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Nicholl: Expert tactics for handling household wildlife
As I was driving home, I heard the familiar tone of a new text message coming in.
Being a law-abiding driver, I waited until I was home and in my kitchen before I pulled out the phone.
The text read: “Mom be careful when you walk back in the house. There’s a squirrel.” A squirrel?
Since I was already in said house, I screamed “WHERE?” and jumped onto the nearest chair.
I wasn’t sure what squirrel panic protocol was, but since a squirrel is closely related to a mouse, I figured I needed to be off the floor.
My daughter came in, rather too relaxed, I think, and said, “There it is—on the mantel.”
Sure enough, beside a plant, a painting and my daughter’s artwork was the terrified squirrel.
“It was crawling over the painting before,” my daughter explained.
“How did it get in?” I asked, stupidly, looking at the wide-open, glass sliding door.
Then, I worried about our cat and her carnivorous take on the situation.
“She locked in my room. She was sitting down here watching. The squirrel was going nuts and shrieking—that’s what I heard.”
The squirrel gave out another shriek.
“That’s her bark,” my daughter said.
“Well, how do we get it out?”
Our household has experienced wildlife on the premises before.
Our cat seems to like to bring in mice and birds as toys or presents.
For mice, after we’ve all screamed for a bit, we get our bearings on the geography of the room, strategically block the escape routes and force it to confinement.
The last time this happened was about a month ago and three minutes before we were to show prospective buyers our home.
My daughter’s friend Ryan, who just happened to be in the wrong house at the wrong time, got forced into taking part in the covert manoeuvre.
“I think it’s dead.”
“It’s in shock…OH NO! It’s going into the living room…no the hallway.”
“Chase it out the door!”
We were at our organized best.
“You hold it there. Don’t let it go upstairs and I’ll get the bucket,” I instructed.
“MOOOOM. It’s going up the stairs.”
“No, it’s just on the first stair.”
“OK. Stay calm. Block the exits. I’ve got the bucket.”
The bucket is the hardest part. You have to get close to the mouse and quickly zap it over top.
There is no margin of error.
We, being a diplomatic family, put Ryan on bucket patrol. He was the calmest in the menacing situation.
The mouse moved off the stair and Ryan got the bucket over the mouse. I secured it with 12 textbooks and a phone book.
“Just leave it there,” I said. “Mice can’t live without water for 24 hours. It’ll be dead tomorrow.” I don’t want to know these mouse facts, but I do.
My children looked at me. “You…you…can’t do that.”
“What do you think I usually do?” Often the bucket is there for three days, just to be sure.
Suddenly, the children had tiny consciences or maybe they didn’t want guests to know we were murderers.
“Well, you could slip a piece of cardboard underneath and take it outside – far, far, away, as in Peachland.”
They looked at me.
“I’m not doing it.”
Sure, enough. Ryan got roped in. The mouse was free—psychologically scarred, but free.
I admit, it was the moral choice and probably better to show the house without an unexplained bucket and stack of books.
We are also adept at handling birds. Birds are a bit trickier because they have the element of flight, but they are much dumber than mice.
Hunter Mimi brought a bird in recently and we watched as the little birdie jumped and fluttered up onto the windowsill and started pecking at the window.
Sure, it’s funny for a while, until you realize the bird will do this for 12 days before it figures out the window isn’t going to open into the wilds.
We scared the bird into movement, so it flapped around the kitchen and then went to the hallway—the opposite direction of the two open doors.
We quickly opened the front door a few feet away, but the bird, in its lack of wisdom, flew upstairs.
We cornered the bird in the spare bedroom, pulled off the screen from the opening window, closed the door and hoped it would find its way out.
By the next morning, the bird was still pecking at the glass of the window that didn’t open. It was finally out by the afternoon.
The squirrel, however, was a bit different.
“Maybe we should put out some food by the door,” my daughter suggested.
I put a couple pieces of cat food by the open door and called, “Here, chippy, chippy,” apparently turning it into a chipmunk.
“Chippy? His name is Wallace,” my daughter said.
“Wallace?” She must have bonded with it more than I thought.
We clapped and shouted to scare Wallace into movement and he quickly scampered off the mantel, onto the chair, gave a final shriek, and then exited the doorway.
Clearly, the smartest animal we’ve dealt with.
Shelley Nicholl is the author of The Case for Having Children…and other assorted irrational ideas, and owns Mad Squid Ink, a professional writing service.