As you may recall, on Sunday we had about a two-hour daylight visit from a skunk that was mostly just lying there like a lump, but that occasionally stirred itself to stumble around a bit. By the time we got someone to come out to collect it — or more accurately, to explain that he was not under contract to collect it — it had disappeared. Monday we had torrential rain and howling wind all day, and the skunk did not put in a reappearance. Yesterday it turned up again. To quote Monty Python, “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it — it’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it.”
Okay, so, the skunk is dead. Surely now someone will be interested in testing it to see if it was rabid. Let’s see, who are we gonna call? The police? No, they can’t do anything with it. Animal control? Ha ha ha ha! Ghostbusters? I wish. Oh, look, San Diego county has a “Vector Control” department! Do they deal with linear algebra? No, they deal with rats, mosquitoes, mice, and other disease carriers. Let’s call them! They must handle this sort of thing, right?
Wrong. They gave me a bunch of other phone numbers to call, including the people who wouldn’t come out on Sunday when the skunk was staggering around the hill and the wildlife services that never called me back. But they also gave me the number for the local branch of the state Fish & Wildlife department dead animal removal service. Perfect! They’ll handle this sort of thing, right?
Wrong. The dead animal removal service is a voice mail box that’s apparently unconnected to any human being. Hey, voice mail, can you come and collect a creepy dead skunk? No? Why not? Oh, you don’t have arms and legs? Okay then.
I finally reached a human being at a private wildlife removal service (called, appropriately enough, Wildlife Removal Services), who was in the area and could come to collect the skunk. (We’re not allowed to dispose of a large dead animal in the trash; plus we had already missed trash pickup and I wouldn’t want the thing sitting in the garbage can for a week.) Meanwhile, my wife continued trying to find someone who was interested in the dead, possibly rabid, certainly spooky skunk. She finally managed to talk to a person at Fish & Wildlife. Hey, Fish & Wildlife, we have dead wildlife here that might be infected with rabies! That’s something for you guys, right? Right? (insert ten minutes of hemming and hawing from government agency here) Wrong. Well if you guys don’t handle it, who does? (insert ten more minutes of hemming and hawing from government agency here) Oh, we need to call the county Vector Control department, you say? Gosh, why didn’t we think of that?
So my wife called up Vector Control again. What’s your vector, Victor? Oh, your vector is a skunk? Well sure, technically skunks are a rabies vector, and technically we are called “Vector Control”, but the words “Vector” and “Control” have many definitions. You know who will straighten you right out? The state department of Fish & Wildlife’s dead animal removal service. Here, let me give you their number! (At this point, I could actually hear my wife’s gaskets popping.) “Who. Is. Responsible. For. Monitoring. Rabies. In. California?” (insert ten minutes of hemming and hawing from government agency here) Oh, you’re concerned about rabies! Sorry, we misunderstood! Why didn’t you call somebody while the animal was alive? (*POP* *POP* *POP* *POP*) You should talk to the county veterinarian.
So my wife called up the county veterinarian. Sadly, the county veterinarian doesn’t collect dead animals. Well then, what if we were to put the animal in a bag and drop it off at your front door? Then you would test it for rabies, right? Wrong. The county veterinarian doesn’t monitor dead animals for rabies anymore, because it costs too much money. Unless the skunk were actually to fasten onto someone’s body, vorpal-bunny style, they aren’t interested. My wife pointed out to them that despite the fact that they aren’t monitoring for rabies, they are still publishing statistics saying how low the incidence of rabies is in wild animals in the county: Lies, damned lies, and statistics. News Flash: Monitoring agency detects zero incidence of disease for which it is not testing! Film at eleven! Hmm, you know what else costs money? Keeping open a bunch of overlapping bureaucratic departments, none of which is doing its job.
Anyway, the upshot is, the wildlife removal guy showed up when he said he would and took the skunk away to be incinerated. (“There’s nothing left of those zombies except smoke, and the rain’s taking care of that.”) So in the end everything turned out just fine … for the wildlife removal service, which got some business, and for the various agencies, which didn’t have to do anything except point fingers at each other. Things didn’t turn out so well for the skunk, which ended up dead, or for us, who got to pay for its cremation.
But that’s how we roll in the Great State of California.