December 6, 2013 at 7:25 PM by Dr. Drang
My family lives in a two-story house with an attached garage. At the junction of the main part of the house with the garage, the slope of the garage’s roof runs up into the eave of the main roof, and for reasons I’ve never understood, there’s an opening in the soffit under the main eave at that intersection. When we first moved into the house twenty years ago, I went up on the garage roof and covered the opening with screen because I was afraid birds would go up through it and nest in our attic. The screen held for twenty years.
In the past few days, however, we’ve heard some suspicious noises. At this time of year, squirrels are always running across our roof as they go into that manic phase before winter hits, but these sounds seemed closer than the roof. I poked my head up in the attic a couple of times and never saw any evidence of animals nesting. Still, the noises were just too close.
When I saw that my protective screen had been pulled out of place, I knew the jig was up. I really don’t feel like climbing the roof at this time of year, so I’m hoping I can trap whatever critters are getting up in there, move them out of the neighborhood, and fix the screen in the spring. Today I put a couple of traps up in the attic, baited with bread and peanut butter. It wasn’t long before I heard frantic metallic rustling.
My expectation was that I’d find a squirrel in one of the traps; my fear was that I’d find a racoon instead. I wasn’t afraid of the racoon itself. Our attic is unfinished with blown insulation over fiberglass batts. To get from one place to another, you have to step carefully on the ceiling joists—a step in the wrong place will put your foot though the drywall. My fear was that I’d lose my balance walking back to the attic entry hole while carrying a cage with a heavy, angry, thrashing racoon.
Luckily, it was just a squirrel, and though he was angry and thrashing, he wasn’t heavy enough to throw me off balance. But when I reached the scuttle hole to come down out of the attic, I had a new fear. The cage, one of Havahart’s medium-sized live-animal traps, was too big to fit through the hole without being tilted.
In my imagination, one of the doors would open as I tilted the cage and came down the ladder, and instead of having an angry squirrel in a cage in my attic, I’d have an angry squirrel running all through my house. But thanks to the fine work of Havahart’s engineers, the door held and I got the squirrel out of the house and into the trunk of my car without incident.
My first thought was to take him to the same place I take the chipmunks we trap and release: a nearby entrance to a local prairie preserve that just happens to be adjacent to the house of an old boss of mine. I’ve released countless chipmunks
in his yard near that entrance over the years. But that’s only about half a mile from my house, and a squirrel has a bigger brain than a chipmunk, so I decided to play it safe and go to another of the preserve’s entrances a couple of miles away. The squirrel shot off into the preserve as soon as I opened the trap door.
The trap is rebaited and back up in the attic. I know at least one other squirrel has been up there because as I was picking up the cage to take away the first one I saw the bushy tail of another poking up through the now-unscreened opening. I hope it takes the bait before bedtime. If not, I’m going up to remove the trap. The last thing I want is to have my wife punching me awake at 3:00 am to go up and get it.