WILDLIFE IS NOT WELCOME INDOORS
am often asked "how do I get flying squirrels out of the attic?"
My son recently asked me this question and did not consider "move,"
"borrow someone's ferret," or "wait till spring when
you can catch a ratsnake" particularly helpful. So I reminded him
of a time when he and his sisters were still living at home and we had
a problem with these adorable nuisances.
four children slept upstairs near the attic, and one winter they complained
constantly that "the squirrels scrambled between the walls all
night." So I decided to set a mammal trap. I used a metal box with
slam?shut doors that mammalogists use to capture small mammals alive,
and the universal bait, peanut butter.
Flying squirrels are cute, with large, dark, attentive eyes. Attached
to their front and back legs on each side of the body is a flap of fur-covered
skin. When the legs are held out, the flap is extended and stretched
flat, permitting the squirrels to glide through the air with the greatest
The trap worked, and while Carol was getting the children ready for
school, I crawled from the attic to show off the catch. Everyone six
humans and three four-legged pets gathered in the living room. All of
us listened to the scurrying inside the metal trap.
Kahlua was our fat black cat, full of stealth. For an instant, the stilettos
at the ends of her toes were unsheathed. I knew she would like to demonstrate
her predatory skills. Martini was a vacuous-eyed cat, much loved for
her inoffensiveness. Her predatory achievements consisted of two trophies.
The first was a car struck robin I had seen dead on the street two days
earlier. Martini presented it to us on the front porch. That same year
she proudly brought us a bright yellow maple leaf, dropping it gently
at our feet. B.D. was a big, cuddly shepherd, the delight of babies
and little children, but a fearsome watchdog. His repertoire of barks
ranged from a meek as a field mouse whimper to a roar that could jeopardize
mail delivery to houses half a block away.
The nine of us, even mild?mannered Martini, gathered around the captured
squirrel as I lifted the door of the trap to peek inside. Our first
ecology lesson of the morning was that flying squirrels can squeeze
through tiny openings. From that point things happened fast.
The squirrel glided from the trap to a chair. Children squealed. B.D.
roared. Martini hid in a closet. And Kahlua made a graceful capture
on the chair, but Jennifer grabbed Kahlua, who released the squirrel
unharmed. Meanwhile, B.D. had knocked down Michael and Susan in an effort
to get to the center of the action. The flying squirrel scampered under
the sofa. Everyone was shouting advice. No one was listening.
As all of us except Martini headed toward the sofa; the squirrel retreated
into the bedroom. Eight of us followed as B.D. and Kahlua led the pack.
When I shoved my way through the door, I saw the squirrel reach the
top of the curtains, take a quick assessment, and sail right over our
heads, back into the hallway.
I rushed into the hall but saw no flying squirrel. We began an anxious
search, looking under furniture and behind curtains. B.D. was sniffing.
Kahlua pretended to be aloof and disinterested. No flying squirrel.
Carol was not happy.
Things had calmed down, and still casting inquiring looks around the
room, the children prepared to leave. Then Laura picked up her sweater.
The squirrel glided out of a sleeve and into the dining room. More barking,
more squealing, more loud advice. I finally caught the thing under the
dining room table, got bitten on the hand, said some bad words, and
hurled it into the air. In the blink of a cat's eye it scampered up
the stairs, through the attic door I had left open.
Carol decreed we would trap no more flying squirrels. As an ecologist
who had been defeated, I declared we should learn to live with our native
wildlife. We still listened to flying squirrels all night until springtime,
when ratsnakes became active.
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