By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
When you live next to a wooded lot, you also live next to critters – lots of them. Over the years we’ve seen deer, chipmunks, mice, armadillos, woodpeckers, rabbits and – horror of horrors – even a couple of black snakes that nearly gave me cardiac arrest. Other than the snake panic attacks and some unwelcome armadillo digging in my flower beds, we haven’t had much trouble from the “wild” neighbors.
But last week some neighborhood squirrels set up housekeeping inside a wall of our garage. Tom listened to the bumping, scratching sound and followed it to the wall between the kitchen and garage. He could tell it was either a squirrel or a mouse on steroids because, whatever it was, it was big. The next morning, he even saw the squirrel scamper out when he opened the garage door.
I don’t hate squirrels, but I don’t want one of them running across my foot as I try to haul groceries from the van to the house. And listening to the loud pitter-patter of squirrel feet in the kitchen wall was unsettling. The squirrels had to go – but how?
I typed “how to catch a squirrel” into Google’s search engine and found out we weren’t the only ones dealing with uninvited squirrels. The advice on how to evict them ranged from large rat traps and poisoning – which seemed too extreme – to putting some bait into a “live catch” cage and waiting for the squirrel’s appetite to do the rest.
We decided to go the more humane route. Tom went to the store and came back with a live-catch trap. But first he wanted to find out how the squirrel was getting into the wall so he could block it. There were no obvious points of squirrel entry, so, as men will often do, he decided to cut a big hole into the wall to get a better look. Once the hole was cut, he stuck his head in it and looked around and still found no opening large enough for a squirrel to get in (although he’d just cut a rather large squirrel opening into the wall, which I politely did not point out.)
Meanwhile, the squirrel wasn’t falling for the live-catch trap in the garage. After finding the cage empty for a week, Tom decided to put the trap into the ceiling space where he could hear the pitter-patter of squirrel feet. In order to do that, he’d need to cut another large hole into the ceiling so he could fit it up there.
Obviously, I wasn’t pleased about the squirrels or the holes, but it was out of my hands. A smart woman knows when a man is on a mission and does not interfere with that mission, even when the garage is beginning to look like Swiss cheese. It was man versus squirrel, and a man cannot let a bushy-tailed opponent invade his castle. This was his own suburban version of Caddyshack.
After two weeks, two holes and lots of banging around on the walls with a broom handle, Tom took matters into his own hands. Wearing an orange hard hat, a pair of goggles and heavy gloves, he put a ladder below the hole he’d cut in the ceiling and asked me to stand next to it.
“What am I supposed to be doing here?” I asked, thinking he had some grand plan in mind.
“Just stand there so you’ll be able to tell the ER doctor what happened to me in case this doesn’t go well,” he said.
He climbed the ladder and his head and shoulders disappeared into the hole.
“There are three of them up here!” he said. “They’re burrowing into the ceiling insulation. I’m going in after them!”
Then there was a loud yell – from Tom, although I’m sure the squirrels were probably screaming, too – and then a squirrel jumped down out of the hole, onto Tom’s shoulder, off his back and onto the ground where he sprinted out of the garage. We didn’t see where the other two squirrels went, but we’re hoping they let themselves out of whatever hole they’d come in through. Tom said that, when he reached for the squirrel, all he saw was his furry nemesis flying straight toward his face.
He doused the squirrel’s hideout with a black pepper spray that’s supposed to discourage them from hanging around, and then he climbed back down the ladder sneezing his head off. Score one for the man, zero for the varmints.
Fortunately, we haven’t heard or seen the squirrels return to the walls and ceiling. They’re probably up a tree somewhere telling tales of the monster in the orange hat with wide eyes and big hands who came after them that fateful day. My guess is they’ll keep a safe distance for a while – or at least until we get those two big holes patched.