Keeping animals out of the house isn’t easy

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“Scott! There’s a bird in the house!”

I was still in bed, and Linda’s voice sounded urgent, but not panicked.

“What kind of bird and where is it?” I asked. “It’s a titmouse in the spare bedroom. Close the door, and I’ll open the window and chase it out,” Linda said calmly.

Ten seconds later the titmouse perched in a tree outside the window. Turns out, the problem was that the window was already open about two inches for some fresh air, and the screen had fallen out. It was an easy fix and a great way to start the day.

Unexpected visits

When you live in the midst of woods and old fields, critters often stop by unexpectedly. Immediately, my mind raced back to earlier episodes when our daughters were just little girls.

Those encounters were not so calm. One summer evening, for example, we arrived home from vacation well after dark. I propped the storm door open so we could easily carry our bags into the house.

Fifteen minutes later the car was empty, and we sat in the living room to rest for a few minutes. I was so relaxed I dozed off almost immediately.

My nap was short lived. I awoke to shrieks and screams.

“Help! There’s a bat in the house!” Sure enough, a bat fluttered around the living room.

I told Linda to take the girls upstairs to Emma’s bedroom and close the door behind them. The bat had apparently entered the house while the storm door was open.

No big deal; I’d just reopen the door and chase the bat out. By this time, however, the bat had disappeared. I assumed it had flown outside undetected when I opened the door, so I sat down to resume my nap.

Louder shrieks

A few minutes later, I heard even louder shrieks and screams from upstairs. In trying to calm the girls, Linda had lain down on the bed with them and turned out the light. In the dark, they freaked out when they heard the fluttering of wings — bat wings.

The bat hadn’t slipped outside ahead of me. It had zipped upstairs into the bedroom ahead of the girls. I bounded upstairs to assess the situation.

Linda and the girls were on the floor crawling to the door. I let them out, then opened a window and fetched an empty peanut butter jar.

When I returned, I flipped on the light and found the bat clinging to the rough-cut wooden wall. I placed the jar over the bat, slipped a piece of cardboard between the wall and the jar, and released the bat outside.

Another time we came home after dark from a sporting event and I heard curious bumping sounds coming from the pantry. Stairs from the pantry lead to an unfinished dirt floor basement, so anything was possible.

The sound I heard was canned goods falling to the floor. This time the intruder was an opossum. When I opened the door, it looked up at me with its beady little eyes and bared its 50 needle-sharp teeth.

I grabbed a pair of heavy leather gloves used to carry firewood. I simply pushed the ‘possum’s head down with one hand and grabbed its tail with the other. Then I took it outside and released it.

No harm, no foul.

Snake encounter

A final home invasion starred Linda and a four-foot long black rat snake. Linda loves all creatures large and small, unless they slither. She knows snakes enter the basement because we find shed skins there occasionally.

That’s why she never goes into the cellar during warm weather. But one summer day she stepped into the pantry to grab a can of mushrooms.

I heard some cans fall to the floor, and then Linda’s squeal of disgust.

“Get that thing out of here! Now!” she demanded.

Apparently, the snake had pursued a mouse up the stairs and found a comfortable place to rest behind some large cans. This time I grabbed the snake, placed it in an old pillowcase, and drove several miles away to release it.

The secret to a happy marriage is knowing when to do what you’re told.

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Scott Shalaway, who holds a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from Michigan State University, writes from his home in rural West Virginia. A former faculty member at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Biological Station, he has been writing a weekly nature column for newspapers and freelancing for magazines since 1986. He can be heard on Birds & Nature from 3-4 p.m. Sunday afternoons on 620 KHB Radio, Pittsburgh, or live online anywhere at www.khbradio.com, or on the Tune-In radio app. Visit his website at www.drshalaway.com or contact him directly at sshalaway@aol.com or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.

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