One of the things I enjoyed most back when I lived in Foster City was that I was like a block away from the Foster City Bay Trail and could bike along the Bay up to the airport and back. These days, I tend to (when I get the chance) drive down to Oracle and pick up the trail there (just south of Foster City). Over the years, if you bike that portion of the Bay Trail, one thing you learn about is the feral cat population. Foster City has a feral cat problem with probably hundreds of wild cats living along approximately a two mile portion of the Bay Trail surrounding the San Mateo Bridge. If you’re out around twilight, you can’t miss the cats. They’re everywhere. About six months ago, as I was biking that section in the evening, marveling at the number of cats, I noticed that one of the cats wasn’t a cat at all, but was clearly a skunk, hanging out with the cats. I thought that was odd, but pretty much forgot about it…. until Friday night.
We went out to dinner in Foster City Friday night, and at the last minute, figured we’d bring Sugar along, so we could take her for a walk along the Bay Trail afterwards. She likes walking there, and if there are a few cats around she can chase, all the better. Dinner was slower than expected, and we didn’t get out to the trail until well past 10pm. Immediately, we noticed two cats on the rocks watching us carefully, but Sugar (surprisingly) wasn’t paying any attention to them, preferring to sniff the grass along the opposite edge. We walked along and saw a few more cats along the way. As we got to about 100 yards of the bridge, I noticed a “cat” off in the distance, and realized it didn’t move like a cat, but looked like a skunk. I point this out, but we continued onwards. Sugar finally spotted some of the cats, but didn’t seem all that interested. Then, all of a sudden, she took off to chase a “cat” and it took us all of about two seconds to realize it wasn’t a cat… but yet another skunk, and it had already turned to raise its tail. We screamed, and amazingly, Sugar stopped and the skunk left us alone (phew).
We kept walking, getting closer to the bridge, when I saw two more skunks wander by. Then, I saw yet another skunk walking along the pier towards us, rather than away from us. Sugar blissfully was sniffing away, in the shrubs, and eventually scared out a couple more cats… but it began to occur to us that she could just as easily have been going after skunks in the underbrush as well. So, despite being told I was overreacting, we put Sugar back on leash and decided to walk the back and away from the bridge, where we hoped there were fewer skunks. Of course, as we walked along, we ended up seeing a few more skunks — and we began to realize that there are an awful lot of them living amongst the cats — and they seem a lot braver than the cats, who scamper off pretty quickly. It didn’t take us long to ditch the Bay Trail altogether and head in-land to walk around some of the nearby residential streets before heading back home.
So… amazingly, despite seeing at least a dozen skunks in about a half-mile trek (and probably an equal number of cats), and having a dog interested in chasing a few of the skunks… we didn’t get sprayed. Yeah, the story would have been better if we had… but I’m rather pleased it ended in the boring way.
In the meantime, though, man, who knew that skunks and cats liked living together so much?