Passengers were surprised to see a skunk loitering at a bus stop in a residential suburb. Is everything as wild in Muswell Hill as it now appears? I thought skunks came from France. You may be thinking of Pepé Le Pew, the cartoon character. That’s right. He was charming, but he had some kind of personal hygiene problem. Real skunks are indigenous to North, Central and South America. But there’s one in London? Yes, earlier this week a skunk was filmed at a bus stop in Muswell Hill in the north of the capital. “I thought it might be hopping on with me,” said commuter Lauren O’Hara. That is news. The Sun certainly thought so. “King Pong,” ran its report. “Incredible moment stinky giant skunk scurries along the pavement in the middle of north London.” What do they mean by giant skunk? In this case they mean a completely normal-sized skunk. But they do stink, don’t they? Skunks produce a noxious, sulphur-smelling spray from their anal scent glands, but only as a defence mechanism. So, as long as you don’t sit next to it on the bus, you’re fine? Actually, a skunk can direct its spray with uncanny accuracy up to three metres away. And the smell is notoriously hard to get rid of. How would an American skunk get to London in the first place? Did it paint out its stripe to disguise itself as a cat, like Pepé? It may be part of a population that originated with escaped pet skunks. Why would anyone keep a stinky giant skunk as a pet? The RSPCA doesn’t recommend it, but skunks have been kept as pets in the US for centuries. They’re intelligent, curious and house-trainable. Domesticated skunks often have their scent glands removed. Is that legal? Keeping skunks is legal in the UK, but removing their scent glands isn’t, so it’s not a pet you’d want to surprise from behind. And it’s an offence to release a skunk into the wild. I don’t think skunk-keeping is for me – I’ll stick to looking out for them at bus stops. The London skunk is by no means the first arrival. One was caught in Surrey in 2017, and a whole colony of skunks was found living in the Forest of Dean in 2009. Don’t say: “I tried to order a giant skunk off the dark web, but all I got was half a kilo of weed.”