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Invaders!

There are raccoons invading my house! I don’t know what to even do; I’m retired and live on my own so I don’t deal with these difficult problems myself, I usually call my brother or a neighbor to help.  I don’t even clean my own windows, I pay a sweet boy from my neighborhood to deal with that and my rain gutters.  I maintain my house well, but I don’t do it on my own.  So let me ask you this, if you were a 72 year old woman who can barely control her 6 pound Yorkie, what would you do when 5 raccoons invaded your kitchen and wouldn’t leave?

Two nights ago, I made a fairly large dinner for my book club gals to celebrate our finishing of the classic “The Art of War”, by Sun Tzu.  Not an easy read, but worth the time.  We spent hours talking about the book and our families, and before I knew it, it was 10:30.  We wrapped up and I started to clean up, but I was just so knackered I left anything that didn’t need to be refrigerated on the counter and went up to bed.  The problem was, I forgot to put the doggy door cover on that keeps my little Tiny inside and other critters out.  Which means at 12 am bright and early when I got up to visit the loo, there was quite a racket coming from downstairs.

I was shaking in my slippers as I made my way down to the kitchen to see what kind of intruder I had, and I was absolutely mortified when I was met by five raccoons tearing through my leftovers.  Though I was scared, I remembered the words of the great General Tzu: “the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”  I repeated those words to myself as I ran out the backdoor with Tiny in my arms, leaving the door open behind me.  My brother went back to the house yesterday morning to check it out, and there were no raccoons left, but there was quite a mess.  I’m glad that the problem is over, but boy did it give me a fright.

A’drawer’able

I’m Snow White.  That’s the only reasonable explanation to the raccoons in my house, and the birds in my closet, and all the rest of my childhood wildlife encounters.  When I was little I was always the person that animals trusted, no matter what.  Dogs didn’t bark at me, cats wanted to lay on my lap, and deer would walk up to me for snacks.  Everywhere I went, some kind of animal seemed to follow.  Which is actually why I ended up studying Wildlife Ecology in college, but that’s a completely different story than the ones I want to tell.

Two years ago, when I was a junior in college, I woke up to a bird chirping and it was beautiful.  But when I went downstairs for breakfast, came back up, and could still here the chirping, I got a little worried.  I looked outside my window to see if there was an injured bird but there was nothing there.  Then the chirping started again, except now I knew it wasn’t from outside, but inside of my closet.  Inside of the air vent that connected to my room through the closet, was a small bird’s nest that contained two small birds.  Well we got that sorted out fairly quickly and sealed the hole from the outside that let the bird in from the first place and that was that.

Except apparently that wasn’t that, my at-home wildlife visits wouldn’t end there.  Now, I’m starting my Master’s program and moving into an off campus apartment by myself; I actually just started staying here myself two days ago.  This morning I woke up and went to the bathroom to start my morning routine a little earlier than usual.  While brushing my teeth I heard a muffled sound coming from the empty bottom drawer of the vanity; I pulled it open to find four baby raccoons huddled together, and mewing softly.  I absolutely couldn’t believe it!  In what world do you find baby raccoons in your bathroom vanity!  In my world, I guess.  But they can’t stay – I’m already looking for someone to come and safely remove them, but man what a story I have to tell my professors.

A Berry Unpleasant Situation

We have a porcupine in our yard, and I’m just about at the end of my rope when it comes to accompanying the little thing.  I think he’s cute as can be, but he’s pushing the boundaries of our relationship.  He’s been around every summer for about three years now, and at first as long as I kept my little dog inside when he was out, he would just visit and wander through the yard.  It was great, my daughter could see a really cool creature in its natural habitat, and he never bothered us.  When he came back the next year, I was reasonably excited but also a little nervous.  I really didn’t want him to make my small yard into a home, and luckily he didn’t decide to live there, but he did decide to eat there.

Last year, he started stomping through my small gardens and ripping up my plants.  He ate through most of leafy stuff which was alright I guess, I don’t use much of my garden lettuce anyway, but then he found my berry bushes.  When I was little, my grandmother taught me to prune and grow raspberries and blackberries to produce delicious berries; as they ripened up we would make jams and pies and I have treasured those memories, and my berries, ever since.  My daughter is 5 this year, so I was ready to start teaching her the lessons my nana passed on to me; that was until the porcupine returned to wreak havoc on my berry bushes yet again.

We tried to deal with the little guy ourselves and my husband built a short fence around our garden, but porcupines are better climbers (and more invasive) than I thought.  I know that since now he has a safe place that supplies food, it’s not likely he’s going to just go away on his own, so I need help.  I’d prefer if he was relocated because let’s be honest, even if he can be a pesky porcupine, I still like the guy.  I just want protection for my plants so I can carry on the family tradition with my daughter, so any help and advice is appreciated.

Going Nuts

I am losing my freaking mind trying to control the squirrel problem I have in both my backyard and attic.  This is the second spring that we’ve had a genuine issue with the little rats, before then they just came and went, never bothering us a bit.  So what changed? Why, after so many years of peace and harmony between my family and the squirrels, did they overtake our attic?  Walnuts.  When my wife and I first bought this house 12 years ago, we decided to leave our mark on the property and boost the environment by planting two walnut trees in the backyard. Obviously, without the knowledge that the native tree roamers (squirrels), would someday use it to cause chaos in our lives.

Do I sound like I’m being dramatic? I promise I’m not; if you had squirrels inviting themselves to hoard inside of your attic, you would react this exact same way.  It was only a couple of years ago that the walnut trees starting actually producing nuts and seeds, and that’s right around when we started to experience the squirrel problem.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t have been cursed with JUST the squirrels, but soon thereafter a major windstorm hit, undoing soffit, shingles, rain gutters, you name it.  The access points the squirrels had to the house were innumerable, and we just couldn’t keep up.  Before long, we started finding walnuts, apricot seeds, and other various plants tucked inside insulation and corners of the attic.  We did our best to seal everything off, but when the squirrels returned this spring, it was obvious we missed something.

We have been trying our hardest to stay on top of this, we just want to go back to the good old days of looking at the squirrels – not watching them invade our house through unseen holes.  I have tried everything I can think of, and obviously I’m not the mountain man that my wife thought she married, because so far these squirrels have been outsmarting my every move.  I need some outside help, and the sooner the better.  We just want our house back.

From a Drip to a Downpour

It’s not uncommon for leaky pipes to lead to bigger problems; but how often do they lead to BAT problems? When the my sink pipes started leaking, I knew there was a concern; when the ceiling started showing water stains from the attic above my apartment, I knew there was an issue; and when I called the landlord to take a look at what was going on, I knew there had to be a solution.  I didn’t know, nor could I ever have guessed, that this was the bigger picture that all of the pieces would lead to.

Everyone’s pipes leak now and again, so last month when my kitchen sink started to have a little drip, I called the landlord immediately for maintenance so that we could stop the problem early.  Except, it didn’t stop; or at least it didn’t seem like it had.  Last Friday, I became aware of the growing stain on my bedroom ceiling that seemed like water leaking from the pipes in the attic so again, I called maintenance right away trying to control this problem before serious damage was done.  I was a little disappointed that they weren’t able to come immediately because they were out of town for Memorial Day Weekend, but I settled for a Monday appointment and waited out the weekend with my ever-growing pipe leak and tried not to let it ruin the family barbecue.

Unfortunately, my good weekend was ruined when Monday morning, the head maintenance worker climbed up into my attic and found something much more severe than a leaky pipe: a bat problem.  Instead of a rusted bolt (or whatever makes pipes leak), he found 50 plus bats hanging from the louver, unbothered by the visitor.  Along with the animals themselves, he found a pile of guano sitting directly above the “water” stain, which didn’t turn out to be water at all.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’re tackling this bat problem now, but I’m a little upset that I have to stay in another apartment for 4-6 weeks while they clean out the guano, vent out the bats, and return my apartment to a no-pet apartment.

So You Think You Can Trap?

People are always wanting to do their own wildlife removal; they don’t see why they should pay someone else for it and they don’t understand all the work that actually goes into it.  We constantly get calls with people prying for information on how to really do it themselves, which is great.  We aren’t anti-DIY, but we are pro-safety and a lot of times the safest and most reasonable thing, is to let us handle whatever wildlife problem they’ve got.  We aren’t money hungry people – I mean obviously we want to be paid for our work, but if something genuinely isn’t a bid deal we will help you deal with it yourself, but if it is then you can expect us to try and do the work ourselves.

For example, last fall we had a man call us with a raccoon problem, and I have to let you know that raccoons are some of the animals that people most often want to deal with themselves, but are the ones we recommend you just pay a professional to take care of for you.  Mother raccoons can be one of the most aggressive and dangerous animals that we handle regularly because they are most often the ones that move into people’s chimneys and attics, they want someplace safe to have their babies.  When people who don’t know what they’re doing mess with that, they can cause serious injury to both the animals and sometimes themselves.  If you were to throw a mother raccoon out without knowing how to remove the babies (or that there were babies at all), the mother could come back and rip into the house another way, or the babies could starve to death in the home.  Not to mention when trying to remove a mother raccoon without the proper tools, she could do some serious damage to a person.

Even our trained professionals, people that have been working with wildlife for years, have difficulties at times.  Not last week we had a technician doing raccoon removal from a chimney, and when he put the repellent down the chimney the raccoon went nuclear and shot up the flume to attack him.  Luckily, he was experienced and knew how to properly handle the situation to avoid any harm to himself and the mother raccoon, but it’s not likely that any regular homeowner could do the same thing.  Let me put it this way, you wouldn’t see LeBron having a hard time during a game and sub yourself in, you would let the professional handle the situation and trust he and his team know what is best.

Ghost Busted

There’s an animal in our attic, I’m not sure what it is but I know that it’s big and it has babies up there with it.  It must have only gotten up there in the last two weeks because that’s when my husband and I left for vacation – aka that’s when Tyler put his golf clubs through the floor and probably opened up space for an animal to get inside.  He was trying to get a suitcase (playing with his driver)  when he caught one of the beams with a golf club, staggered backwards, and put the butt of his club through the thin wall separating the outside world from our unfinished attic.  I assume that’s where the animal tore an even larger hole through the wall and got in.

The problem is (besides the fact that there’s an animal in the attic) that we were leaving for a 10 day trip to Mexico to celebrate our anniversary and left our house in the hands of the neighbors 16 year-old son.  He’s the one that called us about 2 days after we left, terrified by the ghost haunting our attic.  I brushed him off and told him the house wasn’t haunted it’s just old so it creaks and that he shouldn’t worry.  But 3 days after that he called again, in hysterics that there was, in fact, someone in the attic.  He went up there to investigate the sounds and was met by horrible screeching and howling, which is when he sprinted from the house and nearly called the cops.  Basically, I had to find someone else to water my plants and I spent the rest of my vacation restless to get home and solve the problem.

Now that I think about it, it’s very likely that the animal in the attic is a raccoon.  If she just had babies she would have been very defensive when Xander climbed into the attic hollering at the disturbed spirit that “needed to go into the light”.  But, that leaves me with another problem.  I have no idea how to handle a raccoon problem, especially if babies are involved.  I need someone with a little more experience, preferably a trapper and NOT an exorcist.

A Mound of Problems

I have a major rock chuck problem in the field behind my house, and it’s starting to creep up into my back lawn.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there were gophers or ground squirrels too, but I know that the rock chuck is for sure because we’ve caught him on the security camera on three separate occasions, running through the yard.  There are also large holes dotting the perimeter of our property, and scattered throughout the field.  The smaller holes I would attribute to a smaller rodent like gophers or ground squirrels, which is still a problem that I’d like to have solved since there’s nothing quite as irksome as working for years to have beautiful landscaping only to have it ruined by overrated rats.

I know that to an outsider of our situation, taking care of the rock chucks in a field might seem unnecessary or even extreme, but I’m not going to let this situation escalate any further out of my control than it already is.  Last month, our best horse had to be put down because of a broken leg.  Can you guess how she broke it? If you guessed that she was running and got her foot caught in a large rock chuck hole then you would be the winner.  My concern for this rock chuck problem was already heightened because of that, but when last week my daughter sprained her ankle from tripping in one of the holes I drew the line.  I will not have my children, animals, or anyone else for that matter, put at risk by something that I could get a handle on if I put the time in.

The issue is that I’m not a good enough shot to wipe the rock chucks out myself, my husband isn’t home early enough to try, and neither of us have any of the necessary licensing to be able to use conobear traps (kill traps).  And besides that, I wouldn’t want to set a trap that powerful up in my field with my horses running around; there’s been enough damage as it is.  I’m looking for other solutions and someone with the proper paperwork to act on those solutions.  I just need to solve this rock chuck problem, and hopefully the gopher/ground squirrel problems, as soon as possible.

Got Skunks?

We have skunks under our house, do you know how to take care of that? If you said no, then we’re on the same page and this can be like a little AA meeting: Hi, I’m Amber and I have a skunk problem.  But, then again, if you said yes we are not on the same page; you are chapters ahead of me; please help.  My husband is in the Air Force so he’s currently stationed in Turkey for the next two months, or I’m sure he would know how to deal with this.  He’s been doing his best to coach me over skype, but I’m just not a woman that was made to deal with this sort of thing.  You give me a set of numbers and I’m all over it, you give me a puzzle I LOVE it; but you give me anything that matters in real time, I’m stumped.  I’m school smart, not street smart; I don’t like it but I can admit to it.

Okay, I’m off track: the skunk.  So a couple of weeks, or maybe even a month, ago a skunk sprayed somewhere off behind my yard and I didn’t think much of it, except I was a little upset that I would have to smell skunk for the next few weeks. But then, Friday night when I got home (it was a little late), I saw something run around the back corner of my house and that night the skunk smell was a little bit more potent than it had been since the skunk first sprayed.  I called my husband the next morning and he told me to check around the house and see if anything looked out of place.  I did a lap of the perimeter and noticed a fairly sized hole tucked right into the corner where the deck meets the outer wall of the house.  I’ll admit, I panicked a little bit at the thought of a skunk living under my house, but Jess (sorry, that’s my husband – Jesse) told me to wait until it was dark outside and then I could probably fill the hole and not have any problems with it.

When you don’t know much about what you’re doing, you just follow directions so that night around 10, I took some fertilizer I had in the shed and poured it into the hole until I felt like it was good and filled.  Sunday morning I woke up feeling very proud of myself and went to check my good work, except it wasn’t nearly as good as I thought it was.  In fact, it was so NOT good that I buried the skunk under the house, and he or she (I don’t discriminate) dug their way up and out, which meant I still had a problem.  That night I could definitely tell something was back under the house, so I called Jesse in the morning and told him what happened. He wants me to trap it but let’s be honest, if I couldn’t work dirt I won’t be able to work a trap.  I know he doesn’t want me to call someone for help, but I don’t want to do this myself and I can’t realistically wait for Jesse to come home and do it.  I need help!

A Thief in the Night

You would not believe the day I had yesterday, first I had to fire my best Sales Lead because he was skimming on the sales profits, and then I get home to find a raccoon had killed one of my chickens, kidnapped another, and scared the others eggless.  At first I didn’t even think that it was possible they could have been taken out of the cage, considering it is completely wired off – even on top.  Not to mention my yard its self is fenced off from the neighbors and the street to keep my dogs in and, I had hoped, other predators out.

With everything happening at work, I got home fairly late, around 10 o’clock.  All I wanted to do was eat ANYTHING that wasn’t fast food (it was a long day), take a hot shower, and get some sleep.  It was around 11 when I was just getting out of the shower and I heard squawking, barking, and a whole lot of movement.  I ran outside to see a raccoon climb out of the chicken pen with a squirming hen in hand and a dead one right behind.  I was a little stunned as I watched it run across the yard and climb into one of my trees where he proceeded to kill the other chicken.  Honestly, at that point I didn’t feel like I could do anything so I just watched as he ran down the tree, up the fence, and off into the night.

I’m (mostly) at peace with what happened last night, I don’t feel like there was anything I could have done to stop it; but I’m not okay with that raccoon thinking he can come into my yard at any time for some free dinner so I need to take some more preventative steps so my chickens and dogs are safe in the future.  I’m not sure if this is something I would set out traps for?  I’m going to call a local wildlife company and get their opinion on whether or not I should try and catch the specific raccoon or if I should just redo my chicken coop for added security and get bigger dogs.  I’m kidding about the dogs, but I really do need to do something and I need to do it before that raccoon comes back.