Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Terrorist Squirrels

Home Invasion

Our home was invaded last winter by squirrels (eastern gray squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, for the scientifically minded); well, if we are talking about science and literary accuracy, it was less of an invasion and more of a protracted and persistent rodent terrorist attack contained to our roof and attic area—yet right outside our bedroom window. Sharp-toothed business. Two squirrels had originally gained entry by eating away, relentless and persistently, at our wooden fascia, the exterior area between the roof and the second floor. The wooden beam was weathered by age (house built in 1979), and the squirrels likely took advantage of the weakness to make a home. The family of two moved in, soon becoming four when the female gave birth to two during the spring. The level of noise instantly doubled, as did our irritability.

My wife and I, and occasionally our two children, suffered through the winter and early spring with the daily noises the family of squirrels made, including the exuberant running around and squirrel chirping at between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. To put it simply, our sleep was disturbed as was our peace and enjoyment of our home. I often threatened to do the squirrels physical harm—sleep deprivation will do that—but taking such measures is against municipal by-laws and provincial and federal conservation laws; and besides, my children were adamant that the squirrels not be harmed in any way. I did not want my two boys' father to be known as a "squirrel murderer." Or a Sciuridaephobe.

So, I resisted my impulses and desires to take care of the "squirrel problem" quickly and painlessly, even though it would have seemed like a rational choice given the circumstances. After all, I have legal title to my home, and the squirrels do not. Before this home invasion, I used to find squirrels cute and irresistible, not unlike other liberal democratic westerners raised in the city. When I was a youngster I fed the squirrels from my balcony, and one time I coaxed one inside our kitchen by using a trail of peanuts; I was proud of my accomplishment. It was fine until my mother entered the kitchen and started screaming; the squirrel scampered out frightened, or so I thought. I also used to periodically feed squirrels in public parks, until it became illegal. [see here.]

So, until recently, my personal experience and dealings with squirrels were always pleasant and at a distance. Up close and personal I found out a few unpleasant facts about squirrels. Squirrels are persistence creatures. A pregnant squirrel will chip away, using her sharp incisors, at the edges of a place it wants to enter, in hopes of making a nest; the animal is persistent and determined in her task. For her, it's important, urgent; for the other squirrels less important. For the humans whose attic, she's attempting to invade, it's a nuisance. Yet the squirrel remains committed to her task, since that is what squirrels do. There is no persuading them to do otherwise. They are immune to reason, to legal titles, to moral persuasion.

We eventually called a reputable humane squirrel-removal service, who were able to evict our unwelcome house guests, spray a deodorizer and animal repellent and block all possible entry points with a squirrel-resistant steel mesh. Our neighbour and I shared the $1,000 cost—our homes are adjoining—but it was worth every penny for a good night's sleep. After a few weeks, the squirrels made a few noble attempt to gain entry, trying to chew through the steel mesh, making some noise in the process. They were unsuccessful, and have not returned. The defences are holding. Needless to say, my view of squirrels has been coloured by my experiences, and needless to say I view them as rodents with nice bushy tails, cute facial gestures, but little more. The squirrels don't consider themselves terrorists, and many nature and animal lovers would disagree with my views, seeing the bushy-tailed rodents as cute and lovable.

Let them have the squirrels; I am happy they are gone.


  1. Once my daughter Eve lived in third-floor apartment where a tree touched the living room window. Every day, a squirrel entered and typed on the computer. Then it left. The squirrel was named Shorty.
    Eventually, Eve moved for reasons having nothing to do with Shorty.

    1. It's obvious that Shorty was more the literary type.


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