Monday, March 29, 2010

Day 88 - Squirrel

My intention today was to write about my group run at lunch. The usual crew, but Monday's hold the promise of stories of weekend misadventures or house projects gone awry.

Unfortunately, this run... all of it... was dominated by topics that I can't type in mixed company. How we got from a simple conversation about handling a natural urge that hits every runner sooner or later, to discussing what has to be one of the most disgusting videos of all time (which thankfully I haven't seen), I don't understand. And I was there. Trust me, you don't want to know. It was one of my fastest runs of the year, mostly because I wanted it to end as quickly as possible.

Instead, we're going to talk about squirrels. Specifically, my squirrels.

I don't own the squirrels. They aren't pets. They do live on my property. And we are at war.

I should mention that I live in an established (old) neighborhood with lots of trees. I love the trees. They keep my house remarkably cool in the summer. I tolerate the leaves in the fall. In the winter, I cross my cold fingers that a limb won't succumb to the weight of the snow and ice and amputate my family room.

Trees, and wooded areas in general, mean animals. Mammals. Rodent mammals. It's the price we pay.

It started the first week I moved into my house. The former owners had a squirrel feeder nailed to a tree. One of these classy numbers.
Look! He's sittin' in the little chair! Isn't that precious?!? Uhg.

I thought for a few minutes about lowering it, turning it into a dog feeder. The budding Buddhist in me won out and I chucked it.

A few days later, walnuts began falling. Falling really close to where I was in the yard. Nowhere else. Just around me. I took these as warning shots.

The next Christmas I retrieved my (fake) Christmas tree from the shed. Unpacking it for assembly I noticed a wad of shredded newspaper and leaves and twigs. One of the little buggers had made the tree its winter villa.

Ever tried to wash a fake Christmas tree?

Last fall I heard the unmistakable sound of walnuts rolling. The sound was coming from the roof. I wish. It was the ceiling. Somehow the furry terrorist had made his way into the house.

After a few days of scouting, I found the hole he'd made for himself hidden cleverly between the gutters and the shingles. Out of sight unless you were on a ladder, looking for such a hole.

Here's what we call a "learning opportunity." If you find yourself harboring a squirrel against your will, and should you find a hole through which the furry little squatter makes his entry, you might want to make sure the squirrel is outside - this is important - outside the house when you repair the hole.

In most cases, the varmint will die. My critter must have stashed enough walnuts to get him through the winter.  He seemed to be having a wonderful winter vacation in my attic.

He even tried to make friends. One afternoon the boys were upstairs playing in their room. To their surprise, and that word is a woeful understatement, they found a walnut on the oldest boy's pillow. A gift. Or maybe a threat.

Traumatic as this was for the boys, this was a valuable piece of intelligence. The squirrel liked the boy's room.

Traps were set. Humane traps. I'm not cruel. I had a small trap left over from the chipmunk war of '08. I added to the arsenal a larger trap, just in case this was a big squirrel.

Weeks of bait testing and cage placement almost paid off. Yesterday the small trap was sprung, but I'd neglected to put the locks in place. The slippery game had escaped half a second after he was trapped.

This morning, it was my turn.

He got greedy. He got caught.

Still in bed, I heard the trap spring shut. Then the clawing and chewing at the cage. Sounds of victory.

I call him "Scratchy"

Retrieving the cage, the invader went spastic. The clawing and chewing and pacing were frantic.

When I placed the cage in the trunk, he went silent. Can't blame him I guess. If you trap me and put me in a trunk, I'd shut-up, too.

I released the prisoner to the woods by my office - a good 9 miles, a several heavily trafficked roads, from my attic.

After watching him scurry off to the woods, I realized that these are the same woods that I run in.

I hope he doesn't hold a grudge. And own power tools. Otherwise, one day out on a trail run I might find myself in a big trap, baited with a plate of french fries.

Good running,

Numbers: 4.3 miles, good pace. Bad topics of conversation. Reminded me why I run alone most days.