I make apps for other people


Posted by Chris Jones
On October 7th, 2005 at 08:14

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I had a small problem that could quickly turn into a nasty one. I had a squirrel nesting in my attic.

We’ve had birds come in through a hole between the roof and gutter (thank you MI Homes for ensuring all those important details are taken care of when the house is built)–it wasn’t visible unless you were at the correct angle on a ladder next to it, or if you went into the attic and turned off the flashlight. Each spring, we’d scratch our heads, trying to figure out a good way to permanently block the hole (and failing in our attempts), and end up with a nest of baby birds that would leave by mid-summer. It wasn’t a great situation, but it was tolerable.

That is, it was tolerable until the squirrel moved in, kicked the birds out, and started gnawing at things to improve his nest.

I figured out it was a squirrel about a week ago while taking the dogs out. He leapt from the downspout on the back side of the house, and took off for the woods. I went up into the attic and saw damage to the plywood–although the electrical wire next to his nest appeared untouched. (If it’s the outside light to the porch, the bulb is burned out, but we’ve had the switch turned on for months.) I got some hardware cloth from the store, went into the attic to try to scare the squirrel away, and then set to work constructing wire forms for the gutter: hopefully, these would serve to keep the birds out next year, and wouldn’t impede water flow. However, the hole was still accessible, and while smaller, I had no illusions about the ability of a squirrel to push hardware cloth around to make it easier to enter. That’s when I had my vision.

Would you enter a room where the door is blocked with razor wire? Of course not, but you’re not a squirrel. I cut the hardware cloth into evil shapes: loops, prickly wires, chains of spikes. It was like concertina wire for rodents. I blocked the wire boxes in the gutters with spikey balls of partially dismembered hardware cloth. I made the entrance to the squirrel’s nest as unappetizing as possible.

Damn thing was more stubborn and stupid than I am.

My wife found screen (from my last attempt to block the hole–destroyed by birds) that had once been tarred to the gutter and underside of the shingles on the front stoop. Later, I found a piece of asphalt shingle there as well. My wife heard the squirrel either in, or trying to get into the attic. Opening the garage door would scare him out of his nest and off the roof, but the critter had found another way into the attic, enlarged a hole, or ignored the mayhem I had left in his path.

My wife vetoed the idea of a rifle, scope, and fried squirrel for dinner. She wanted a humane trap, and I can’t blame her. We both like squirrels (when they live in trees), and they do look a lot like prairie dogs or especially cute rats, and we have had rodents as pets for a decade. However, when it comes down to a dead squirrel and our house burning down (causing death for us or our pets), I’m going to pick the dead squirrel.

Again, stubbornly refusing to believe that the squirrel won’t give up his nest with winter weather weeks away, I attached another set of gothic hardware cloth discouragements to his favorite corner of the house. He would, apparently, climb the vinyl siding along the corner, this being much easier than a tree, and softer on his paws, leaving them supple and attractive. That’s where I placed, seven feet above the ground, what looked like a squirrel funnel. More spikes, loops of wire, and hardware cloth barely attached to the house. Secretly, I hoped the squirrel would impale itself on the spikes, bloodily dragging it into the woods, or that it would leap past the hardware cloth, catch and break a leg, and die a victim of the neighbor’s viscious cat. What really happened is that the squirrel took a look at my impediment, pushed it out of the way for climbing up the side of the house, and when it wanted to get down, would leap from eight or nine feet in the air, land on the ground, and bolt for the trees. Curses! Foiled again, plus my wife was angry because I put something very ugly on the side of the house.

Our living room, previously home of squirrel gnawing and scratching noises, grew quieter after that. I thought, “Maybe I’ve scared it off. Maybe all the time I’ve spent in the backyard with Morticia the puppy has shown it that I’ll defend my territory. Maybe I won’t have to put cat poop in my gutter to try to scare it away.” After two days without squirrel noises, I could almost forget about our little visitor–I was still going to have to get a humane trap this weekend, and we planned to catch and release the little bugger someplace rural. (Somehow, I don’t think my wife would go for a downtown Cincinnati release location. I swear, I’ve seen squirrels here.)

Since it was supposed to start raining last night, I decided to look at the roof to see what, if any, damage was actually done by the squirrel. That’s when I saw the fur.

My first thought was, “Huh, I guess he lost some fur on the spikes. Serves him right for trying to burn down my house.” Then I looked from a greater distance in the yard: there were two big lumps of fur: a tail and a corpse. I was delighted. My wife, less so. “You killed a squirrel! I hope you feel bad about that, because it was just looking for a home, and it had to die a horrible, painful death.” . . . uh huh. To tell the truth, this is one of the best things to happen to me all week.

Apparently, my wire barrier turned into a snare. The squirrel, flattening its body through the loops to get into my attic, was caught; I haven’t pulled the body down to figure out how yet, but it could easily have been the throat or legs.

I’m torn about how to deal with the corpse. I have to remove it, that’s certain. I figure that I’ll just put it in a couple grocery bags and send it to the landfill with the rest of the garbage. But I’ve also had a couple thoughts. In college, my wife and I found a racoon skeleton, which we collected, boiled, and kept (somewhere in our bedroom closet, we have 75% of the racoon skeleton–the skull is really cool)–I could do the same thing to the squirrel, by putting it near an ant mound to strip it clean, then collect the bones in a month to boil and decoratively mount, say, on top of the television.

My vindictive side feels differently, however: I need to teach the squirrels a lesson, something they won’t forget. They aren’t going to be allowed to enter my house, damage my roof, and get away with it. I need to put spikes in the gutter, and squirrel skulls atop that. They need to see that they can’t enter my demense without consequences, and that if I catch them, they’ll surely die.

I can’t feel guilty, because I tried to scare it off, blockade it from entering, and make my home as unappealing to it as possible. I’ve banged on walls, gone into the attic, blocked entrances, blocked approaches to the roof: I did what I could. But his presence was a risk to my family and home. You can’t let a rabid dog roam the neigborhood, and you can’t let a squirrel nest in your attic if you plan to keep using electricity as part of your lifestyle.

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