Squirrel Killing

There was a reason I YouTubed (is that a verb now? Like “to Google”?) Squirrel Nut Zippers the other day: we’ve had a significant squirrel-in-attic problem here for a few weeks.

Gray SquirrelNow, since I technically live on Citadel property, I don’t have to pay for pest control to deal with this sort of thing. I just call up the powers that be, and they make the arrangements. So for these past weeks a pest control fellow has stopped by twice a week and trudged up into the attic to set traps. Live traps at first. Then, as the rodent’s destruction increased — gnawing on rafters, shredding boxes, digging through the insulation — a few ol’ fashioned rat traps mixed in, loaded up with creamy (not chunky) peanut butter.

Which brings us to yesterday. I was here in my office when I found out something had happened up there. I heard a scratching of claws on wood: scritch-sritch-scritch! This would go on for a few seconds, then it would stop for a few. Then it came back. Damn squirrel, I thought, imagining the rodent tearing things up. I grabbed my trusty D-cell MagLite, lowered the attic ladder, and climbed up to investigate.

To my surprise, the scritching didn’t stop. There was no shuffle in the dark as a fluffy-tailed little beastie shot out into the dark corners of the rafters. So I crept up on the noise, torchbeam searching until I found it.

Rat TrapThe squirrel had finally been hit. Rat trap. Only it wasn’t dead. The spring-loaded bar had come down just as it was supposed to: right behind the rodent’s skull, on the back of the neck. It had pinned the creature’s neck down, but it somehow hadn’t killed it. The scratching I was hearing was the sound of the squirrel’s hindlegs instinctively kicking against the wooden trap. Scritch-scritch-scritch!

The animal’s wide, luminously dark brown eyes were dilated by the light of my flashlight. It’s tongue was pushed out into its still-open mouth. There was little chance, I imagined, that it could survive even if it got out of the trap. And even if I released it outside, it would no doubt just return.

I picked it up, put it in a small box, and carried it outside. I stood over it a minute or so, thinking. There was a gentle breeze in the yard, stirring the squirrel’s fur like a caress. Her chest — it was a female, I now could tell — heaved in panting exhaustion, and her legs twitched.

I reached down and gripped the trap. I yanked it back hard. The squirrel’s neck snapped. Her panting stopped. Her legs froze. The breeze continued to move her gray-to-white fur in small waves.

I’ve been thinking about this since yesterday. Not so much about whether or not I did the right thing given the circumstances, but about why I took that minute to look at the squirrel, about why I hesitated before snapping its neck and what — if anything — that says about me as a human being.

I have come to no conclusions, and the squirrel remains dead.


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  3. When you’ll start having squirrel after squirrel in your attic, these kinds of existential problems will fade…

    • Luckily, I’ve not had another. I think word got out among the rodent clans.

      I’ve no doubt you’re right, though. A few more squirrels showing up and I’d likely have been perched on boxes with a shotgun, muttering to myself amid the flashes in the dark.

  4. Wow, a rat trap for squirrel control! I guess it did the trick in this case, but I’ve never seen a squirrel caught in a rat trap, even in all my days as a squirrel trapper. Check out my squirrel blog for dozens of squirrel trapping stories – none of them involving a snap trap – crazy!

  5. What a brilliant site, Dave! Wish I had you around. The designated pest control fellow here took weeks and weeks to get that squirrel hit.

    Interesting to hear that the rat trap isn’t the norm. It sure struck me as odd — I didn’t figure it could kill a squirrel, which turned out to be prophetic — but the fellow assured me that it’d be just fine as he loaded ‘er up with the peanut butter.

    Oh, and it was pizza in the earlier (and unsuccessful) live traps.

  6. i like your aticles, because a lot of get more information. thanks

  7. How do we eradicate the rodents with the toxic chemical based?, thanks

  8. Interesting blog there Dave. I couldn’t heart any of them, but possums in our attic do cause us some headache. We had to get a special ‘one way’ door that can be placed in a place of a tile on the roof. Then find the hole where they got into the attic and fill it. After a while they come out form the attic but cannot get back. They lovely creatures though.

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