First there was “Einstein the Mouse”.
We had moved into our present home and we looked with wonder at everything around us – plenty of space for our family, a large garden. We were taken with the usual garden animals – squirrels, birds, even the occasional raccoon.
One day, it became clear that a mouse had forsaken the garden and was roaming around inside. This is never good news but finally we concluded that there was no room for both ourselves and a mouse in the same house. Before we had reached that conclusion, we tried several non-lethal removal methods. Memory escapes me now as to exactly what methods we tried but nothing worked. Hence the “Einstein” nickname.
Eventually we resorted to the loathsome glue traps and Einstein’s survival instincts met their match.
Two weeks ago I was quietly sitting on the couch in our sunroom, working at my computer. The door to the living room was open. Suddenly, I sensed motion and I screamed. This time a squirrel was skidding through the door.
Frankly, it was clear to me that if the squirrel could have screamed, it would have done so as well. Instead, it flung the piece of bread that it was clutching – bread which had been scattered for the birds outdoors – and took off. I was in hot pursuit. Exactly what I could have done had I somehow cornered it was not clear to me, but I surely couldn’t have a squirrel loose in the house!
But, how had this squirrel gotten into the house?
We have screens on all the windows as well as on all the doors to the outside. We even had put a metal covering on the chimney because we had an unwelcome squirrel ancestor literally drop in many years ago. That too was a learning experience as what goes down does not necessarily want to go up. On that occasion, we rented a humane trap from the ASPCA, and that squirrel found itself relocated.
Meanwhile, our new squirrel friend raced through the house, into the kitchen. It leapt onto one of the screens and began biting it madly. Strange behavior for a squirrel but later we found a hole already chewed through that selfsame screen and the mystery of the squirrel’s entry was solved. Instead of letting the squirrel chew its way out, I made the mistake of sweeping it off the screen with a broom. Of course, the squirrel took off again and I eventually lost sight of it when it dove under a living room couch.
What to do?
I did ascertain that the squirrel was not under the couch but where was it hiding?! A thorough search of the whole house yielded no clues. My first step was to close every room door in the house as well as every closet door to isolate it. In this situation, a big house was definitely a disadvantage.
We got up the next morning and first examined each room on the main floor. The presence of urine and scat on the windowsills of the sun room told us which room was the squirrel’s new home. But I had searched every conceivable opening that a squirrel could wiggle into. Seemingly, the only reasonable possibility was the open air conditioning vent under the sofa.
Several days went by. We tried using a small humane trap baited with peanut butter and carrot. Nothing!
We tried opening a window after removing the screen. Nothing!
After all, how many days can a squirrel live without food and water?!
After five days, we found a service that traps animals that have entered homes. They agreed that the vent was the only reasonable hiding place.
They used a bigger trap, more peanut butter. Nothing.
Three more days went by. The trapper looked thoroughly through the room again. The only other possible option seemed to be another fireplace despite the screen being in place.
At this point, there was nothing to lose. The trap was moved closer to the fireplace. The next day, nothing.
We finally removed the screen from a window where the squirrel kept leaving its waste. The next morning, there were no new waste deposits. Wonderful! We waited a few more days to be sure that it was gone.
It seems to me that we have now met “Einstein the Squirrel”!
If you have enjoyed this piece, you will like my book, A Habit of Seeing: Journeys in Natural Science.