The other Sunday night, I was working hard to get some stories in so I could get to a bunch of other very pressing matters and my phone rang. It was my mother calling from Chapel Hill. When I picked up, I knew right away that she was petrified.
“A squirrel is in the house!” she exclaimed.
Two days earlier, a squirrel had come down her chimney and her friends had chased it right back up the chimney – or so they thought, at least, since the squirrel had been nowhere to be found since then.
And, after two days of no sign of it in the house, my mother had been certain the squirrel was gone. However, Sunday night right before she called me, she’d returned from dinner at a friend’s house and found wood shavings, urine stains and other telltale destruction in the house.
Now, this isn’t the first time she’s had a squirrel in the house. Last year one got in somehow and lived there for nearly a week while she was on vacation in New Jersey. That squirrel had completely demolished the place – gnawing off window panes, breaking glasses, furiously ripping down curtains and blinds, shredding furniture, pooping and urinating all over the place – you name it.
Now, there are a couple of things to mention here …
(A) The fact that my mother had a squirrel in her house again was kind of surreal to me because I’ve never ever in my life had a squirrel in my house once, or even known anyone who has – except for my mother who had now had a squirrel twice.
(B) My mother had just finished redoing her entire house with all new everything – new rugs, new furniture, new window treatments, new bedding, etc. In fact, she’d just put the final touches on it and it looked like a house out of Southern Living magazine.
There are several reasons why I think it was the same squirrel as before.
Remarkably, after the brilliant squirrel trappers arrested that squirrel last year they had released it where?
In my mother’s back yard. Agghhh. Every day after that, you could see the squirrel outside looking longingly in through the patio doors.
Just like a year ago, the squirrel was apparently waiting until my mother went on vacation. This time, she’d been packing for a trip to Atlanta that was called off at the last minute because no one knew what the hurricane was going to do. So, clearly, the squirrel had been waiting until she went out of town so it could have days on end to wreak its destruction. (My guess is that the squirrel probably watches the car to see if she puts any luggage in it, so he will know when she’s leaving on a trip. Then he strikes.)
It was hard to tell from appearance if this was the same squirrel because this time he was completely covered in chimney soot. That also meant that, everywhere he walked, there was a trail of little black squirrel footprints.
Now, footprints or not, here’s the thing you may not know about having a squirrel in the house; and it’s something I didn’t believe until I experienced it: They are virtually impossible to find.
You would think they would be very easy to find because they have a big bushy tail, but, trust me, if they don’t want to be found they can’t be found. The last time she’d had a squirrel in the house, both her exterminator and the Critter Control guy looked everywhere for the culprit, but with no luck. It took three days and even then they didn’t really find it – it just showed up in a trap.
Here’s the other thing to understand. If you have a squirrel in your house, you can’t go anywhere; you can’t sleep; you really can’t do anything except sit motionless in your house terrified silently listening for movement.
After my mother called me, I called 911 and got connected to Orange County 911. They asked what my emergency was and I said my 81-year-old mother lived alone in Chapel Hill and was frightened to death because some sort of wild animal was loose in her home and was destroying the place. (I didn’t say it was a squirrel because technically, we weren’t positive, and, also, I knew if I did they would be less likely to send someone.)
They connected me to Animal Control, and, when I told the guy that answered the phone, he didn’t say, “And how is that my concern?” but that was the vibe I got.
No one had been bitten and we didn’t know it was rabid so there was no way they were coming out late on a Sunday night. He gave me the number of Critter Control, which I called. I got a recording that said I was calling after hours.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my mother picked a terrible day and time to have a squirrel in her house. But there should always be someone who can give you what you need day or night when price is no object. By the way, I think that should apply to everything – not just squirrels.
I called 911 again and said Animal Control wouldn’t go and Critter Control wouldn’t answer. I said, “There’s a wild animal tearing up my 81-year-old mother’s house. It could be rabid. It could be deadly.”
They finally sent a policeman out who went through the house but, of course, couldn’t find it.
By then, I was in my car speeding toward Chapel Hill. My mother, meantime, had turned out all the lights, opened the back patio door and she was sitting out back in the dark with the back patio door open, staring at the doorway in case the creature came out. She had told me before I showed up to come around to the backyard and be very quiet.
When I got there, she said the only thing we could do was sit there quietly and wait since there would be no help until morning and squirrels can never be found if they are hiding.
I said no, absolutely not – that is not a plan.
“We are not going to sit outside all night staring at a doorway,” I said.
I told her we were going to be proactive.
Now, I know about a lot of things but catching squirrels is not one of them. Also, the internet is basically zero help on this matter, so I had to come up with a plan with no help, no experience and no knowledge of what to do.
Here’s what I came up with …
The Scott Yost Emergency Squirrel Removal Plan
(1) Close all the doors in the house and keep all of them shut each time you enter or exit any room.
(2) Remove all breakable objects from shelves and put them away so they are not destroyed in the ensuing melee.
(3) Arm yourself with whatever is available. I looked around and found a broom. I had given her a high-powered million-lumen flashlight for Christmas last year that has a strobe light “self-defense mode” for shining in the face of attackers and blinding and disorienting them.
(4) Go inch by inch through the house looking for the creature, find it, put the flashlight into attacker mode and shine it in its eyes and use the broom to beat the stunned rodent and knock it out the open patio door.
So that was my plan. I took my broom and flashlight and went room by room. Banging on things as I went to get it to come out. It was kind of like in the Alien movie when they were going through the spaceship section by section looking for the killer alien, sealing off each safe space as they went. It was a lot like that except that instead of flamethrowers and high-tech hand-held infrared heat-map scanners, I had a broom and a flashlight.
Every time I opened a closet door or shined the flashlight behind something and banged on things, it was incredibly tense. I went inch by inch through the house. After an exhaustive search, there was nothing.
We also cleaned up the droppings as we went and about 4:30 a.m., I did another round. I went in the bathroom closet and saw some droppings on the floor that I didn’t think had been there before. As I stood there frozen in my tracks, I thought I heard something move on a shelf in the closet! I slammed the door and tried to formulate a plan. I shoved a towel under the slit under the door and told my mother. I told her to go to bed because I thought it was in the closet and we had it trapped there until help came. She said absolutely not; she could not sleep at all.
I said, well, I’m going to. I laid down and finally fell asleep, and two hours later my mother was shaking me, “It’s in the kitchen! It’s in the kitchen!” So I grabbed the broom and ran in there. I couldn’t find they squirrel but I saw the soot footprints everywhere.
It was back in hiding.
Then, with it now daylight, my mother said she had a plan. She said we knew it was hungry because it hadn’t eaten for the two days it had been trapped in the house.
She said, “We should make a trail of nuts from the kitchen that leads out the back door.”
I was like, “That’s a great idea – if this were a cartoon and it was a cartoon squirrel.”
Because that is like exactly how, in a cartoon, you would get a cartoon squirrel out of a house.
But, then, I thought, that’s crazy – just so crazy it might work – and I didn’t have a better plan or even any other plan at all and so we made the trail and went outside and waited off to the side.
About 30 minutes later, the squirrel’s head appeared in the doorway. Amazingly, the plan was working!
The guy from Critter Control pulled up just as the squirrel was eating a nut in the doorway and we motioned for him not to come any closer and we pointed to the door where the squirrel was eating one nut after another in the trail. As he ate, he looked up, saw us standing there shot off the back porch into the backyard and up a tree.
Or is it …