Cheryl Kimball Nature Talks: Rodents generally is a nuisance | Outside


A few weeks ago, I heard a gnawing noise while working in my second floor office. I followed the sound to its source and found a gray squirrel peeking in a gable window on the opposite side of the house overlooking the sloping roof of the porch and garage.

The squirrel didn’t give in to “Hey, get out of here!” Scare off. and just went back to gnawing. I rattled on the window and knocked on a pane just hard enough not to break it. That sent the squirrel over the garage roof. It was sitting on the other edge, looking back at the window to think about the next step to complete the break-in. Then it disappeared over the garage roof to the back yard. But I knew this wasn’t over.

Sure enough, over the next few weeks, I got up from work a few more times to scare the squirrel away. And then one morning when I was driving back from the garage, I looked up and gasped at the damage the squirrel had already done. Window sills on the two windows at this end of the house were partially chewed away. Shingles were gnawed around the edges, exposing raw wood under the paint under Sherwin Williams Farmhouse Red. “We have to do something about it,” I thought. And when I got home from my job, of course, I had forgotten the damage.

Until the next gnawing episode. I shooed the squirrel off and opened the inside window and the combination tower. Armed with Febreeze, which rodents hate, I sprayed the threshold and the surrounding area with it. A temporary fix until we figure out what to do. So far, so good.

At least so good for this attempted break-in location. The other day we heard loud gnawing from the one-story extension at the back of the house. I looked out the dining room window and saw a gray squirrel that was obviously stuck trying to exit a vent on the side of the annex. The vent holes were installed and covered with wire caps to keep the roof above the ceiling cooler and to avoid ice dams. The wire caps did not seem to keep rodents away.

I went to the back of the house to encourage the squirrel to try a little harder to get out of the hole. Then I would cover it. She was clearly a pregnant woman. I found a few items that I thought I could help with the extraction, including my long, heavy “raptor gloves” that I keep in my car. And I got a broom to hold on to.

My husband had gone to the back of the house to witness this escapade. When I got there, the squirrel had come out, turned, went back in, and was now stuck in the opposite direction. When my cousin posted the picture for this column on Facebook, he said, “Well, it’s difficult to judge the size of the entrances if they’re not quite your normal size.”

My brave husband put on large gloves and a chainsaw hard hat with face shield and climbed a short ladder to pull the squirrel out. As he gently grabbed her back legs and bum, she propped herself against the edge of the hole with her elbows. She didn’t move. We were in disbelief that this squirrel was so strong and couldn’t come out backwards. We were at a loss as to what to do.

With her bum hanging out and her back legs hanging out, she was panting quite hard and we felt bad for her. My husband turned from the ladder and said, “I can just slide it in.” I nodded and he did. We haven’t seen her since. She is likely to have her February babies (there will probably be May babies and maybe even an autumn litter) in the small area between the ceiling and the roof of our extension any moment now.

We could probably have caught them. But what then? Resettlement of animals at this time of year is almost certainly death – they don’t have food caches in the new area and would likely be highly challenged by residents to provide resources in mid-winter. I have no interest in harming an animal, and yet I don’t want them to harm my home.

I could stop feeding the birds – 8-10 healthy gray squirrels eat black oil sunflower seeds every day – but the many old giant oak trees that line our lawns along the road provide plenty of food. I think I will have to become a skilled squirrel hunter sometime in early to midsummer and take them on a little trip to another location to reduce the local herd during a more forgiving season. I just hope they don’t fall under government pandemic travel restrictions.