Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The squirrel saga :p

Mali recently posted on one of her blogs that there are no squirrels in New Zealand. "You are welcome to mine," one commenter said, to which I added, "You are welcome to ours as well. The rascals love to tap dance on my roof, just above our bedroom, at ungodly hours of the morning. :p "

Squirrels have been rampaging around our yard for the entire 25 years we've been here. Occasionally, we'll see one (usually we hear it first) scampering across our windowsill or shimmying down the drainpipe. A couple of years ago, we woke up to some really weird noises. Dh pulled up the window shade, to be greeted by (I kid you not) the sight of TWO squirrels, doing the (cough cough) wild thing on the narrow brick windowsill. Not exactly what you want to see first thing in the morning. :p  (Get a room!!)  Another time, we pulled up the shade & found a half-eaten, rotting apple sitting on the ledge. (Our bedroom is on the second storey.) Dh managed to pull it down with a rake.

Even so, I never thought too much about our furry friends. Once in a while we'd see a raccoon shuffling down the street or peeking out from a tree early in the morning as we headed off to work (usually on garbage day) & the occasional skunk made his presence known, even if we never actually saw him :p  ;) but those horror stories about animals in the attic and under the eavestroughs? Those things happened to people living in old houses in the densely treed city core, not to us suburbanites. Right?

About three years ago, we had some of the neighbour's trees pruned back to the property line, since some of them were starting to scrape on our recently-reshingled roof. This had the added advantage of making it (slightly) more difficult for squirrels to access our roof.  We were extremely thankful we had done this when a massive Christmastime ice storm devastated trees in the area a year later.

A little over two years ago, stepBIL installed a new bathroom ventilating fan for us, and wound up going up into the attic to do it. "Not a lot of room to manoeuvre up there," he remarked. Apparently it's filled with trusses and crossbeams (and he's a pretty skinny guy). "See any animals up there?" I asked, only half joking. "Oh yeah, the raccoons were having a party," he joked, but added that seriously, no, he hadn't seen anything.  Two summers ago, we our eavestroughs professionally cleaned & a drainpipe reinstalled;  the workers remarked that our roof (reshingled a little over 10 years ago) still looked to be in good shape.


Recently, we've been hearing the pitter patter of tiny feet above our bedroom with increasing frequency (and no, not the kind we once hoped for). ;)  I assumed there were squirrels up on the roof again. (Note I said "ON the roof.") I didn't think too much about it -- until dh started commenting on it. We started getting woken up regularly at 5 and 6 a.m. NOT appreciated. :p 

Last Wednesday night (one week ago), we turned out the lights around 11. And then we heard it again. And then we heard another noise. Kind of like a cat yowling. We both sat upright in bed.

Dh went out into the backyard with a flashlight but couldn't see anything. "I think we need to call someone to come have a look," he said. I agreed. Neither of us slept much -- and we awoke early Thursday morning to the sound of the party going on above us.

We made the call that day and booked an appointment for Friday. (Friday morning's wakeup call was the ungodly hour of 1 a.m. :p ) Later that morning, dh got the brilliant idea of taking a pair of binoculars into the next-door neighbours' yard. He returned to tell me he could clearly see a hole in one of the roof vents. GREAT. :p

When he arrived, the guy from the wildlife control company got out his ladder, went up on the roof & returned about five minutes later to tell us that yes, it appeared that squirrels had gotten into our attic through not just one but TWO of our roof vents. :p  (He showed us pictures he had taken with his cellphone so that we could see for ourselves.)(Is it lame that I still find it cool that people can do these things? 20 years ago, we'd have had to take his word for it.) He also said it looked like they had been there awhile (erk). He recommended replacing the vents & putting protective wire cages/covers over all of them, as well as the chimney, vent stacks, etc., to prevent the squirrels (or any other critters) from getting back in again.

Needless to say, we agreed, and signed the work order.

He then checked out the attic via the trap door in our bedroom closet (from which we'd removed most of the clothes, anticipating he might need access). Like stepBIL, he wasn't able to get too far because the space is so restricted up there -- but he could see a nest under the eaves at the end near our bedroom. Fortunately, he did not see any signs of babies there. Also fortunately, there was not too much visible water damage.
Then he went to work doing the repairs & installing the new vents & protective wire covers. He left one vent unfixed & installed a cover on top of that with a one-way door -- i.e., if there were any squirrels still up there, they could leave but they wouldn't be able to get back in. (Trapping &/or killing squirrels & raccoons, etc., is illegal hereabouts.)  He said he'd return in a few days to check & finish the job. Work is guaranteed for a year.

Total cost: $630+.  :p  Not cheap. But, to be honest, I was worried it would be a lot more. And it was worth it to us, if we could get this thing resolved. 

Shortly after he left, I was in the bedroom & I heard something up there again, although not as loudly as before. As we were settling in for the night, we could hear some noises. Not the rampaging pitter-patter we'd heard before, but more subdued, like scratching & rubbing. I imagine whatever was up there was frightened by all the activity earlier in the day.

"I won't be able to sleep, listening for that all night," dh said flatly. Luckily, we have a sofa bed downstairs -- one of our original purchases when we first got married (& handy to have when company came to visit our one-bedroom apartment). We didn't even make it up properly, just brought down our pillows from the bedroom & threw a blanket over ourselves.

Believe me, sleeping on a 30-year-old sofa bed is a lot more suited to 24-year-old bones than the 54-year-old version. :p  Not the most comfortable sleep. I could practically feel the mattress coils poking through.  But both of us actually slept pretty well, without the constant reminder of our uninvited guests overhead.

Sunday, one of our neighbours across the back fence showed up on our doorstep to tell us that a squirrel had been going round & round the roof all day, pushing on the fascia, chewing on the eavestroughs, trying its darndest to get inside. We called animal control guy (again) & left a message (which was not returned until Monday, grrrr...), and when we did speak to them, they didn't seem too concerned.

The guy showed up yesterday, as promised (after we'd been sleeping on the sofa bed for four nights...!), checked things out, listened to our stories, and seemed pleased by how things were progressing. He said it looked to him like whatever had been in the attic had used the one-way door and exited, and was now trying to find its way back in. He's left it up for a couple more days & will be back later this week to finish the job.

That night, we reclaimed our bedroom, eventually drifted off to sleep and didn't hear a thing all night. Fingers crossed that it continues! 

It occurred to me as we ran the emotional gamut this past week that I could title this post "The Five Stages of Squirrel Removal (a la Elizabeth Kubler-Ross)": 

Denial:  This simply can't be happening to us. They must be ON the roof, right? Our house isn't a showplace, but we do try to keep things neat & in repair.

Anger: Why does this have to happen to us?? Why not the house down the street that has the eavestroughs falling off and the garage door that's never closed??  Why didn't we clue in earlier that this might be a problem?? (See Denial, above.)

Bargaining: If they just get rid of these squirrels for us, and I swear, we will never let it happen again.

Depression:  This sucks. Our house is ruined. We'll never be able to sell it.

Acceptance: So there are squirrels up there. They'll be gone soon;  they have to leave sometime and they won't be able to get back in (& if they do, we'll just call animal control again).  There are worse things in life. (Much, much worse, as readers of this blog well know.) 

(And: Screw this, I'm not spending one more night on a 30-year-old sofa bed. I'm going back to my bedroom where I belong, squirrels or no squirrels.)   

On the bright side: no kids to deal with (our own anxieties and sleeplessness were hard enough to cope with, thank goodness). 

Also on the bright side:  we didn't have to deal with this AND go to work!!


  1. We had bats move into our attic years ago. Talk about nerve wracking! To make it worse, they found a way into the main living area of our home. I didn't sleep well for a year after that happened. And still, even in a new home, any little bump in the night freaks me out.

  2. I'm totally skeeved out by all rodents, so you have my sympathies. And I definitely thought the $ damages could be worse (although obviously that's NOT something fun to spend money on). Yick. At least they aren't in your attic, making their way into your house so they can jump on your back in a panic, a la Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation.

  3. I'm glad they're gone and hope they stay gone! Also glad that you no longer have to sleep on a sofa bed!