Friday, January 13, 2012


Garden Bandit, 2005

There’s marsh and river both behind our house and across the street from it. This makes for beautiful views, but living here does require a little more than the usual tolerance of nature and wildlife. I try to remind myself, as a friend reminded me recently, that "we live in their habitat." 
Last summer I described the army of turtles and the occasional snake that dined in my vegetable garden. But they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Ivy will quickly grow into the brick foundation of our house or up into the siding if I don’t cut it back to the ground every month or so. An invasive common reed known as phraigmite has overtaken much of our lawn. Birds nest in all sorts of inconvenient places. Raccoons and opossums get into anything and everything. Snakes slither up gutters and woodpeckers destroy fascia boards in search of wood bees. There’s even the occasional fox. And this doesn’t even get into the wildlife that comes out of the river.
Lately we’ve sensed there might be critters residing in our attic. The main part of it is a large and high space. At our last house we had snakes in the attic. We didn’t like that and were able to finally keep them out. But at least they didn’t make any noise. Here it’s not unusual in the colder months to hear the wee squeaks of rodent love or the pitter patter of teensy feet across the attic floor at night. There are so many squirrels that use our roof as a shortcut between trees that often we can't tell whether they’re on the inside or the outside.
After learning recently that there are roof rats hereabouts, we thought we’d better get a handle on the situation. Roof rats are a little like head lice in children. You think they’re something that only happens in poor neighborhoods. But in fact, they can thrive in any suburban neighborhood, especially in neighborhoods like ours where the lots are large and heavily wooded and there’s lots of water nearby.
On the advice of a friend who’d had a similar problem, I rang up Critter Control. A young man came out that afternoon and after crawling around the attic concluded that we might have either a roof rat or an infestation of flying squirrels.
“Flying squirrels!” I responded. “Like Rocky the Flying Squirrel?”
Indeed, the Critter controller said. He reached into the back seat of his truck and pulled out a small cage containing a frisky little flying squirrel he’d just liberated from another house in our neighborhood.  They’re actually kind of cute little fellows, what with their flat tails, and this one actually did look a little like Rocket J. Squirrel, minus the goggles, of course. But just the same, I don’t want to meet one in the hallway or bathroom.
The critter getter left a variety of traps up in our attic to see what he’d catch. The first night was quiet. The second morning we heard muffled bumping around in the area of the traps. Although not a flying squirrel, we did catch a full size female squirrel. Lest we be accused of operating a revolving door operation here while we wait for the roofer to come seal up the gaps through which these critters are crawling, she’ll be released in a less populated area.
I'm not sure about the logic of relocating squirrels is, given that there must be hundreds of them around here. It's not like one less is going to make a difference. Do squirrels have memory? I guess we'll just have to wait and see what we catch tonight.

[Update: Last night's catch was a flying squirrel and a regular non-flying one.]


  1. Oh, maaaaan--that doesn't sound good. Joe would lose it--he hates the squirrels. Me, I find them highly entertaining. Cute little photo here!

  2. Fortunately, I haven't seen rats on our roof, just cats and squirrels. But I'd rather have squirrels on my roof than cats! I like cats, but I hate it when they make noise at night and scratch their nails on our roof! That gets on my nerves, LOL.