Close Encounters of the Mammalian Kind
June and July have been intense months, filled with many projects that are bringing us closer to completion of the bathroom and 1st floor bedroom. Plumbing, electrical, more window replacements, fire blocking, drywall prep work have all been on Paul’s work list over the past several weeks, and I’m hoping to get some photos up on a lot of that as things get done. Meanwhile, I’ve been spending most days working on the exterior: weeding, digging out the sidewalks, painting stucco & trim, landscaping, and so on. Point being, we have a lot of projects labelled “ongoing” that therefore don’t lend well to the “here’s what we just finished” format of the blog. So, I’ll be posting more about general goings-on until that changes.
One relatively recent development that has us a bit stumped is a conflict we’ve been having recently with some of the local wildlife. Specifically, a red squirrel and a family of groundhogs. Honestly, we had a not-so-auspicious start to our relationship with the resident mammal population. When we first bought the house, there was a garbage can on the property that had filled with water and then frozen over the winter. As spring came around, the can slowly thawed, until we could tip it over and let most of the water out. However, the middle was still frozen, and as the ice slid out of the garbage can onto the grass, we discovered that it had a freaking tail:
Not 100% how a grey squirrel got turned into a giant squirrel popsicle, but I was horrified. Since then, we’ve just had bad squirrel ju-ju. As we tore out walls and ceilings, we found copious walnut shells from squirrel squatters that had taken advantage of the fact that the previous owner had abandoned the property. Then we found a red squirrel corpse in a cold air return, which was just lovely. But where I think it went from squirrel-conflict to squirrel-war was when a neighborhood red squirrel decided to mess with our renovations.
So, two things happened in short succession that led us to decide that we wouldn’t just passively let nature take its course. The first was when I was filling and priming the old trim on the front room windows (I’ll be doing a post on that soon), and I came outside one day and saw that something had chewed off about 4 inches of the inside edge of the trim for seemingly no reason. We fixed it with wood filler, but I was quite irate. Less than a week later, we saw this:
One of the things we had started doing was sealing holes in the eaves that were allowing access into the wall and ceiling cavities; assumedly how all those walnuts and that one unlucky squirrel had ended up inside the house. So Mr. Jerk-squirrel (this is his name now) decided to make his own door — right through one of our new cedar fascia boards. Oh, it’s on now.
So, Paul bought a live trap, set it in the basement (since that’s where we kept finding walnuts) and put some sunflower seeds in it. That didn’t work at all, so I asked a nature-savvy coworker what he recommended. He said that maybe since the squirrel brought food into the house, he wouldn’t be in “gathering” mode there, and so to put it outside where the squirrel would normally be looking for food. After catching a baby bunny by accident (SO. CUTE.), look who fell for it a few days later:
Paul had read that it’s best to relocate animals on the other side of a major roadway, so he dropped off Mr. Jerksquirrel about 10 miles away on the other side of an interstate. I did read later that some animals such as raccoon and squirrels have been known to come back from up to 25 mile relocations, but so far I don’t think he’s been back.
Additionally, we’ve consistently seen deer on the property, which has always been a pleasant experience. Although, the other night we came back around sunset and saw this young buck standing right outside Paul’s garden:
He looked like a child caught with his hand in a cookie jar… if deer can look guilty. He sprinted off just after Paul snapped the above pic with his phone, hence the bluriness.
Most recently, we have gained a family of new fuzzy neighbors: groundhogs. We’d been seeing some weird disturbances in our grass for a while (clumps of loose soil, squiggling lines of raised grass, etc.), but figured it might be moles or maybe a gopher. But then I caught of glimpse of this guy, nibbling on some clover:
Later we realized that this guy was living on the north side of the house, under a tree that’s right on the property line, and that he wasn’t alone: one morning we walked back there to see one scurry into his hole from the ground, and another climb down from the tree. Just take that in for a minute. Did you know that groundhogs could climb trees? Horrifying.
Anyway, these fuzzballs put Mr. Jerksquirrel to shame — they have a particular penchant for tunneling underneath any area I’ve recently landscaped, completely screwing up said landscaping. Since groundhogs are known to be able to undermine foundations, we’d prefer not to have them living so close to the house. But, we have no idea how to get rid of them. Paul says he’d like to shoot them (some vegetarian he is), but it’s illegal to discharge a firearm within the city limits. So, I’m thinking that we’ll have to try to poison them, which makes my skin crawl, but I just don’t see us being able to trap them at all. Any ideas, readers?