Late one night, John and I hear scratching in the ceiling above our bed. What could that be? Mice? Rats? Squirrels? The next morning I send John into the attic to investigate and he discovers brown pellets in the insulation. I go to the computer and Google "mice droppings" then "squirrel droppings" to determine what kind of rodent we were dealing with. I found several sites that actually compared the two rodents' poop pellets and the details used in describing the size and shape of each one were pretty impressive. I wondered who studied this stuff? As I was Googling, John was still investigating in the attic. Pretty soon I hear, "Uh, Sweetie, I think I found 'em!" I run up the attic stairs and caaarrrefuuullly walk across the beams to where he is standing. I look into a tiny alcove and see the sweetest little gray faces nestled in the insulation - we had a nest of baby squirrels!!! And here I thought we were done adding to our family!
For the next few days, we researched our options. One, we could call an exterminator and pay beaucoup de money to have them removed. Or, two, we could buy our own traps. Meanwhile, the scratching continues every night and those sweet little faces don't seem so sweet anymore. Finally, one night at about 1:30am I went into the attic to scare them away myself. Not even the light switching on and the sound of the stairs unfolding disturbed them. One little stinker was just sitting on one of the rafters chewing away. I decided this was war, and went to get Chloe, our cat. Granted, she is 16 years old and mostly deaf but she used to be a pretty good mouser in her day. And at this point those cute little squirrels were looking to me no more than rats with fluffy tails! As I carry Chloe up the stairs (she's 16, remember) one little renegade squirrel goes running across the beam right in front of us, shamelessly unafraid. Chloe didn't flinch (I think her eyesight is going, too) and she walked on into the attic to explore. She did find the nest and sat for a while watching it. I went back to bed anticipating the ruckus that would ensue as she chased and tortured and killed them all. I fell asleep to dead silence.
The next morning, I go up into the attic to see what happened and I find Chloe still sitting outside the nest just watching it. Apparently, they've made friends. Good-for-nothing furball!!! At least, she's got her looks!
But I had to give her credit for keeping them quiet, so the next night I decided to send her back into the attic on stakeout. All was good until about 4am when I awoke to meowing . . . Chloe wanted out of the attic. Good for nothing furball!!!
The next night I used wasp spray. I sprayed directly into the nest. Good for 22 feet it said on the can, and you bet it did! Did I feel guilty for drowning the little rats in pesticide? Ummm . . . . . . nope! Because the next night they continued scratching.
Finally, I decided to call the professional, or rather Mom did for me. Guess she was tired of my crabbiness from lack of sleep. The pro told us that the best thing was to catch the mother because the babies were too small to trip the mechanism on the live traps. The babies would likely follow the mom. The cost to come put out the trap for 3 weeks was $250. I told her that I wasn't positive that the mother even entered the main attic area and that she most likely stayed in the alcove where the nest was. She said the best thing then was to catch the babies. She said that even if they grew up and left the attic, they would continue to use that nest all through the winter. Super. And she said that they have a rehoming instinct that will make the babies remember that nest and possibly use it for their own young. Fabulous. She said they could not guarantee that they could catch the mother and babies, but they would still have to charge a service fee for coming to take a look. Excellent. I decided then to take care of business myself!
Since the alcove they were in had only a small opening to the main attic space, I made a plan to barricade them inside their own nest. That would keep them from having a free-for-all every night above my bed. The hole that the mother was using to access the nest was in the roof just above the alcove. So she could still come and go and the babies could leave once they were old enough. When that happened, we could close up the hole and take down the barricade. Problem solved!
I grabbed some random wood scraps, a hammer, and nails and headed into the attic. After one splinter, two smashed thumbs, and lots of itching from the insulation, the barricade was complete. Ha! Ha! That's what you call ingenuity!!!
I went to bed that night happily anticipating a quiet night of deep, contented sleep. And it was just that, . . . until the familiar scratching began all over again. How did those devils get through my barricade??? As I lay there with the radio on loud enough the drown out the scritch-scratching, I knew I was at the end of my rope. My only recourse at this point was to catch them myself. So the next morning, after the girls got off to school, I began the abduction of five baby squirrels.
Here's how it went down . . . first, I had to remove the barricade. That was a little therapeutic, ripping boards down and tearing out nails. Then I gathered my tools - blanket to sit on, leather work gloves, flashlight, wire coat hanger, plastic storage box, and the "grabber" (a toy with a trigger on one end that closes a pair of claws on the other end). The first three babies were easy. They didn't fuss or fight. I simply reached in with the grabber, pinched their tails and dragged them out. Using the work gloves, I placed them into the plastic box. There was a little wiggling and squeaking, but all in all, they were easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy! The fourth one was a little harder. He was bigger than the others and tougher, must've been the big brother. He actually attacked the grabber a few times. But after a lot of poking and banging, I snatched his tail and out he came. The fifth one was almost not caught at all. He had wedged himself up into a crevice that the grabber could not reach. So I had to resort to the wire hanger. After bending it out straight, I stuck it into every little opening I could find. I knew I was close when I would hear him squealing. I didn't want to pierce the little guy, but desperate times and all . . . Finally, I irritated him enough so that he went out through the hole in the roof. I ran (as fast as you can run over attic beams) to the stairs and went down to Rachel Rose's window. I threw it open and stepped out onto the roof. I could see the little guy teetering on the edge of the shingles, so I grabbed Rachel Rose's hobby horse on a stick and poked him until he jumped. I have to say, this little fellow had guts! He landed in the gutter and ran along it until he made it to the holly bush on the corner of our house. He managed to climb into it and for a minute I thought I'd lost him. But as I made my way back through Rachel Rose's window, down the stairs, and out the front door, I knew it was imperative that he be caught. The words of the squirrel professional rang in my ears, "the babies will use the nest for their own young." This beast must be captured.
I went over to the bush which is at least 20 feet tall and looked for shaking branches. Once I'd located the spot he was in, I went to get the hose. I changed the nozzle to 'jet' and turned it on. The poor little guy didn't have a chance, especially once I realized my future sleep for infinity depended on his removal as well as his future offspring. But I have to give him credit, he put up a good fight. I was drenched from the leaky nozzle, muddy, and scratched from the prickly holly leaves. But I managed to deliver the final k.o. and he dropped to the ground, a tiny, wet mess of soggy fur. I picked him up and brought him inside to the box with his brothers and sisters and there he sits. Or, rather, there he lies twitching . . . he's had a rough time.
I called animal control and they gave me the name of a guy who rescues wild animals. He's on his way. I'm glad because they can't survive on their own and they can't go back into my attic! The only other option would be . . . gulp, humanely killing them . . . and I know I don't have the stomach for that. As I sit and watch them, they really are cute! I know, I know - I was spraying them with wasp spray just a few days ago. But they are so tiny, and furry, and sweet, and if I had the time to rehabilitate them and feed them every four hours and keep them warm, maybe, just maybe . . . . . . oh well, there's the doorbell. Time to say goodbye to the little demons!