I was a little late getting home for supper the other night. Many times I can get a lot done in the office after 5:00 p.m.. after the phone stops ringing. As I parked my pickup on the street and walked to the front door, I heard a great horned owl hooting. Now I live in Lincoln, within the city limits, but there are a lot of trees and apparently a great horned owl was in listening distance. I woke up during the night and heard them too. Great horned owls pair up this time of year, and the hooting I heard back and forth might have been between mates or it might have been a territorial call. I am not a birder, I am a pointy-headed fish biologist, so I know some things about critters other than fish, but not a lot. I do remember that about great horned owls because they pair up now and begin laying eggs IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WINTER! Everyone thinks of flowers and sunshine and warm temperatures when they think of nesting birds and cute little chicks, but not great horned owls. No they do their thing in January! I always thought that was odd, why in the world would they do their nesting, egg-laying and hatching during some of the coldest weather of the year?
Thinking about the great horned owls hooting at mates reminded me that the skunk spawn is just around the corner too. (If that segue was a little weak, let me also add that great horned owls are great predators of skunks. It is all about the predator/prey relationships!)
Striped skunks can be found throughout Nebraska and they pair up to mate in February. If you keep your eyes on the road and sides of the road in the coming weeks, you will likely notice more road-kill skunks than usual. The males will be on the move trying to track down a mate. In fact, if you look close, you will see two road-killed skunks together in a lot of cases. Why? Well, they could have been paired up, but it is just as likely that a road-killed female attracted a wandering male. Afterall, they do smell a bit, and apparently ole “Pepe Le Pew” finds that smell to be irresistible.
And that is why Valentine’s Day is in February!