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Squirrel Appreciation Day? Hmmm…

Well, Monday was one of my favorite holidays, right up there with Thanksgiving. We celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I did work, but I work teaching others and I think teaching/learning are reasonable pursuits on that sort of holiday. I have written long essays on this day in previous years. I am not writing about it today, but that is not to say that the holiday escaped me. It definitely did not.

However, I was reading the comments on Stephanie’s Yarn Harlot blog the other day, and someone mentioned a Squirrel Appreciation Day. And it’s on the same day as Dr. King’s day? Amazing. I admit that the date of Dr. King’s celebration changes because of Monday holidays, but I found it impossible to understand the idea of a Squirrel Appreciation Day at all, and to have it compete with MLK Day was surreal.

I remember a friend from New Zeeland who moved here for several years. She says the first few weeks they were here, they used up much photographic film trying to get good shots of those adorable squirrel creatures. They seemed so exotic!

But for me? If Dr. King is about peace, then squirrels are not. We have one spectacular tree, and from it a squirrel can get on our roof. From there, he/she can get into enough mischief to cause my house damage and me a bit of jangled nerves.

We had a squirrel when I moved here, who was fat and fearless. I think someone was feeding him and I was not amused. He would come up on the step and when you yelled at him to go away, he just looked at you. As in, are you bringing me food now? Quite spooky. They live near humans but they do not usually get along with us quite that well. They should rightfully be a bit afraid.

One day we found squished squirrel in the road and that one stopped coming around so we think it was him. As Kenny says, Curiosity Killed the Cat, and Indecision Killed the Squirrel. They are always trying to figure out which tree is closest to run up if they are startled, and sometimes they head to the closest but not safest tree (or phone pole). Maybe I’m a squirrel, I suffer from indecision myself, though it has never threatened my life at this point.

When I moved here there was a protected spot on the roof where a lot of angles came together, where the squirrels had gnawed a hole and were trying to get through to the attic on the other side. Our neighbor at the time, Marvin, put a metal plate there with a plywood board over it, and that ceased to be an issue.

Then this year I kept hearing “someone” up in the attic, at all hours of day or night. We have had birds before but this one seemed to be scurrying in a way a bird would not. I figured it was a squirrel. We found that one was going in and out the vents on the roof. We got new animal-proof vents. And the sounds did not stop.

So about a week ago I talked to friend/musician/woodsman Paul Bennett and mentioned the squirrels. He didn’t miss a beat. He said, they are traveling in the gutters of your roof, look for a low spot on the very edge, and they get in the attic by chewing a hole through the roof boards, underneath the very last bottom shingle.

squirrelhole.jpg

So a few days ago, I heard it again. And I went outside. It was the perfect weather for the discovery… and sure enough, it was a piece of cake to find it once Paul had described the situation. On the front of the house where we added on the new porch several years ago, there is a side gutter. And there was clearly a little entry hole, and even squirrel tracks going from the gutter a foot or so from that hole up to the top of the roof. Wow.

Well, then I read about squirrel appreciation day. I personally am afraid for my house, that the rodent will gnaw through electrical wires or something. I’m a little less worried about the things stored in the attic, though no doubt it could become bedding for the furry little pest.

But I read the whole page written by the Founder of Squirrel Appreciation Day. And I read that the animals do not like the scent of mint, and if you put peppermint oil on a cottonball in the attic space, they will vacate. This sounded too good/simple to be true.

I had a cottonball, and I had some very strong Eucalyptus oil, which is to me even more obnoxious than peppermint. So I put some oil on the ball and put it in the one attic door I could reach easily. I can get Brian to help me go into the one other door near the squirrel area when he gets home.

I’m crossing my fingers. I am not one to put out bait, and closing up the hole could trap the dude inside which could be very bad. I really want this furry tenant to go his merry way without a formal eviction of any sort.

As I type this I can hear someone up there walking around. It’s really spooky. Let’s face it, we are humans on earth and we make little climate-controlled boxes to keep ourselves warm and protected. But we are not in charge of nature, and animals are much more resourceful than humans are in cases like this.

While researching this column, I found a web page that says in Council Bluffs, Iowa it may be illegal to do what I am doing.

City Attorney Richard Wade said roughly in the 1930s, the City Council adopted an ordinance barring people from bothering black squirrels.

According to the ordinance, it is illegal to annoy, worry, maim, injure or kill the squirrel.

My squirrel is red. Go, cottonball!

4 Responses to “Squirrel Appreciation Day? Hmmm…”

  1. Louisa Says:

    Ours our black or grey, but they’re not native to our area. Some idiot (I had worse names in mind but will control myself) figured that we needed some of the ones he grew up with in Eastern Canada so he imported a few. Now they infest our city (to the detriment of the actual native squirrels) and I haven’t had one unchomped walnut or hazelnut off my trees in 10 years. They even bit through our expensive Christmas lights this year and are currently eating all my rhododendron buds. No appreciation here. I hates them! They are evil incarnate. And frankly I’m scared of them too.

  2. Mom Says:

    We had a red squirrel one year in late fall. It got into the attic. We had a critter control fellow try to catch it. No luck. He told us to wait until the warmest part of the day to put screening over the vents and plugged all holes we could find. That night around 7:30, we heard a kerplunk. It had squeezed its body through the tiny spot it pulled to get in where the screen was. A trap with peanut butter did nothing. Finally we used an electric “white sound” and that pluged in kept it away for a while. It came back again. This time it was not quick enough to get across the road. End of the red squirrel.

  3. Howlin' Hobbit Says:

    I must admit, I like squirrels. I do realize that they’re really rats with fuzzy tails and good PR, but I like ’em anyways. They’re uppity. I like uppity.

    Me and my sweetie lived a couple years in this apartment that had two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and the living room, dining room, kitchen and a WC downstairs. Out back was a patio with a fence that ran the length of the building. The fence was a veritable squirrelly highway. (It was also a resting place for about a bazillion of the basic little brown birds because of feeders a few apartments down and the occasional perch for the merlin that thought it was a lunch counter… but that’s another story.)

    Our housemate had occasionally fed the hairy little guys and we continued the process when we moved in. We kept a bag of peanuts on a shelf that was just inside the sliding glass door that led to the patio. One hot summer day we had the door open and someone had not completely closed the screen.

    We heard a noise and it was a squirrel, happily nosing about in the bag of peanuts, looking for the prime one.

    It was like… “No, don’t get up! I can handle this myself.”

    We shooed him out (and tossed him a peanut) but remembered to keep the screen door closed from then on.

  4. mac+ Says:

    Squirrels! Years ago we had an above-ground pool in our backyard…and we also had an aquatic squirrel. The silly thing kept going to the pool to get a drink and falling in. That summer we had all kinds of pieces of styrofoam floating in the pool – and yes, the squirrel did learn to grab on and float until rescued.

    It was all really funny – until the thing fell into a gap in the winter cover. We discovered what was left of him in the spring. He had eaten a hole through the liner and gone to squirrel heaven.

    That was the spring that we replaced quite a bit of the pool.

    Sorry, I don’t appreciate them much.

    mac+

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