Snake Problems

Who knew you could take care of your snake problem with a wild eastern cottontail rabbit?  Crazy, right?  That’s what happened to us one Sunday morning.  We were all sitting around on the back porch, hanging out, talking, and watching the wild life in our yard.  We live on a large enough property, a few acres, and we get lots of wild animals that come through, doing their thing.  Mostly they stay clear of our house, but sometimes we have problems.

Lately, we’ve had some pretty large, but harmless snakes that have been coming around.  They’re seeing if they can get hold of some baby rabbits or some mice or some other tasty little treat.  A few years back, we found one in the kitchen.  Seems a few mice had gotten into the house and decided to nest under the sink.  It was a little while before we knew, because we were on vacation.  The mice had started to breed, and I guess a snake could hear them in there, because it crawled on in after them for dinner.  We walked in from our vacation to the Tetons to find out we had a snake problem and a mouse problem right there in our house.  Well, we got a professional wildlife control guy out who took care of our problems and cleaned the house out.  He also stopped up all of the holes we could find, and that’s pretty much worked ever since.

But, like I said, they mostly stay out in yard.  When animals cause trouble or start digging things up, we call in our professional wild animal control guy again.  But, sometimes, we just sit out on the porch and watch nature take its course.

We were doing just that when we saw a good-sized snake slithering toward a rabbit’s nest.  The eastern cottontails just dig a shallow den right on the ground and that’s where they have their babies.  This snake was just going for a tasty snack.  The next thing we know, mama rabbit jumped right on the snake!  We thought it was a one-time thing, like the rabbit didn’t know what it was doing at first.  But, again and again, it jumped at that big ol’ snake.  It must’ve bit it, too, ‘cause that snake went slithering for cover fast.

The snake must’ve thought it just needed some distance away from the baby rabbits, but mama rabbit wasn’t happy with that, either.  She just kept at it, jumping, attacking, biting until the snake got desperate.  It made it to a tree and climbed on up, the rabbit jumping higher and higher and biting until the snake got up high enough in the branches.  I didn’t ever believe it was possible for a snake to look scared, but I swear it was terrified.  Guess we won’t have much of a snake problem while that one rabbit’s out on patrol.

Mouse Problems

Mouse on a table
A mouse, with mouse pellets, on a kitchen table.
(Artwork by Sharon Davis. Contact us for her contact info.)

I tried to tell my roommate that I thought we had mouse problems, but typical of her, she never listens to me.

I’d noticed some tell-tale signs a few weeks ago.  I was vacuuming our tiny living room (I always do the vacuuming), and saw some tiny little black pellets up against the baseboards.  I bent down to look at them more closely and realized they must be mouse droppings.  So glad I bent down to look at them instead of picking them up!  I vacuumed them up and then scouted the kitchen for more mouse droppings.  I found a few under the sink, by the garbage, but didn’t find an actual mouse.

I told my roommie about it, but she just laughed it off, saying I was making a bigger deal of it than it really was.  It was probably just one single mouse that had come in to investigate the apartment but was long gone.  She even suggested I’d made the whole thing up just to try to get her to help clean up.  I shrugged it off.

But, I soon began to realize our mouse problem was bigger than that.  I kept an eye out for a mouse or some sign that we had one or more in the apartment, just to be on the safe side.  When I found my cereal box had been chewed through, I tossed it out and put all my stuff in plastic containers.  My roommate and her boyfriend made fun of me, calling me obsessive-compulsive.  I cleaned my room thoroughly, not wanting anything to jump out at me from under a pile of clothes or anything.  Of course, my roommate’s a lot less clean than I am, and I tried not to think of all the many places a mouse could be hiding in her room.

I had a bunch of friends over one night so we could all watch the game.  My roommate and her boyfriend were being overly-cuddly on one couch, right in front of everyone, and talking loudly about how stupid I was to be afraid of one little mouse that wasn’t even in our apartment anymore.  The rest of us tried to ignore them as best we could, and just enjoyed the game and ate the chicken wings I’d made for all of us.  She bragged about all the “real” junk food they had, and pulled out a big bag of cheese-dusted snacks, which they kept all to themselves.

They sat there and loudly ate the entire bag, until they reached the bottom.  Then, they got quiet.  There was a little chewed hole at the bottom of the bag, and a couple of tiny little mouse pellets that were now all dusted with fake cheese.

I think, finally, she believed we had a mouse problem, and it was time to do something about it.

Mole Problems

Mole eating a worm
Mole eating a worm and putting holes and tunnels all over your yard.
(Artwork by Sharon Davis. Contact us for her contact info.)

“So, pumpkin, tell me about the latest weird case you’ve seen in the E/R.”

“Dad, seriously, I’m beginning to wonder about your morbid fascination with the odd and the gross.”

“Hey, give an old guy a break, will ya?  Retirement’s not so easy.  It’s either this or reruns of Walker, Texas Ranger, and there’s only so much Chuck Norris I can take.  You’re an Emergency Room nurse and I need my stories.  Besides, you owe me for all those bedtime stories you made me tell you.”

“Okay, okay.  I’m just trying to think what tops the goiter lady.  Well . . . there was this guy who came in with second-degree burns on his hand and arm.  He’d been trying to get rid of a mole problem.”

“Ooooh, painful.  So, what’d this guy do?  Try to burn a mole off his arm with a lighter or something?”

“No, not a skin mole, a real mole.”

“So he captured a mole and tried to burn it?”

“Not exactly.  I guess he’d been fighting a losing battle with a mole in his yard for over a year now.  He says he’s tried all kinds of things to get rid of the mole, but nothing really seems to work.  It’s already cost him a lot of money.  He says he’s spent over a grand fixing the damage, but he just keeps finding new mole hills on his property.”

“Hey, mole hills are no laughing matter!  I switched golf courses, remember, because my favorite course had a major mole problem.  You know, one mole can make a lot of holes, and the mounds of dirt all over the place damaged my golf game.”

“Dad, I hate to break it to you, but you never did have much of a golf game.  You can’t blame a couple of moles.”

“You ingrate!  I can’t believe I raised such a spiteful daughter.”

“Ha ha, Dad.  You missed your true calling in life.  You should have been an actor, not an engineer.”

“Fine.  Just go on with the story.”

“Well, he finally got fed up one day.  I got the feeling some of his friends were over and they’d been drinking, because he got the not-too-bright idea to stick some old firecrackers down some of the mole hills and set them off.”

“Uh oh.”

“That’s right, uh-oh.  I don’t know what kinds he used, but probably just anything left over from last July 4.  He said he and his friends went from mole hill to mole hill sticking the firecrackers down into the ground.  Then, they took turns lighting them.  I guess the one he lit was too old, or he didn’t get out of the way in time, but he ended up with massive burns all over his hands and arms.  He’s lucky he still has all fingers.”

“Sigh.  Why don’t people learn to get a professional if you want to get something done right?  If you’ve got mole problems, get someone out there who can remove the moles.  It would’ve cost him a lot less to do it right the first time instead of all the money he spent repairing the damaged yard.”

“Not to mention the hospital bill.”

“True, so true.  Now I’m just sad for the guy.  You up for some Chuck Norris?”

Chipmunk Problems

Chipmunk eating seed.
Chipmunk eating seed given to him by a “helpful” son.
(Artwork by Sharon Davis. Contact us for her contact info.)

“Chipmunk problems.”

“You are trying to tell me that the reason we have a small flood in our basement is that we have chipmunk problems?”  Mom has this amazing ability to lift up one eyebrow when she’s really upset.  She doesn’t even have to raise her voice.  She just stands in front of me, arms folded, that one eyebrow up, and waits for an answer.

“Well, yeah.”  I shuffled onto the other foot, and decided to act like I knew exactly what I was doing.

“Go on.”  She wasn’t buying my act, I could tell.

“Okay, well you know how we have those holes in the flower bed?”

“I just figured you’d been digging around back there.”

“No, Mom!  I swear it wasn’t me.  I would never dig in your flower bed!”

“Of course you wouldn’t.  You’d just flood our basement.”  She could be so melodramatic sometimes.

“Mom, I’m trying to explain.  Okay, so I wanted to find out what was making those holes in your flower bed.”

“How thoughtful.”

“So, I got the hose out and ran water down into the hole until it popped up.”

“Until the chipmunk popped up?”

“That’s right!  It was pretty cool, too.  I mean, I had to let the water run a loooong time.  The hole went really deep and I must have had to flood a super long tunnel, because it took forever.  And then, all of a sudden, this wet little thing swims up to the top of the hole, and it looked really mad, too!”

“I think I know how it feels.”

“What?  Oh, yeah, right.  Well, um, so there it was, all wet and shaking and, well, mad.  So, I felt bad about flooding its little home.  I stuck it in a box for a while and looked all over the yard for another hole I could put it in.  Before I found another one of its holes, I thought maybe it was hungry, so I threw some birdseed in the box.  You know, just so he’d have something to eat to maybe take the edge off.”

Mom looked genuinely concerned all of a sudden.  “What?!  You picked it up?  Did it bite you?”

“No, I didn’t pick it up, I swear.  I just put the box down on top of it and then slid something under the box so it would be okay.”

Mom was obviously relieved, but that eyebrow of hers went back up.  “And then?”

“Well, all of its holes in the flower bed were kind of wet and flooded, so I figured I needed to let it out in another part of the yard.”

“Where’d you set it free?”

“In the garden.”  By the look on her face, I could tell this was NOT the answer she had hoped for.

“In the garden?  Great.  And, what happened to the hose during all this time?”

“Um, that’s where I made my one mistake.  I forgot to turn it off.”

“You forgot to turn the water off all that time.  So, the reason we have a flooded basement is because . . . “

“We have chipmunk problems!  See, now you understand!”

Beaver Problems

You farmers think you have beaver problems, try being a trout.  I mean, here I am, not bothering anyone, and all of a sudden some beavers come along, build their dam or lodge, and I’m stuck.  I’m supposed to be able to swim my normal route, along this cute little stream with a nice rocky bottom and lots of cover so I can hide from predators from above.  But, as soon as it’s time to move, I notice the water temperature’s different and I’m suddenly blocked by a huge pile of twigs and logs.  Beaver problems! My precious running water that’s supposed to take me to my spawning grounds is now diverted into little pools and ponds.  That’s just great for some other fish, but it’s a death trap for me!  The shallow ponds don’t give me much cover or depth to hide from fish-eating birds or other animals like raccoons.  I can’t get to my spawning grounds, then I can’t spawn, and I’ll probably be caught and eaten by something.  Just an awful situation for me.

Yes, other animals love it.  Beavers come in, create new ponds or divert waterways, and all of a sudden new plants are springing up, all kinds of other water creatures move in, and birds and animals are attracted.  I’ll be honest, beavers even help trout sometimes when they make larger rearing grounds.  But, I have to be able to get there first!  Right now, I’m stuck and there’s nothing I can do about it.

So, you farmers can moan about your beaver problems.  Sure, they take down swaths of your corn fields, or take down your precious willow trees or cottonwoods.  Maybe they destroy one of your fences in search of some pretty young tree in your yard. Perhaps you don’t have as much land as you used to, now that so much more of it is under water.  Or, maybe it’s gotten so bad that your basement’s flooded.  Beavers can contaminate your drinking water, you could get giardiasis.

And the animals attracted to those pretty new ponds the beavers made could also get onto your property.  Sure, they won’t kill you like they’d kill me, but you’re still going to have a problem.  How about more birds raiding your fields?  How about raccoons nesting in your home because they’ve got a nice new pond to play in just filled with fish like me?

Hey, maybe you like that sort of thing – more birds and wild animals hanging around on your property, destroying your crops, getting into your home or out buildings.  I’m just saying, maybe we have a mutual interest here.  What do you say?  Get a professional in here who knows how to get rid of our beaver problem, and my life cycle goes back to normal and your property stays the way you like it.

Armadillo Problems

“What’s wrong, babe?  You look really tired – you ok?”

“No, not really.  I was dealing with armadillo problems all last night.”  I was grumpy after last night’s activities.  I couldn’t believe she was seriously asking me if I was okay.  Before we got married, I thought women were light sleepers, especially when they had children.  Kind of a protective instinct thing.  She had taught me that not only was I wrong, but I was apparently a little chauvinist.

“Armadillo problems?  Are you sure?”  I tried to give her credit for noticing I was tired and being concerned for me, but I was tired, frustrated, had a long day ahead of me, and couldn’t believe she was asking me if I was sure.  She must have read all that on my face, because she slipped over to my side of the bed and started rubbing my shoulders.  “Tell me what happened,” she said.

“Well, about two in the morning, I started hearing something scratching around under the floor.”

“In the crawlspace?” she asked.

“That’s right.  At least, that’s what I thought.  I tried to just ignore it, but it didn’t stop and I didn’t want the kids to wake up.”  The shoulder-rubbing stopped briefly.

“I’m not going to apologize for not waking up,” she said tersely.

“I know, hon, I’m not saying you should.  I’m just really tired, okay?”  The shoulder-rubbing started up again, and after a couple of seconds, I felt it was all right to go on with the story.

“So, I grabbed a flashlight and went outside to look around a bit in the crawl space.  Sure enough, it was an armadillo.  It looked like it was digging a pretty big hole right under our bedroom.  I about had a heart attack, too, because as soon as the light shone in its eyes, it jumped up and hit its head on the floor.  I thought it was going to attack me!”  I tried to ignore the stifled giggle from my wife.

“And, did this vicious armadillo actually attack you?  Are you hurt?”  she asked.

“Don’t make fun!  I said I almost had a heart attack.  It was the middle of the night and I was tired!  I know they don’t really attack, but I still don’t want that thing bumping around under there and digging holes all over the yard.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” she said.  “What’d you do, then?”

“I chased it.”

“You chased it?  Did you catch it?”

“Well, almost.”


“Hey, those suckers can run pretty fast!”  I was a little defensive, remembering how stupid I must have looked running all over yard in the middle of the night.

“I’m sure they can.”

“And they hop!” I said, turning around to look at her.

“Oooh, they hop!  Well, then, you were lucky to get out alive.”  She was pretending to look really serious and concerned, and I couldn’t help but smile.

“Sure, go ahead and make fun of me all you want,” I said, laughing.  “Next time you go out and chase it!”

“I won’t have to,” she retorted, picking up the phone.  “I’ll just have a wildlife trapper come out and take care of our armadillo problem.  Then, you and I can get a good night’s sleep.  You know, without all the running and hopping.”

Vole Problems

It’s been a long winter for us raccoons, and now that the snow is just starting to melt, I’m out strolling along the cover of the low woods next to human neighborhoods, watching for any signs of vole problems.

Yeah, as a raccoon, I eat just about anything.  Garbage and pet food pretty much got me through the winter, and sweet corn crops haven’t come up yet.  Right now, it’s the perfect season for spotting voles, and they are deeelicious!!  They’re all fattened up from eating grass roots and tree bark.  Over the winter, especially, they move through yards, golf courses or orchards virtually undetected by the humans, since they usually keep just below the snow line.  Most of their predators are eating somewhere else or are in hibernation, so they get all fat and juicy.  Perfect as an early spring feast for me!

The trick is, I wait until the weather finally warms up enough for the snow to start melting.  Sometimes I can actually see one of the tasty snacks running above ground, but more often I see the tell-tale signs as the snow melts:  trails of dead grass running through the lawn, trees with exposed rings around the bases, flowers and shrubs eaten away, the traces of last year’s vegetable garden completely consumed.  It’s pretty obvious when a home or business has a vole problem.

I wait until nighttime, when I get the hungriest and go out to forage for food.  I might roll over the garbage can for an appetizer, move onto the second course of pet food left out on the porch, take a brief nap and then move onto the final course.  I saunter out, sniffing, listening, and I find a hole with a little tiny scrabbling or rustling noise that I can barely hear.  Suddenly, I’ll start digging with my amazing paws, shoving my snout down into the hole that’s getting wider and wider by the second.  Then, quickly, SNAP!  My wonderfully sharp teeth close around the juicy little critter.

The great thing is, voles breed pretty quickly, so where there’s one, there’s more.  And other little yummies like to follow or use the vole’s burrows and trails – mice, rats, chipmunks.  It’s literally an all-you-can-eat buffet for me!  And now that I’m here, I might as well take up residence.  That building is pretty easy to get into, with a little bit of chewing and clawing, I should be able to get on in.  I bet I could make a pretty great den inside that chimney or up in the attic.  It’d be warm, there might even be a little insulation I can use for nesting materials, and there’s obviously plenty to eat here.  These humans have no idea, yet.  Their vole problem just became a raccoon problem.

Shooting Feral Cats

The recent controversy over shooting feral cats in Utah has recently attracted national attention.  Rep. Curtis Oda, R-Clearfield sponsored a bill which has now been dubbed the “feral cat bill”.  Rep. Oda has said the bill is intended to allow farmers and ranchers to protect their crops or livestock by controlling feral animal populations, without fear of being charged with animal cruelty.  The controversy reached a boiling point when Oda received several death threats, which are now being investigated by federal authorities.

Utah is just the latest of states to face controversy surrounding the control of feral cat populations.  Wisconsin firefighter Mark Smith also received death threats in 2005 over a plan he proposed to legalize wild cat hunting in his state.  Several states already allow wild cats to be shot.

Opponents of plans and bills such as these cite many reasons they should be defeated.  Some fear it will result in domestic animals being shot, such as owned-cats that are allowed to roam free, or lost animals.  Some think it provides perverse people a loophole – they can shoot a neighbor’s cat or dog and just say “I thought it was feral.”  Still others feel there are many alternatives to reducing the feral cat population, such as TNR, or trap-neuter-release, which other states have put into place.

The controversy over feral cats hits close to home for many people.  One person will actively feed the wild cats in the area and even provide shelter for them, while their neighbor will do anything to get rid of feral cats.  One farmer will encourage feral cats on his property to keep the rodent population down, while the farmer down the road wants to shoot feral cats on his property.

Whether you support or oppose laws or plans like these, no one can dispute there is a serious feral cat problem.  It is estimated there are tens of millions of feral cats in the United States.  They are one of the common carriers of the rabies virus and they are susceptible to parasites such as ticks, fleas, mites and worms.  They can infest your home or business with their parasites, attack pets and livestock, defecate into children’s play areas, and cause property damage.  Feral cats can decimate local populations of native species of birds or other wild life, and compete with other native predators for food.

If you have problems with feral cats in and around your property, the best course of action is to hire a professional nuisance wildlife removal company.  The wildlife control technician knows the local laws governing removal of feral cats, is trained at handling them safely, and can advise you on ways to discourage feral cats from returning to your property.

Swallow Problems

When I took this job as property manager for an assisted living center, I was told that I’d probably have to deal with “a little” swallow problem.  Yeah, right.  I guess it was a little problem with swallows a few years ago, but none of my predecessors did anything about it, so now I’m stuck with a huge amount of barn swallows dipping and swooping.  At least they keep the mosquito population down, but I don’t feel as if it’s worth it.

Our property is close to a city park, and this time of year there’s a big mud hole in one portion of the park.  The swallows carry the mud, beak-full by beak-full, and use the mud pellets to build their nests right under the eaves and up against the stucco.  Of course, that means I’m constantly cleaning up mud pellets off of the sides of the buildings and off the sidewalks.  I try to catch every nest, and my crew is out there nearly every day power-washing the mud pellets off of walls instead of taking care of other maintenance jobs.

I have a ton of phone calls from some of the nature-loving residents who are mad that we are trying to keep the swallows from building there, and other residents who are mad that we haven’t been successful at getting rid of the swallow problem entirely.  While I sympathize with the residents who enjoy watching the birds flying around outside their window, I have to think of their health and safety first.

The mud and swallow droppings that accumulate on sidewalks and doorsteps are a serious hazard.  Residents, employees and guests can easily slip and fall.  The risk of falling is bad, but more people complain of swallow droppings staining their cars, dropping on their heads or shirts.  An unexpected “swallow bomb” is no fun when it’s in your hair, on the side of your face, or staining your shirt.

Once baby birds have hatched, the swallow problem gets even worse.  Not only do you have more birds staining the sides of the building, walkways and doorways, but the adult swallows get aggressive.  In an effort to protect their nests, they dive and attack anyone who walks nearby.  We had one resident who was actually hit in the head by a swallow, lost his balance and was injured.

And then, there are the bugs.  Little swallow bugs that bite like fleas.  They get inside the buildings, hide behind wall art, in beds, in outlets.  Even the nature-loving residents, who root for the swallows to finish building their nests before my power-washers hit them, are much less enthusiastic when confronted with bugs in their beds.  We’re struggling with insect extermination as well as trying to remove the swallow problem.

Of course, as swallows are federally protected, I have to be very careful we’re not breaking any laws in our seemingly fruitless war against the birds.  At certain times of the year, the problem with swallows takes priority over everything else, and the other demands of my job are left incomplete.  It has become too costly in time, manpower and funds to handle this problem alone.  I have finally decided it is so much more worth it to get a professional wildlife removal service out here to take care of the problem, so I can get on with the business of managing this property correctly.

Rat Problems

Dear Health Inspector:

I am writing in to file a formal complaint about rat problems in a commercial building on Main Street.  I have leased space in this building for the past 6 months, and I have a three-year contract with the owners, but over the last few months we have had increasing problems with rats.  I run a gym, and we don’t serve or sell any food on the premises, so I don’t know what attracted the rats in the first place.  I am starting to lose business and revenue.  The owners say there wasn’t a rat problem when I moved into the space, so it is up to me as the tenant to take care of the problem.  I don’t have any way of proving their claim one way or another, but I don’t know where to even start with getting rid of the rats and getting my business cleaned up.

The building across the street had a rats nest underneath their stairs, so they knocked the stairs down and got rid of the nest, and I suspect that’s what started the problem in my building.  I started noticing holes near the front door and at the corner of the building right by a ground-floor window, but the noises coming from the ceiling indicate there may be rats living up there, too.  I set out a few traps and caught some rats in my office.  I thought I was fortunate that no rats were out among the customers or in the locker room.

Since then, though, I’ve been getting complaints from people working out at my gym.  There’s a horrible smell of rat urine in the men’s bathroom, and I found out that each rat defecates about 60 times a day.  If that gets into the air vents, then that’s what I’m breathing, that’s what my employees and clients are breathing.  A couple of days ago, one of the trainers that works at the gym told me he saw a rat run across the main floor.  I felt I had to temporarily close the gym.  I’m afraid someone will get really sick, or bitten.

Now, I’m fighting with the owners of the building to come in and at least partially pay to get rid of the rat problem.  Sometimes they tell me that there was just one rat and I’m making a big deal out of nothing, and sometimes they tell me that I’m responsible for paying for the whole thing.  I’m losing revenue quickly and I’m afraid my clients will go to another gym.  Will you please come out to inspect the building so I can prove to the owners that there really is a rat problem?  I’m also getting bids from professional wildlife removal companies to take care of the problem so I can reopen my doors as soon as possible.  Thank you for your help.