Foxy the Skunk, right after being released

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The Fox Chase Library is temporarily closed on account of a skunk.

It made a home inside the book-filled Rhawn Street building, forcing the Northeast Philly branch to shut down operations as animal control teams worked to remove the pungently powerful mammal.

Visitors were understanding of the brief hiatus, said branch manager Christine Casperson. “Very few people seem to want to come inside once we tell them there’s a skunk.”

During its nearly weeklong residence, the literary-minded critter rooted through dozens of trash cans, dug up potted marigolds and a geranium, and made a brief daytime appearance, surprising staffers who originally assumed they’d been dealing with a squirrel or raccoon.

Dubbed Foxy the Skunk by library staff, it was finally captured Friday afternoon — but not without some extra drama.

Tri-County Pest Control, which has a contract to service some city buildings, had set up a special kind of humane trap designed for skunks. The trap was triggered overnight, but was empty when the specialist arrived, Casperson said.

“I guess a skunk does not spend the better part of the week in a library without learning a few things,” she observed.

The wildlife control team, however, was able to coax the animal into the trap without spooking the release of a stinky spray. They released it outdoors right on the property.

That’s actually its natural habitat, said Tri-County Vice President Myles Guevremont. There’s a high skunk population density in outer Philly neighborhoods like the one around the library, which in 1968 moved into the building across the street from the Fox Chase school and rec center.

“They’re very active in this area,” Guevremont said, noting that skunks eat insects and rodents. “They’re not bad neighbors to have around — as long as they’re outside.”

Earlier this month, a raccoon crashed through the ceiling of the Chestnut Hill branch library. Another spent several days during summer 2018 camping out in a window of the Tacony Library.

Skunks in libraries are less common.

Evidence of Fox Chase’s mephitidaen intruder first appeared Monday morning, when the security guard unlocked the doors and discovered the minor havoc, said Casperson, the branch manager.

She put in a request to Tri-County about a suspected squirrel or racoon, then had an uneventful day. When library staff returned on Tuesday morning, all the trash cans were tipped over again.

When Casperson left that evening, she closed the door to her office — and inadvertently trapped the animal inside, which she discovered the following day after finding no trash cans tipped over, but a chewed up shopping bag knocked off the shelf near her desk.

As she and staffer Bri McFadden began moving things out of the small room, Foxy showed its face. “I found it!” Casperson recalled McFadden running over to tell her. And: “It’s a skunk.”

That’s when the decision was made to temporarily close, so there was no chance members of the public would get sprayed.

Casperson, a 37-year-old Bustleton native who was inspired to become a librarian while living abroad in Bruges during college, decided to have some fun with the closure. “We considered designating the skunk as a staff member to help with staffing levels,” she posted on the library’s Facebook page, “but it has not provided any background checks.”

Casperson, who is a children’s librarian, helped Foxy pick out some recommended reading Credit: Christine Casperson

The next day, she posted a photo of some skunk-inspired “reading recommendations” from the mammalian visitor.

On Friday, with the successful capture and release, Casperson finally got the use of her office back. She said the library will undergo a major cleaning to make sure any animal droppings are removed, and will reopen after that’s complete.

Even if Foxy had released its scent, there are special enzymatic cleaners that can quickly get rid of it, said Guevremont of Tri-County Pest Control, who lives in Kensington. His takeaway from the whole experience?

“I wish we could invest in our libraries more, to fix them up so we don’t let skunks inside,” Guevremont said, “and so we can stay open later, so the skunks don’t have as much free rein.”

Danya Henninger was first editor and then editor/director of Billy Penn at WHYY from 2019 to 2023.