for three
  nights in succession at the same den and the three brought $12.00
  which I thought was pretty good for three skunks out of the same den.
  I have caught as high as eight skunks in one day."--Lee Guthrie.

  "Skunks can be raised as easily as house cats, providing you have an
  enclosure where they cannot dig out or climb over. For every hundred
  old skunks, you should have an acre of ground enclosed.

  "I experimented for three years on a small scale. The first year I had
  one male and three females. They brought forth fifteen young. One
  died, plus four old ones, leaving eighteen--eleven females and seven
  males. Five of the young graded as No. 2, balance star black.

  "The second year I started with twelve females and two males, bringing
  forth forty-three young, plus fourteen old ones, total fifty-seven,
  less three, which died, leaving a balance of fifty-four. I took out
  seventeen males and five No. 2 females, leaving a balance of
  thirty-two black ones."--I. M. Bray.

  "When cold weather comes the female dens up and with very few
  exceptions does not stir until mating season which is in February.
  Trappers will tell you that fully 90 per cent of the November,
  December and January catch are males. After February 10, when the
  running season is on the catch is largely females. At this season a
  skunk tracked to its den and dug out has often resulted in as many as
  eight or ten. These are mostly females."--H-T-T.

  "In regard to the habits of skunk in the Elkhorn River District,
  Nebraska, will say they usually den in old badger holes, cleaning them
  out in the fall, sometimes making a cavity in them 2x3 feet by 18
  inches high, preferring hilltops, bluffs and slough banks as
  situations. Sometimes they dig dens themselves, seldom going over 1
  foot below the surface. The cavity is bedded 6 inches deep and the
  hole about half filled with dry grass."--Nebraskan.

  "Farm readers, please don't kill the skunk during the summer when his
  hide is worthless, because he got a chicken or two, but wait and take
  his hide in the winter. It will more than pay for the chicken if you
  really must rid your back woods of him, why not take him with box
  traps and start a fur farm?"--Peerless Bum.

  "John M. McCrary asks if we have ever heard a skunk make a noise. I
  can answer that by saying positively yes. I have two male skunks
  together in a pen and we have been awakened every night about 10
  o'clock by their hideous squeals. They seem to be very congenial
  during the daytime," says Harold Pugh.

  Probably the sound you think so hideous is sweet music to the skunks.
  However, it may be their war cry. If you would watch them and study
  their habits, especially at night, you might make some valuable
  contributions to our knowledge of skunk habits.

  "Why don't all of you fellows start a fur farm? It will be the most
  paying business in the country pretty soon."--Albert C. Hancock.

  "The natural habits of the skunk is to live in holes in the ground,
  rocks, trees, stumps, etc. Their food consists of mice, birds, bugs,
  crickets, grasshoppers, bees, wasps, yellow jackets, angle worms,
  seeds, berries, ground roots and barks."--Bureau of Agriculture.

Beyond all doubt the skunk has been given more consideration by raisers
of fur-bearers than any other animal, with the exception of the fox.
There are many who have tried raising these animals with more or less
success and where the experimenters have used good judgment and have
given the subject all of the attention it deserves, they have been
reasonably successful. Most of these people have started in on a small
scale, having perhaps only a dozen or two of skunks to start with; in
fact nowhere has the business been carried on as extensively as some
newspaper articles would lead one to believe; the majority of these
parties having at the most only two or three hundred animals.

It is the smaller experimenters, in other words those who have begun on
a small scale, who have been most successful. They are for the most part
farmers who had even before venturing into the business a fair knowledge
of the nature and habits of the skunk and therefore were more qualified
for making the business a successful one. Farmers naturally take an
interest in all nature and are most likely to give the proper amount of
attention to the animals, also learn their habits readily and act
accordingly and these qualities are absolutely necessary for the
successful raising of all fur-bearing animals.



CHAPTER VI.

Miscellaneous Information.


The most successful stock breeders are those who make a special study of
their animals and take a great interest in them and those who do not are
almost certain to fail and really deserve failure. If so much care is
necessary in breeding domestic animals, how much more important the care
in handling the wild creatures, knowing so little of them as the average
man does. But even handicapped by lack of knowledge the experimenters
have been fairly successful from the start if they were right men for
the business. Without exception they all report that the animals breed
well in captivity and are easily kept; in a short time becoming quite
tame and losing their fear of man.

The skunk is an animal which is despised and feared by many people
because of its readiness to make use of its powerful scent, the only
means of defense with which nature has provided it, but it is only when
frightened that it uses this scent and once they have become tame and
learn that they will not be harmed they are practically harmless. We
will say, however, to those who are afraid of the scent, do not attempt
to raise skunks, but devote your time to some other calling for which
you are more fitted. But if you want to make clean money, raise skunk.


Removing the Scent Sacs.

It is true that the scent glands may be removed from the young animals
and we can see no reason why this should have any effect on their
breeding.

The operation is easily performed and if done when the skunks are very
young, about the time they first open their eyes, they are seldom harmed
by it. The operator should provide himself with an old bag, and seated
on a low bench with the bag between his knees should place the animal in
the bag, leaving only the hind quarters uncovered. With a small, sharp
knife make a ¼ or 3/8-inch incision over the gland, and with an awl
lift up on the gland, which at that age will be about the size of a
cranberry, at the same time pressing down gently on the surrounding
tissue with the flat side of the knife. The gland will lift up readily.
Then holding it with the awl, cut it through the center, allowing the
remaining half to return to place. The reason the entire gland is not
removed is that it is firmly united to the rectum and the animal is
likely to be seriously injured if one attempts to remove the entire
gland. All of the scent, and only half of the gland is necessary.
Following is a more detail description of the operation of removing the
scent sac:


Description of The Scent Glands of The Skunk.

The annal glands which are possessed also by other members of the weasel
family are developed in the skunk to such a wonderful degree as to
constitute an effective means of defense. They are not related in any
way to the genito-urinary system either in location or function. They
are the same in both sexes.

  [Illustration: Laymon and Assistant Removing the Scent Sac.]

The scent fluid which is the special secretion of these glands is
contained in two sacs located beneath the skin, one on each side of the
vent. Each sac is embedded in a powerful, gizzard-like, muscular
envelope the contraction of which discharges the scent fluid. Fig. 1 and
Fig. 2 show general location and form.

Within the rectum just beyond the sphincter muscle which ordinarily
keeps the vent closed are two papillae from which the scent is
discharged. Each papilla is connected with one of the scent sacs by a
discharge duct.

Ordinarily the discharge papillae are not visible but when the skunk
discharges the scent fluid the tail is raised and doubled close along
the back, the vent is relaxed and turned outward to such an extent that
the pappillae becomes external and from them the scent is discharged and
directed with remarkable accuracy.

The skunk takes great care not to get any of the scent on its tail or
fur and the slightly skunky odor which fur garments sometimes have is
usually the result of carelessness in killing or skinning the animal. To
kill without scent the backbone should be broken by a quick blow or the
skunk should be drowned.

When held by the tail with head hanging down and with tail and backbone
in a straight line the skunk cannot control the muscles which evolve the
rectum and discharge the scent. Care must be taken that the skunk does
not twist or climb upward. It should be held low to keep its interest
centered on the ground which it will strive to reach.


Directions for Removing the Scent Sacs From Live Skunks
Without the Escape of Any of the Scent Fluid.

  [Illustration: FIG. 1, X-RAY OF SCENT SYSTEM.]

This operation is simple and may be readily learned by anyone who will
follow these instructions carefully. No anaesthetic is needed.

1. The beginner should dress in old clothes or overalls and as a
precaution should wear goggles to protect the eyes in case of accident.
An old hat or a paper sack worn as a cap will protect the hair. With
these safeguards the learner feels perfectly at ease and therefore the
chance of accident is much lessened while acquiring proficiency.

2. A heavy plank supported on two wooden buckets makes a good
operating table. Straddling this plank the operator and his assistant
sit facing each other.

3. The proper instruments are as follows:

    1 nickel plated scalpel (knife).
    1 nickel plated tenaculum (hook).
    1 nickel plated sound probe (probe).
    1 pair nickel plated special extracting forceps.
    1 pair nickel plated automatic clamping forceps.
    2 pair goggles (worn only by beginners as safeguard).

4. Several pieces of clean white cloth about three inches square
should be provided.

5. The instruments should be boiled about ten minutes in clear water
to insure cleanliness. During the operation they should be kept in a
saucer containing a five per cent solution of carbolic acid which may be
placed on a box within easy reach of the operator's right hand.

6. The operator first takes his seat and spreads a gunny-sack or
burlap across the plank just in front of him.

7. The assistant then brings the skunk carrying it by the tail with
his right hand. His left hand should grasp the nape of the neck to help
keep the head down for the back-bone and tail must at all times be kept
in a straight line.

8. The assistant now, by means of his hold on the nape of the neck
brings the skunk into a horizontal position (keeping the backbone and
tail in a straight line) and lays it belly downward on the gunny-sack
with head toward the operator.

  [Illustration: FIG. 2, SECTIONAL VIEW OF SCENT SYSTEM.

  A--Scent Sac               H--Original Incision
  B--Muscular Envelope       I--Rectum
  C--Discharge Duct          K--Sphincter Muscle Encircling Vent
  D--Discharge Papilla       L--Scent Sac Pushing Through Incision
  E--Vent
  F--Wall of Rectum
  G--Cut to Sever Duct]

9. The operator wraps the gunny-sack snugly about the skunk while the
assistant releases his hold on the nape of the neck.

10. The assistant now immediately places the forefinger of his left
hand with light pressure over the vent, while the operator proceeds to
turn the skunk on its back keeping the gunny-sack wrapped firmly about
the animal.

11. Now only the tail and butt of the skunk are exposed to view. The
gunny-sack covers all four feet and head so there can be no scratching
or biting.

12. The operator brings his knees together over the plank and thereby
holds the skunk. This enables him to have both hands free.

13. The operator now relieves the assistant by placing the fore-finger
of his own left hand over the vent. With the thumb of the same hand he
locates the scent gland just to the right of the vent. The gland is
easily recognized as feeling hard and round like a marble beneath the
skin abreast of the vent, neither forward nor backward from the vent.

14. Having the thumb and fore-finger about an inch and a quarter apart
the operator now squeezes the gland tight enough to draw the skin firmly
over it. His right hand is free.

15. With a piece of cloth dipped in the carbolic solution he moistens
the fur and skin held between his thumb and finger.

16. With the scalpel, starting at least three-eights of an inch from
the vent so as not to injure the sphincter muscle which encircles the
vent, the operator makes an incision through the skin about five-eighths
of an inch long directly over the center of the scent gland and in a
straight line with the vent, as shown at H in Fig. 1.

17. The incision is now carefully deepened until the firm, gizzard-like
envelope in which the sac lies is reached. The beginner is likely to
mistake this firm, muscular envelope for the sac itself because the
envelope is lighter in color than the tissues previously cut.

18. He now proceeds more gradually to cut through the muscular
envelope as shown at H in Fig. 2, taking light strokes with the scalpel
and cutting only a slight depth each time.

19. If the muscular envelope cannot be held firmly enough by the
pressure of thumb and finger so the knife will cut well the muscle may
be hooked with the tenaculum and thus held by the assistant while the
operator cuts.

20. Soon a small white bead appears in the bottom of the incision as
shown at L in Fig. 2. There is no mistaking this as it is the white sac
itself pushing through a very small opening which has been made through
the envelope.

21. This opening is now carefully increased by turning the dull side
of the scalpel toward the protruding sac and cutting away from it, first
on one side and then on the other.

22. The sac keeps pushing outward more and more until it is about the
size of a pea. The cutting is then stopped.

23. Now by means of the extracting forceps the sac is gradually lifted
by raising it a little on one side and then on the other. The object is
to work the sac through the small opening without tearing it by too
violent a pull and without lacerating it by gripping too hard with the
forceps. The proper way is to grasp lightly and pull gently here and
there at its base.

24. When half the sac has been worked through the opening the sac
suddenly pops up out of the gizzard-like envelope.

25. The sac is now lifted carefully by the extracting forceps to see
that it is all clear and attached only by the discharge duct.

26. If any slight muscular tissue is found clinging to the sac it may
be torn away with the sound or tenaculum or carefully cut with the
scalpel.

27. The duct, which alone holds the sac, is now clamped in the
automatic forceps as near the sac as feasible as shown in Fig. 3.

28. The assistant now holds these forceps and thus supports the sac so
the operator can see the duct clearly.

29. The operator then carefully examines the duct preparatory to
cutting it. He must be very sure not to cut it too close to the rectum
or he will cut a round hole in the rectal wall because even a slight
pull on the duct draws the discharge papilla outward and brings with it
the wall of the rectum wrapped about the papilla so as to look like a
continuation of the duct. See C, Figs 1, 2, 3.

30. By feeling carefully with the sound or the dull side of the
scalpel the end of the papilla nearest the sac is readily discerned by
its firmness or hardness.

31. The duct is now severed with the scalpel at a point a little way
from the papilla as shown at G in Fig. 3.

32. The sac is now held free in the clamping forceps and not a
particle of the scent fluid has escaped.

33. The operator then proceeds in the same manner to locate and remove
the second sac.

  [Illustration: FIG. 3. SAC COMPLETELY WITHDRAWN.

  A--Scent sac                  F--Wall of Rectum
  B--Muscular Envelope          G--Cut to Sever Duct
  C--Discharge Duct             H--Incision to Expose Sac
  D--Discharge Papilla          I--Rectum
  E--Vent (Rectum)              J--Tail]

34. The incisions should be wiped out with a piece of cloth with
carbolic solution and never need any further attention. In a few days
not even the scars can be found.

35. The operation is performed most easily when the animal is not too
old or fat. Any time from one-third to two-thirds growth is a good age
for this work.

36. With a little practice the complete operation of removing both
scent sacs should not take over five minutes or skunks may be handled at
rate of ten or twelve per hour.

The removing of the scent sac has increased the value of No. Four skunk.
Many are sold as pets, and others used for advertising purposes. We do
not go to the trouble of removing the sac on animals we know we are
going to kill soon. There is no danger of scenting when the skunk is
carried suspended by the tail.

Those who have failed in skunk raising were for the most part people who
knew nothing regarding the habits of the animal and its care when in
captivity. They were men with capital, who began on a large scale
expecting to make a fortune in a short time, but in this they were
mistaken, for many of them lost all that they invested. These parties
have had trouble from the older animals killing and eating the young,
also depradations of owls, but mainly from the first reason. It is our
opinion that this cannibalistic tendency is caused by improper feeding,
as those parties who have used care in that respect have had no trouble
=whatever=.

To those who are thinking of embarking in the business of skunk farming,
we would say--start on a small scale with only a small number of
animals, say two dozen females and six males. Give them every possible
attention and study them under all conditions. Do not expect to make a
fortune in a short time.


Laws Affecting Fur Farming.

One of the most frequent questions that we are called upon to answer is
"Will the laws of this state allow of keeping fur-bearing animals in
captivity?" This question has caused considerable trouble, for in states
where fur-bearers are protected a part of the year, it is usually
considered unlawful to have the live animals in possession during closed
season, but not always so.

Only one state, namely New York, has laws making it a misdemeanor to
have protected fur-bearing animals in possession during closed season.
In that state it surely would be unlawful to raise skunks, for the law,
after giving the open season on these animals says: "They shall not be
possessed or killed at any other time." It is our opinion that the
fur-farmer would not get into any trouble with the law, in any state
other than New York, if he would kill the captive animals only during
the open season for the said animals, since the game laws of no other
state say that you may not have the animals in possession. Still there
are fur farms in the state of New York.

You are obliged to comply with rules and regulations of the Conservation
Commission of New York. You should write to this commission at Albany,
New York, and get their instructions and permission. Fur farming laws
and game laws covering this subject are confused and unsatisfactory. Fur
farmers are likely to find that much depends on the disposition of local
game protectors, and should get in touch with them and with the state
authorities, especially a state like New York.


Dye Markings to Denote Sex--Toe Clipping to Denote Age.

We have installed what we consider a very handy system of skunk labeling
on our farm. For instance we mark the male skunk with a red mark
perpendicularly across the white markings in the head. If he is
"altered," this mark becomes a cross. With the female it is
blue mark--if "altered," the mark becomes a cross. To denote the age we
simply clip a claw each year at a certain time. The unclipped animal is
less than a year old. We seldom keep them over five years as breeders.
Usually sell the pelts during the fourth year. The system seems to work
out very satisfactory.


A Simple Fur Press.

Take a box with a bottom the size you wish the bottom of your bale of
furs to be and turn it bottom side up on the floor near the wall. Then
spread a piece of burlap over it large enough to hang over the edges a
little all the way around. Then lay on a piece of heavy brown paper
about the size of the burlap. Then lay on your furs in a flat, square
pile, the same shape as the top of the box. It is a good plan to brush
the hair all out straight and smooth as you lay them on. Lay them on
until you have them thick enough so that when pressed down they will be
as thick as you want your bale. Then lay on another piece of paper and
burlap about the size of the ones on the bottom.

Then lay some short pieces of board crosswise under your lever. Then
nail a cleat to the wall the same distance from the floor that the top
of your bale will be when pressed. Then take a piece of good solid board
or anything handy that may be used as a lever and lay across the top of
the bale, catching one end under the cleat on the wall and pry it down
and weight it or have some one hold it for you while you fold the edges
of the paper together smoothly and the burlap in the same way, folding
the corners in neatly. Now you can sew these edges together with some
good stout cord and release your lever, tie on your shipping tags and
you will have a neat secure bundle, all ready for shipment. The bundle
may be strengthened by putting a good stout cord around it lengthwise
and crosswise twice. This makes something to get hold of when handling
it.--L. Dewey.


Live Skunks Can be Shipped by Express.

Skunk skins or live skunk will not be carried by parcels post. Live
skunk in the past have been transported by the express companies usually
at regular merchandise rates, and the occasional shipment of these
animals when well caged and protected did not arouse any great comment.

Owing to damage incurred, on April 1, 1913, the express companies took
concerted action and passed a joint and official amendment with the
concurrence of the Interstate Commerce Commission, reading as follows:
"SKUNKS--Refuse." This made it impossible to ship live skunks by express
after that date. There was naturally a protest to the express companies
by skunk breeders, and by those accustomed to shipping live skunks. The
express companies finally agreed, however, to accept for shipment skunks
from which the oval glands had been removed. The ruling on skunks was
therefore with the approval of the Interstate Commerce Commission
changed to read, effective May 20, 1913, as follows: "Skunks--Refuse,
unless scent sacs are removed."

All the express companies concur in this ruling, even the Canadian
Companies. This means that shipments can be made between all points in
the United States or Canada. The removal of the scent sacs is easiest at
the age of five weeks, although it can be done at any time. It does not
seem to injure the skunks in any way or to interfere with their breeding.

In shipping skunks from the United States to Canada there is no duty,
but, in shipping from Canada to the United States the duty is 20% of the
invoice price.

At the time of shipment, write a letter to the fur company, that you are
shipping to, advising them of the shipment, and telling how you are
sending the furs, and just how many and what kind of furs you are
sending. If you follow these instructions, you will seldom have any
cause for complaint.



CHAPTER VII.

Questions and Answers.


As we are asked certain questions so often we are pleased to give below
answers to those most frequently received:

"=What is The Best Way For Me to Start Raising Skunks for Fur?=" Start
with a few and increase the number as you can care for them. Dig out or
capture a couple of litters this spring. Mate the males of one litter
with the females of the other litter. There are usually eight to ten
young in a litter. The old skunks mate about March 1st and the young are
born about May 1st. Never inbreed; that is, do not mate related animals.
Furs are becoming scarcer and prices are continually advancing. Those
who start early in this industry will make the most money.

"=How Can I Breed For Black Skunks?=" Each year save your largest and
blackest skunks to breed from. Market the skins of all the rest when
prime. Be always on the lookout for blacker specimens, especially males.
You can mate one black male to four or five females and even if the
females are not entirely black there will be a good percentage of black
among the young.

"=What Should I Feed Skunks?=" Skunks in confinement will eat meat of
any kind, bread, milk, whether sweet or sour, many sweet fruits, green
corn and some other vegetables. Table leavings from hotels, waste from
slaughter-houses, dead farm stock or dead chickens are all eaten readily
and take the place of the beetles, grubs and mice which the skunk lives
on when free. Do not give decayed food. Supply fresh water regularly.

"=I Live in Town; Can I keep Skunks Without The Scent Disturbing My
Neighbors?=" Yes. You can remove the scent sacs from your animals. This
is very easy to do and the skunks do not mind it at all. They do not
lose a meal. After the scent sacs are removed they can never scent
again. Your neighbors will not know you are raising skunks unless you
tell them.

"=How Long Does it Take to Remove The Scent Sacs?=" With a little
practice you can remove the scent sacs and make a skunk forever
scentless in four or five minutes, or at the rate of 75 to 100 skunks
per day.

"=Does Any of The Scent Fluid Escape When Removing The Scent Sacs?=" Not
with our method. With proper instruments you can remove the scent sacs
completely without spilling a drop of the scent fluid.

"=How Can a Skunk Be Tamed?=" The skunk is naturally gentle and not much
afraid of people. When the scent sacs have been removed from a young
skunk it will be found at once quite tame and may be carried about in
your arms like a kitten. If it is handled frequently it will grow up
very tame, will come when called and will eat from the hand.

"=Are The Scent Sacs The Same in Both Sexes?=" Yes, they are the same in
both sexes. They open into the rectum and are not related in any way to
the reproductive or urinary systems. The scent fluid is not the urine as
many people imagine.

"=What Do You Pay For Black Skunks?=" We pay from $5 to $15 each for
grade AAA according to time of year, locality and size. The scent sacs
must be removed. We pay express charges on all skunks which we buy. If
you have any choice specimens you wish to sell write us full description
and we will gladly make you quotation. We want 500 skunk now.

"=What is The Best Age For Removing The Scent Sacs?=" This work can be
done at any age easily unless the skunk is very fat. We strongly
recommend that you begin on young skunks in the spring, any time after
the eyes are open. The young skunks are easily weaned. They readily take
milk or bread and milk and do not need the mother. Do not let them run
with old skunk.

"=What Kind of Fencing Do I Need For Skunks?=" Poultry netting 2 to 3
feet in the ground and 6 feet above ground makes the cheapest fence. To
prevent climbing out make at the top an over-hang of netting 12 or 18
inches wide or place a strip of tin about 18 inches wide on the inside
of the fence near the top to make it smooth and slippery. The netting
should be 1½-inch mesh for the main yard (for adults) and 1-inch mesh
for the breeding pens. The best fencing is made from galvanized tin or
galvanized iron, in our opinion. Read chapter on "Enclosures."

"=How do you grade Skunk?=" Personally I think the eastern assortment
best; which is as follows:

"Eastern Assortment. The average size, ordinary color of fur, prime or
unprime pelt is considered, then graded to No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4
grade. On skunk for illustration: the short shoulder stripe is graded as
No. 1 when prime and full size, the object of this assortment is as few
grades as possible, prices quoted will not permit of as high quotations
as firms quoting Western Assortment, but will figure equally as much if
not more, in dollars and cents."

The Western Assortment is as follows:

"Western Assortment. Each pelt is graded to its individual value, first
color, then size, primeness, etc., as high as thirty grades are used;
skunk for instance is graded for black, short narrow and broad, then as
to size and shade and color, etc., each commanding a different value. A
firm using this assortment can quote most any price if they desire and
have their goods just as cheap, if not cheaper, than those using eastern
assortment only."

"=Where can I sell skunk grease and what does it sell at?=" There is a
small demand for animal oils and grease, but the markets shift from
point to point. You will have to get in touch with these markets through
drug stores and doctors who know addresses of chemists and dealers in
drugs. There are many by-products of the trap line which trappers should
study, to see if they could not work them into commercial lines. Animal
oils are one of these by-products. I think that skunk oil, under a fancy
name, scented with a little musk or perfume, would find ready sale for
chapped hands, sunburn, etc. These oils are usually wasted now. There
is an opening for a dealer in animal oils if he knows the users.

"=When is the best time to trap Skunk?=" In cold weather, when
fur-bearers den up and hibernate, trappers smoke out more animals in one
day than they can take in traps in a month; besides, they get prime fur
worth the most money. Still we do not advocate this method. They should
be captured alive for breeding purposes.

"=What do you consider a good scent for skunk?=" Anise oil, as a rule,
is best for skunks. Apples are good skunk bait and meats also are good.

"=Can you tell me the best method of removing skunks from their dens?="
It depends on the den. Dig 'em outs, who use shovels, or dynamite, or
crowbars, destroy the dens. There are bellows and smoke blowers for
smoking out the occupants of dens, and the makers would tell you the
best ways. However, as a sporting and financial proposition, you would
better get your skunks by straight trapping or snaring, instead of
killing off whole families as you would do raiding dens. When you track
a skunk to its hole, use the smoker, but don't hog the fur. Leave
breeding stock for another year.

"=Is it advisable to flesh and scrape skunk hides down to white skin
before hanging up to dry? Can you tell me why dealers do not want fur
hides salted, say, salted slightly, and if any, what detriment it is to
them?=" The clean skin is best. All fat and flesh should be removed,
care being taken not to break into the skin, nor should the skin be
"worked" or drawn too much, in the process. Of course, skins may be
cleaned on the boards. The salt dries the skin and hardens it, making it
brittle and likely to crack. Its action on the skin is not neutralized,
as in the tanning processes by other chemicals. Even a little salt
changes the skin, absorbing the moisture and changing the chemical
constituents of the hide. The best way to preserve fur skins--salt is
simply to prevent decay--is to clean the skins carefully and stretch on
frames or boards, and hang them in a cool, dry, sheltered place where
rodents and insects cannot get them. Of course, pelts should not be left
too long on the stretchers--a few days--and too much care cannot be
taken of them.

"=Does it spoil fur keeping it through the summer if kept moth proof and
in a cool place?=" Not if it is properly dried and protected from moths.
Some of my friends keep their late catches of fur in perfectly tight
paper bags, with tobacco, holding them over for the early winter or
before-the-London-sales prices. A big slump in the fur market is often
met this way on certain kinds of fur by trappers, but the fur must be
properly dried and carefully stored away from insects, mice, etc.

"=Will it do to breed to the same male continually?=" We do not advise
it. Young stock from foreign pens should be constantly added to improve
the grade. In breeding should be avoided.

"=How can live Skunks be shipped?=" If the scent sacs have been removed
you can ship a skunk by express in a box with wire netting over the
opening. If the distance is great, supply plenty of dog biscuit or dry
bread and a dish for milk. Mark on box, "Please give milk and water." If
the weather is cold make a nest of straw in one end of box.

"=Can I make any money by removing the scent sacs from Skunks?=" Yes,
you should be able to sell the first skunk you operate on, even if
striped, for at least $5 to someone who would like it as a pet or as a
curiosity. A tame skunk will draw big crowds when placed in a store
window for advertising purposes. Amusement Parks are glad to get them.
Money can be made by selling tame skunks or by operating for other
people.

"=What diseases are common to the skunk?=" They are practically a
diseaseless animal. True they are troubled with lice when kept too
closely confined and fed too much spoiled meat. Any common poultry
powder which will destroy poultry lice will destroy skunk lice. Change
dens and allow the animal to burrow in gravelly earth. Meat diet
sometimes causes scurvy. This can be avoided by feeding a variety of
foods.

"=How do you prevent infection after removing the scent sac?=" First
wash the parts with a weak carbolic solution taking care not to allow
the solution to enter the rectum, or better still paint the glands with
iodine before operating. Rub over the incision a composition of
turpentine and lard. This will repel flies.

"=What do you do with the young after weaning?=" We allow the female to
range, and also the young, but in separate pens. Do not make the mistake
of allowing the young ones to range with aged males until they are able
to protect themselves from injury.



INSTRUMENTS WITH WHICH TO REMOVE SCENT SACS


So many persons have written us to know if we handle instruments
suitable to perform the operation of removing the scent sac, that we
have consented to make a selection.

The proper instruments are as follows:

  1 nickel plated scalpel (knife).
  1 nickel plated tenaculum (hook).
  1 nickel plated sound probe (probe).
  1 pair nickel plated special extracting forceps.
  1 pair nickel plated automatic clamping forceps.
  2 pair goggles (worn only by beginners as safeguard
    against scent fluid unexpectedly entering
    the eyes).

These tools are of a high grade of steel and nickel plated to guard
against rust. A very handy and desirable set of instruments. One set (as
above) packed securely in box, sent by prepaid parcels post for only
$3.00. The most satisfactory set of instruments on the market. Your
order solicited.

=References: Exchange Bank of Spencer.=

THE LAYMON FUR FARM CO.
SPENCER    INDIANA



  [Illustration: PEN OF WHITE RUNNERS AS BRED AND RAISED BY JOHN F.
   CRANE, SPENCER, INDIANA.

   If you want to start right, with foundation stock, or eggs from as
   good as there is in the country, write me--same prices at all times
   for stock and eggs--134 acres devoted to raising poultry, fruit and
   ponies--Breeder of White Indian Runners, Fawn and White Runners--
   White Wyandottes and Barred Rocks. Write me.

   JOHN F. CRANE, Box A1, SPENCER, IND.]



WANTED

500 Live Skunk

We are in the market for 500 AAA skunk, males and females for breeding
purposes. We pay as high as $15.00 for altered, unmaimed stars. Write us
what you have.

We also handle skunk pelts, Eastern grading, and highest prices paid for
prime stock. Let your dealer quote, then you will understand how much
better we can do for you.

Write first. We pay express charges.
Reference: Exchange Bank of Spencer.


The Laymon Fur Farm Co.
SPENCER    INDIANA



What a big Money King says about
OPPORTUNITY

"It isn't the want of opportunities, nowadays, for making a man wealthy,
but it is his =recognizing= an opportunity when he meets it in the
middle of the road in the middle of the day."

He is right. Paste =that= fact on your memory now. I know from
experience.

And if you are a business or professional man or woman, or working on a
salary and desire to increase your earning power with the least outlay
of capital and with the least effort, look this skunk proposition
squarely in the face.

And look at it from the viewpoint of good common business sense. It is a
clean, legitimate proposition--a real money-making opportunity right "in
the middle of the road in the middle of the day."

Why Not Start
a Skunk Farm?

WE WOULD BE GLAD TO HELP YOU





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