Porcupine Damage

I’m an intern with an oil and gas company, which means I expected a certain level of engineering glamour associated with this opportunity, not being stuck with managing porcupine destruction.  But, here I am, stuck in a tiny, windowless office (more of a closet, really), working under the communications officer, and traveling occasionally out to remote outposts to assist in inspecting damages or weaknesses in our communications structure.


Now, don’t get me wrong.  Even as a near-graduate, I’m well aware of how important communications is to the infrastructure of our business.  People stationed in our remote locations rely on our communications systems to keep in touch with the office and family, coordinate operations, and get emergency services out there in case, God Forbid, something goes terribly wrong.  We need to be able to evacuate or shut sites down if the worst happens, or get a helicopter out there to air-lift an injured employee to the nearest hospital, or just keep our employees happy because they’re able to keep in touch with their loved ones.


But, I was shocked when I found out this would be the focus of my internship, and I despaired that it wouldn’t help me get a better job once I actually graduated.  By then, it was too late, and I was stuck.  I was stuck with getting an earful from an angry employee who was mad that communications went down at his outpost just when his wife was having a baby.  I was stuck researching ways to protect our radio communication sites more efficiently and with a lot less funding.  I was stuck dealing with porcupine destruction.


Apparently, those quiet and shy, but ungodly looking animals wreak havoc in and around our communication stations, especially the stations in the more forested areas of the country.  Before my internship, I thought they generally kept to themselves, eating the bark off trees in some far-off region of the country.  Turns out, they’re rodents.  That means they have teeth that grow all the time, so they have to gnaw on stuff just to keep their teeth down to the right size.  So, not only are they munching on the treated lumber we used to construct the communication station, they’re chewing on wires and aluminum, too.


Add porcupine damage to the regular damage of weather, vandals, and other animals, and it’s no wonder the communications director requires an intern at his disposal.  He needs someone just to field phone calls, research, and help him figure out ways to keep those stations up and running, for the safety of our employees and the success of the company.  So, I figure, if I can work out a way to keep the porcupine destruction down to a minimum, it might earn me a nicer internship upstairs, with a  cushy office and maybe even my own secretary.  One can dream.



Skunk Control

The last thing I wanted to do when we got home late from our camping trip was worry about skunk control.  We had a great and well-deserved trip, and we were exhausted by the time we finally pulled up to our home.  We had already decided we’d leave all the stuff in the truck and unpack in the morning, since it was late, we were tired, and we didn’t want to wake up neighbors by making noise as we unloaded.  So, we pulled in the driveway, grabbed the food bag that would go directly into the fridge, and unlocked the front door.

I’ll admit, we were so tired we didn’t realize the house smelled funny until after we’d put the food in the fridge, fed the cat, checked our messages and headed upstairs.  Halfway up the stairs, my husband stopped and sniffed.  “Do you smell that?” he asked me.  I sniffed and smelled a faint musky odor.  It was definitely animal in origin, and at first I assumed it was the cat.  “Maybe Snuffles got mad at us and used a closet for her toilet?” I suggested.  “No, it’s not the cat, I don’t think,” said my husband.  “It smells like, I don’t know, some wild animal or something.”

A mother and her baby skunks living underneath a house.
(Artwork by Sharon Davis. Contact us for her contact info.)

The thought of wild animal smell in our house was too much to let slide until we were more coherent in the morning, after a night’s rest.  So, we spent the next forty minutes wandering around the house, inside and out, sniffing and looking and hoping we wouldn’t come face to face with an animal.  Camping is fine.  We expect to see wild animals, although we do everything we can to keep them away from the tent, of course, and at a distance.  When we’re at home, we expect wild animals to remain outside.  Far outside.  I was making another round around the house with my flashlight in the dark, and rounded the south side just in time to hear a rustling in the bushes next to our foundation, and see a little black and white striped animal hustle back underneath the undergrowth.  This was no animal we could just scare away.  We would need skunk control.

I made it back inside the house where my husband was looking through the basement, and explained what I saw.  He agreed we would need to get a professional to do the skunk control for us.  We just weren’t equipped to handle it ourselves.  More than likely, the skunk was attracted to our house because of the cat food bowl we’d filled outside.  We didn’t want the cat to go hungry during our four-day camping trip, so we’d filled her bowl to overflowing.  Cats are so easy.  They’ll just eat their fill and come back for more when they’re hungry again.  Of course, we didn’t think about how the cat food would attract other animals, especially skunks.  So, the skunk probably smelled the food, helped itself, and dug a little burrow or den or whatever they sleep in right under  the foundation of our home, over by the bushes that had halfway hidden the skunk earlier.

We got the number for Allstate Animal Control from the web, and vowed to call them first thing in the morning, even before unpacking the truck.  Skunk control is just the last thing you want to attempt when you’re already tired, it’s late, and all you want is a long, hot shower and a soft bed.



Mouse in the House

how to get rid of mice

I rely on my two cats to tell me anytime there’s the faintest chance of a mouse in the house.  After the experience I had two winters ago, I still hate to put my hand into any container that has food in it, without inspecting it first.  Two years ago, I was storing a fifty-pound bag of potatoes in the garage.  We’d found a great deal on potatoes, but I had nowhere to store it in the house, so we kept it in the cold garage.  I figured that was the best place for something like that anyway.  Didn’t they used to store potatoes in cold cellars in the old days?


I was going to make mashed potatoes for dinner that night, so I padded out into the garage, reached my hand into the large bag and groped around, and was shocked beyond belief when my hand closed on a stiff, furry object instead of the smooth surface of a potato.  Turns out it was a mouse that had crawled into the bag and died.


Now, we own two cats, and guess where they sleep at night?  In our garage.  I don’t want another mouse in the house, garage, or anywhere else in my home, for that matter.  We haven’t had an incident ever since we got the cats.


But now, I have the worst suspicion that those mouse-free days may be over.  For the last week, every time I let the cats into the garage for the night, they immediately crouch down and peer under our tool cabinet.  Occasionally, they’ll swipe a paw around down there.  I’m convinced that we may have a mouse in the house, or maybe even a mouse nest.  As the days have passed this week, I was certain that our two cats would eventually take care of the problem.  After all, whenever I let them outside, they always return with a “present” for me.  Of course, I am probably less enthusiastic about the dead mice gifts than my cats are, but that’s beside the point.  I know they’re good mousers.  So, why do we have a mouse in the house?


Surely these cats will take care of the problem without any further action on my part.  I can’t stand the idea of “padding” out into the garage in my bare feet, just to walk over mouse droppings, or have a startled creature scamper across my toes.  Worst, my hand still spasms involuntarily whenever I think about what I pulled out of that potato bag.


But, as the days have gone on, the cats still stalk the tool cabinet, but they have nothing to present to me.  Why would a mouse stay in a house with two cats, unless they have an alternate and safe way to get in and out?


So, instead of relying on pets to take care of the mouse problem for me, I’m calling Allstate Animal Control.  I’d be a lot happier knowing they’ve gotten rid of all the mice for me, and my cats can go back to just sleeping in the garage.



Snake in the House

how to get rid of snakes

Charlotte knew to expect new adventures when she married her husband, and moved out of the city, across a couple of states, and into the old farm house he had talked about for months, but a snake in the house wasn’t foremost in her expectations.  The decision to change her lifestyle hadn’t been as hard as she might have thought.  She was deeply in love with Michael, and he loved her just as deeply, and she viewed his more rural lifestyle as an exciting adventure.  She’d always loved getting out of the city, preferring hiking and camping trips to sitting on a chair in a beach resort somewhere.  So, this wasn’t a scary change for her.


Until the morning she saw the snake in the house, that is.


Although they lived on farm land, they weren’t farmers.  Michael had a law degree and had joined a small, local firm.  Charlotte had already decided to spend her days fixing up the house, starting a smallish garden from which she could sell a few vegetables at the farmers market, and working on a book that had been rattling around inside her head for a few years.  She didn’t miss her high-stress job in a big-city office one teeny, tiny bit.


Her husband had left for the office early that morning, and Charlotte padded into the kitchen to get a small breakfast before repainting the dining room.  The paint and supplies were already sitting in the empty room, waiting for her.  But, as she walked into the kitchen, she squinted at the odd shape sitting on the stove.  From her point of view, it looked as if her husband had left a scarf or something lying across a couple of the burners.  That was odd, since it was nice weather outside.  Then, the scarf moved.


Charlotte moved closer, still unsure as to what that was moving ever so slowly over the top of the range.  Finally, she realized, she had a snake in the house.  And, this sucker was big.  She couldn’t tell how long it was, exactly, but it was longer than her arm.


Charlotte could keep her cool under pressure, so she just left the room and called her husband, who assured her he didn’t think there were any poisonous snakes in the area, but she’d better call the police, just to make sure.  After nearly two hours, a lone policewoman knocked on the door, and said she understood there was a possible animal problem in the home.  She paled when Charlotte said they had a snake in the house, and outright walked out of the room once she laid eyes on the thing.


After getting no help from the police, Charlotte got the number for Allstate Animal Control.  The animal control expert got the snake out of the house and Charlotte got back to her day.  But, she admits that, to this day, the stove is the first thing she inspects whenever she walks into the kitchen.



Opossum in the Crawlspace

I didn’t even know what an opossum was, and I certainly never knew we might have an opossum in the crawlspace.  I was just dealing with the emotions of sending every single child off to school full-time, having a quiet home to myself.  I vacillated between extreme emotions.  I desperately missed each child, especially my youngest who just started first grade.  I was proud of each of them.  I was relieved and joyous at having several hours all to myself to get my entire to-do list done.  I didn’t feel like doing a single thing on my to-do list.  Then I felt guilt at not taking advantage of every single moment I had to myself.  And, finally, I got back to really missing each child.  I hoped that this emotional cycle would go away after a few days, so I could go back to normal.


I finally decided I’d at least clean the kids’ bathroom and then sit down with a good book.  That seemed like a good compromise for the first day back to school.  That way, I’d get something done, thus alleviating the guilt.  Then, I would enjoy some quiet time to myself by reading a good book, thus taking my mind off of how much I missed the children.  After an hour or so of reading, I’d decide what to do next.


So, it was with this plan that I grabbed the cleaning supplies and headed into the disaster that is known as my children’s bathroom.  I cleaned the toys out of the tub, and floor, and countertops, and started spraying down the place.  That’s when I heard a noise behind the shower wall.


Maybe that noise had always been there, but I never noticed it over the happy/fighting/playing noises of my children.  Maybe it was brand new.  I don’t know.  I just know it scared the bejeebers out of me.  Scritch, scratch, followed by some sort of movement behind the wall.  How long had this been going on?  Have the kids heard it?  Is that why little Lindsey’s been having nightmares lately?


Hesitantly, I tapped on the wall, and the movement-sound stopped abruptly.  I stood still, waiting.  It was like a quiet stand-off.  Before too long, though, that scritch scratch noise started up again.  So much for my boring, guilt-ridden, quiet morning.  I fled the bathroom and called my husband, who suggested we might have an animal, like an opossum in the crawlspace.  I had to look up opossum on the internet so I knew what he was talking about.  An opossum in the crawlspace could mean fleas, ticks, or eventually a dead opossum attracting all sorts of other vermin.


I quickly found the number for Allstate Animal Control and got someone out there right away.  Sure enough, my husband was right.  We had an opossum in the crawlspace.  The guy managed to get it out, though, and the house has gone back to being quiet through the long hours while the children are in school.  I’m enjoying that quiet on a whole new level now, though.



Raccoon in the Crawlspace

raccoon traps too small

When you see the words “raccoon in the crawlspace” written out in black and white, on an email, it seems like a straightforward problem that can be solved by a nuisance wildlife removal service, like Allstate Animal Control.  But, when you’re standing in the shower, late at night, and you hear scratching and shuffling coming from the other side of the shower wall, it feels completely different.  You feel vulnerable, and it’s spooky, and childish fears make you remember horror movies in which shower scenes are never good, and it takes a while for the adult in you to kick in and realize you probably just have a raccoon in the crawlspace.


That’s what happened to a distant relative of mine.  She and her husband live in a nice condominium in a settled neighborhood.  They don’t exactly live in the boondocks – it’s not a heavily forested area, nor is it surrounded by farms.  Neither the previous owners, nor their neighbors had complained of wild animals in the area.  So, a raccoon in the crawlspace was the furthest thing from her mind as she prepared for her shower one late evening.


It had been an extremely long day.  She’s a junior high school teacher, and she had a couple of rough classes followed by parent/teacher conferences that lasted late into the evening.  Of course, she wasn’t done with her day when she got home, because she had papers to grade and a test to work up.  It was normal when her husband kissed her after putting the dinner dishes in the sink, and retired upstairs to watch some television before bed, while she worked on into the night.


A few hours later, after hunching over paper after paper, she decided a nice, warm shower was the perfect way to unwind before bed.  She quietly entered their master suite, so she wouldn’t wake up her husband, got her things and went into the bathroom.  She turned the water on hot and let it warm up while she lit a candle and turned off the lights.  Soon, the hot water was raining down on her neck, relieving some of the tension that had built up over the day.


Then, she heard the softest little scratching coming from behind the wall.  At first, she ignored it, figuring it was really just the sound of the water.  It happened again, though, and again, and her mind started racing.  It didn’t sound at all like the house settling, or water through the pipes.  It wasn’t a mechanical sound.


She managed to keep her mind from wandering too much down the paths of old remembered horror movies, and she managed to keep from shouting out to wake up her husband.  It soon occurred to her that they probably just had a raccoon in the crawlspace, and she would have to do something about it tomorrow.  She’d send off an email to Allstate Animal Control first thing.  The only thing she’d have to decide is whether or not to tell her husband before his morning shower . . .