In my last post I lamented the fact that I had to deal with several gray squirrels who’d decided to make their winter home in the roof soffit of my house. I was worried I would have to choose between their lives and the integrity of the house. With my love of animals and close feeling for the natural world, it was not a decision I looked upon lightly.
After contacting a few area pest control agencies, I am happy to report that I found a local man who would live-trap and relocate the squirrels. Or I should say, I found him again.
Bill had been to the house several years ago to install a one-way escape door in the attic for bats that had taken up residence there. I had lost his number, I thought, but dialed it accidentally in my search. I knew his voice instantly when he answered the phone. We discussed at length all the different opinions I had been told about whether the squirrels could survive being displaced in the winter. Bill told me he had made a point to observe the ones he released over the years, and was pretty confident they could manage, that they were adaptable and quite hardy.
He had a very squirrel-friendly area where he released them. He told me where it was, and I knew it well. They would bother no one. I was so relieved that even if it wasn’t the best option for them, it was a better choice, in the end, for all of us.
I was asked recently about why I cared so much about trying to save the squirrels if I could. So many people see them mostly as pests. Sure, they may be cute running around the yard, or displaying their gymnastics skills trying to get at a bird feeder. But if they threaten the house, suddenly they become the enemy.
I care so much because I see, not just the squirrels, but also every other living creature on the planet (yes, bugs included) as having an inalienable right to be here, equal to my own. Even if their desires or rights sometimes inconvenience me, or conflict with mine. I don’t think it is ever entirely right to eradicate them, even if that seems like the best solution at the time.
It is a fine and hard line to walk sometimes. It is difficult to escape the trappings of being the smartest, most entitled animal on the planet.
But for me, if there is a God (or Goddess, or any divine creator) then it made us all, down to the smallest, microscopic organism, and made the world, too, for us all to share. So that means nothing has more of a right to the world than anything else. Every life is valuable, has a role to play. Humans, I believe, have just evolved, using our super brains, to be the most advanced species, capable of continually modifying and trying to control our environment to no end.
But as I see it, that doesn’t mean we are okay to do whatever we want, and that it is certainly not some kind of divine right. There are consequences to every choice, and I think they should always be considered.
I believe in the idea of a peaceable kingdom for all. That is what I long for, and try to live.
And that’s what lies at the heart of my current dilemma. I want to make the least harmful choice for all. I want to respect the rights of my fellow living creatures, but also keep myself, my animals, and my home safe.
Just before a huge snowstorm was due yesterday, Bill trapped a fourth squirrel. He had put the trap high up on the house just outside the entrance hole, held there by a nail. The squirrels could come in and get a bit of the bait each time, until they were comfortable enough to go all the way inside and the flap closed shut behind them. Every day he came and checked the trap, taking each squirrel home to spend the night in his cellar before being released the next day.
I’ll admit, it occurred to me for a moment that he might be taking them home and euthanizing them anyway, or eating them, or secretly be some deranged serial squirrel killer. But my doubts were soon put to rest.
As he came to get the fourth squirrel, snow starting to blow all around us, Bill and I got chatting. Thin and spry, with a full head of wavy gray hair, he looks to maybe be in his 60’s. He had been a dairy farmer in his previous life, one of so many in this area of upstate New York with the same story: milk prices dropped, and he couldn’t afford to keep his cows. So he sold them and went into the critter control business.
By the way he talks about them I can tell Bill really likes animals. He goes on about how smart they are, how clever, with affection and humor, not disgust. He knows squirrels and other small animals can be a nuisance and cause a lot of damage in a house. But that doesn’t mean he dislikes them.
He seems instead, to have quite the opposite opinion. He likes them, respects their lives, and tries to do right by them while still helping his fellow humans live safely – an attitude I appreciate, and that I happen, of course, to share.
Today after the snow stopped I ventured out to shovel and rake my roof. We agreed to take down the trap so no one would get stuck outside in the freezing cold and snow since Bill couldn’t get back until the storm was done. I was surprised to find a set of tiny, telltale footprints in the snow on the roof below the squirrel’s entrance hole. I looked up to see the plastic bag and wire mesh Bill had temporarily stuck in the hole moved. So there was another squirrel still hiding out in the nest– that made five total.
Holy cow, I thought, they must have been having a real party in there!
With the snowstorm done and the driveway clear (thanks to my neighbor), I’ll call Bill tomorrow and tell him there’s at least one more tenant we still have to evict. Although I’m sure it doesn’t always happen, hopefully all will continue to go well and everyone will be out of the nest soon. I sleep better at night knowing the squirrels won’t be chewing their way through the house, and also because I believe they have chance, and because, thankfully, there is someone like Bill willing to help me give it to them.
I've never really liked labels: I am this, I am that... But in the interest of introducing myself to the world, I can say that I am many things: nurse, writer, photographer, poet, painter, gardener, friend, armchair philosopher, counselor, nature lover, real-estate aficionado, movie buff, sometime yogi, and aspiring world-traveler. I think that's a pretty good list... for now. I want to become a bigger part of the vital, creative force I feel deeply at work in the world and connect with other people who want to do the same.