This here’s a story about Billy Joe and Bobbie Sue, two young squirrels with nothin’ better to do — except unleash their squirrelly wrath on me, that is, for the better part of a week, two winters ago…

squirrel captured in a Havahart live trap

squirrel captured in a Havahart live trap

Outlaw couple Billy Joe (top) and Bobbie Sue (bottom), shortly after their capture.

Yes, these two bushy-tailed reprobates managed to get into my home in early January, 2009, gnawing their way through a small, dry-rotted section of my outside cellar door. I initially became aware of their presence when I first heard Bobbie Sue, the louder, more tempestuous of the two, crawling around and whimpering inside the first floor wet wall, as she made her way up through the framing. So I had a squirrel on my hands. But didn’t realize I had two until the next day, when I encountered both of them in the attic.

Fortunately for me, their access to my home was relatively limited. They had the run of the basement, of course (in which they made a real mess), the innards of the wet wall which they used as a pathway to the attic, the 2nd floor birthing room (which was empty at the time, with the door kept closed to stop drafts — good thing for that), and then, of course, the attic. They have a natural instinct to climb to the highest possible elevations, and this must have prompted them to head up there.

captured squirrel released in Osborndale State Park Connecticut

captured squirrel released in Osborndale State Park Connecticut quickly climbs into canopy of trees

Bobbie Sue escaping her Havahart trap and making for the small sapling (top); Billy Joe high in the canopy after his release (bottom). If you zoom closer on the photo, you can plainly see that Billy Joe is making an obscene paw gesture at me.

Catching them was a royal pain. I swear, they knew what I was up to, and tried to mess with my head. I set a total of three Havahart live, aka catch and release animal traps for them; two in the attic, and one in the basement, just in case either attempted to venture back outside the house via the basement. On one occasion, the bait (peanut butter) was removed from one trap without springing it. On another occasion, a trap was sprung, but with no animal inside (in retrospect, this was probably the act of a mouse). And then, the traps were totally ignored for several days. But eventually, either hunger prevailed, or they just got careless, and I caught both of them in the attic.

Fearing that they knew the house all too well at this point, and might find some other way back in (even though I had already blocked their original entry point), I decided to take them to nearby Osborndale State Park to release them to the wild. I released Billy Joe first. He immediately made for the nearest tree, and quickly ascended to the upper-most portion of the canopy. But Bobbie Sue’s path to freedom was a bit more haphazard, perhaps somewhat in keeping with her tempestuous nature. She darted toward a small sapling right near her trap and climbed quickly, only to find herself hanging perilously from a very small limb, with no where else to go. She either deliberately let go, or lost her grip, and fell about seven or eight feet down onto the soft snow, totally unscathed, and then ran to the same tree Billy Joe had ascended previously, where she began her fast ascent. After a while, she was completely out of sight, lost in the canopy of the trees.

captured squirrel released in Osborndale State Park Connecticut quickly climbs into canopy of trees

captured squirrel released in Osborndale State Park Connecticut

Bobbie Sue out on a limb with no place to go (top); after plummeting to earth, Bobbie Sue ascends the same tree taken by Billy Joe (bottom).

Now, aside from this being a (somewhat) entertaining story, where’s the key element of “building moxie” in it? Well, funny as the story reads, it wasn’t very funny at the time. Anyone who has ever had a squirrel (or two) in their home can tell you how destructive they are, how imperative it is to get them out quickly, and how their prolonged presence (that is, any thing longer than about one afternoon) can rattle you psychologically. For me, a humane option, however, was the only option. I knew about the Havahart Animal Traps, searched quickly online, and found I could get them at my local Home Depot (Medium 2-door). One of the sales folks there advised peanut butter as the bait. And it all worked out in the end, albeit with a sense of quiet desperation on my part until it was over. But I took charge of the situation, and brought it to an end as quickly as I could, and no one got hurt (including me). Such is the way of Building Moxie!

For further reading, here’s a link a very recent This Old House article on dealing with a variety of winter-time critters, as well as my original blog posting.