At first, there is just a little gnawing. Then comes the frantic scratching, knocking, thrashing and eventual crazed chattering towards my defenseless husband who has climbed down into the crawl space to see what was the matter.
I’ve only ventured into the hole of doom once in the eight years we’ve lived in this house. To enter, there’s what I call a trapdoor in the floor of the coat closet. Next to the front door. Under the carpet remnant. Behind the sarcophagus. With a 5-foot drop to the damp floor.
Needless to say, I don’t like it down there. Nobody does, although I’ve been told by independent contractors that it’s one of the nicer crawl spaces — they’ve seen a lot worse. What could be worse? A dungeon?
Anyway, someone (meaning my husband) has to go check it out when our cat starts hanging around the floor vents (a bad sign) and our dryer stops drying (an even badder sign). We don’t want to repeat the last unfortunate animal invader incident after ignoring the sounds of oral renovation underneath our living room floor: the time we hosted several generations of raccoons below our feet (but that’s another story).
So, my brave spouse drops into our own version of home purgatory and detects the gravel-crunching of little furry feet. Can’t see him, but by golly, he can sure hurl out every toothy insult known in his extensive squirrel vocabulary.
Being the caring, peace-loving and cheap homeowners that we are, we decide to take the easy route and stack bricks up against the outside air vent where our furry squatter apparently gained access. We assume our nut-eating houseguest had vacated the premises when hubby came on the scene. No biggie. And no major damage except for a little insulation-chewing and rafter-biting. Nothing a little shop vac action can’t remedy.
All is quiet for a few days. We are congratulating ourselves on a problem solved . . . until the dryer vent explodes.
Well, more like disintegrates, with bits of lint spread like snow across the dungeon, (ahem) crawl space. Granted, we’ve been meaning to fix that flimsy vinyl version of the nation’s #1 fire hazard for some time. But now the damage is becoming serious and we know we have a determined customer on our hands. Plus, we feel foolish that a pile of bricks was going to solve the problem, Edgar Allan Poe style.
Being no ordinary dryer vent situation (of course) we call in a specialist who builds us a beautiful metal duct with lots of strapping and elbows, that practically glows in the dark. We’d give tours to visitors, but, well, there’s the whole trapdoor thing.
A few more days of quiet. We breathe a sigh of relief. And then. Could it be? The chewing is back like a tell-tale heart. And by all the evidence, the little beastie is getting his nice, new squirrel condo ready for the winter. We reluctantly decide it’s time to call in the Critter Guy, who previously solved our raccoon invasion (again, another story).
After days of trapping (our squirrel buddy turned out to be a bachelor, luckily), marking, pulling up deck boards and running water through various underground pipes, Critter Guy determines that we had indeed, locked him in, and he had found his way out MacGyver-style through a drain pipe that runs behind our extensive raccoon-proof fortifications.
I also learn way more than I want about pine squirrels. And, that the lovely tree line behind our house which gives us attractive privacy is also the high-rent district for the wild creatures who make themselves at home in our suburbs. The deer, squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks and red-tailed hawks have adapted very well to their shrinking natural habitat.
I guess we have to share.
I am no stranger to squirrel skirmishes. If you are interested, check out Round 1 in the War of the Squirrels.