Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Grey, with a Chance of Falling Squirrels

When I was a young lad, I had a BB gun. One of the rules that came with the BB gun was that shooting animals was off limits. I only violated this rule one time, when I killed a magpie that was tormenting our cat. I still remember how bad I felt when I saw it dead on the ground. I am not a violent person, and its death really shocked me.

Why do I share this story? To make myself feel better about having become, to paraphrase J. Robert Oppenheimer (and the Bhagavad-Gita), death, the destroyer of squirrels around my house.

When we moved into our house, we thought that the squirrels in our yard were cute. They are. And they are smart. And, it turns out, they like our house. They like it so much that they found a way to get into our eaves and make a nest.

Not long after we noticed the scratching sounds in an upstairs wall, we found out that we were expecting a baby. This triggered an unexpected reaction in me. It must have come from deep in my caveman/alpha male brain. The reaction was that I felt a strong desire to kill every squirrel I could find near my cave, err, house. Not kill for the purpose of making stew. But to lay waste, like to protect my little pack. I had crazy thoughts--kill a squirrel and hang its body from a rope right where the other squirrels were likely to see it, deliver it on a private jet for interrogation by the secret police in Egypt or Syria, that sort of thing.

But the squirrel is a smart foe, and I decided that it should be possible to defeat it with a combination of reason and violence. So I started to pick apart the squirrel problem piece by piece. I developed the following premises, and it is on these premises that I built my plan:

1) Squirrels like easy access to food. If there is less easy access to food in a location, then that location will be a less attractive location in which to set up domicile.

2) Squirrels like an easy way to get onto my roof and thence into my eaves. They were walking from a tree branch directly onto our roof. If the access is made less easy, then they will be less likely to use the eaves as a nest. (Note here that I recognize that squirrels can climb anything and can walk across the power line connection to get to our roof. But I am looking for marginal effects that make it less likely that they will return).

3) In the short term, there is a finite supply of squirrels in any given location. Squirrels are territorial, and if they are removed from a particular area, it takes a while for other squirrel clans to move in.

4) A dead squirrel is less likely to nest in my eaves than is a living squirrel. A note here: Squirrels are not people. I don't go in for anthropomorphizing of animals. Squirrels are rodents. They are smart, but they are prey. I am an apex predator. Crocodiles eat wildebeests. Lions kill hyenas to prove a point. For one reason or another, I was born higher on the food chain than the squirrel. It is not only my prerogative to kill squirrels, it makes mother nature cry when I refuse to take my proper place in the circle of life. I don't do this for fun. My genes are less likely to be propagated out into the future if my offspring are living around plague-carrying rodents.

Well, that's a lot of talk for a simple plan. Basically, the plan was:

1) cut down any tree limb access to the roof
2) try to plug the hole under the siding that provides access to the eaves
3) spray the area down with squirrel repellent
4) bungee down garbage can lids
5) use a Chinese pellet gun to shoot any squirrel I see on my property

I have to say that cutting down the branches helped a lot. I am doubtful about the effectiveness of the other steps, except for number 5. I am pretty sure that one is working. I try to make it as painless as possible for the squirrels, following the Marine sniper motto of "one shot, one kill."

To my surprise and (and mild moral consternation), I have felt no remorse whatsoever each time I have sent a squirrel to the big acorn stash in the sky. And there have been a few that have made that journey in the last few months.

This plan worked really well for a while. The squirrels stopped getting into the roof for about two months. One morning a few days ago, we heard the familiar scratching inside the roof. They have returned. I went outside and saw a squirrel jumping from out roof into a tree limb six feet from the gutter. So cutting back the trees and killing the squirrels' relatives evidently is not enough. More steps will be taken. In the meantime, this video has inspired me. I am going to a medical supply store to get surgical tubing this week...