I have two walnut trees in my front yard. Every year I engage in a multi-month skirmish with the resident tribe of squirrels. Over the 17 years we have lived here, I have employed several techniques to protect my crop: some legal, some sporting, some questionable. The cumulative scoreboard shows me somewhat ahead (to be fair, I’m the one who’s keeping the tally), but last season Sciurus griseus triumphed over Homo versutus, so I built a cage with a trigger that—when coated with peanut butter and nuzzled by a hungry, unsuspecting squirrel—drops a trapdoor and secures the thief.
What does one do with the fluffy-tailed creature once captured, you might ask. Drive the trap and its contents to some verdant woodland miles away and offer gratis rodent relo services? Nope. California law specifically prohibits catch-and-release anywhere other than where the varmint was first imprisoned. There is, however, no sanction against mercy killing and squirrel gumbo.
It’s June…early in the growing season, so the walnuts are still immature, causing the squadron of gray-tailed munchers (at least two pairs and their rapacious offspring) to resort to petty raiding of my wife’s bird feeder. Their hunger is my ally, so yesterday I set the trap at the base of one of my trees.
The next morning the peanut butter was licked clean, but due to what was either the Coriolis Effect or some chafing among ill-machined parts of the cage that were designed with guillotine intent, the trapdoor never fell.
This morning I soaped the moving parts to maximum slipperiness, re-baited with a few scattered cat kibbles and a dollop of peanut butter irresistibility, and reset the trigger. I waited….
I could see the cage from my office window. Nada all day.
When I went out for my early evening constitutional (brisk walking laps around the high school track while listening to an intelligent and informative podcast about why today’s judiciary is injudicious), the critter brig was still unoccupied.
At midnight the surreality of Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie came to a close. I placed the DVD into the Netflix envelope and opened the front door to affix it to our mailbox. To paraphrase Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, “The film had sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute.”
I heard scratching.
Quickly I returned to my bedroom. A focused elation in my mien raised my wife’s eyebrows. The corners of my mouth lifted just a bit as I answered her unasked question,“I’ve caught the little bastard.”
I grabbed my cell phone, flipped on the flashlight, and scurried out into the night. Moments later I returned…abashed.
“A little problem,” I mumbled. “I’ve caught a skunk.”
“Call Animal Services,” she implored. “Call the police,” she suggested.
“I’ll handle this myself,” I shot back, my alpha-maleness impugned no small bit. But first, I thought, I better call my older brother for advice. I knew he’d be awake.
“Use a pole. Remove the trapdoor. The skunk’ll figure the rest out. And stay upwind.”
All good advice. It worked. The little stinker slunk off into the darkness.
I’m going to bed.
The squirrels will be hungry tomorrow.