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At times, house seems like zoo


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One morning shortly before Christmas last, while seated at the breakfast table savoring my second cup of coffee, a varmint entered the kitchen from the adjacent pantry-utility room.

This unexpected event quickly took my focus from my favorite newspaper. From a distance of about 4 feet, he/she paused for a second to check my species; concluding I was different, he/she took off across the kitchen floor to the hall.

Somewhat surprised by the boldness and the size, my first reaction was “A RAT!” As it turned down the hall, I remembered rats do not have furry tails. “Whew, not a rat!”

Next species identification made, “A baby squirrel!” A hasty rethink, came up with, “No, that can’t be a baby squirrel. By December baby squirrels are adult squirrels.”

By this time, I was in pursuit. Not hot pursuit; I do not do that anymore.

I caught a glimpse of the critter as it scurried under one of the living room sofas. It was now a standoff.

I waited and he waited. He blinked first and peered out from under the edge of the sofa. Now, eyeball-to-eyeball, I saw my adversary was a chipmunk!

This was puzzling. By December, chipmunks are supposed to be hibernating. This posed a bunch of questions, a couple of which were: Had he decided not to go to bed this winter and share my house? Had he blundered inside and was now looking for an exit?

Regardless of his intentions, I had no desire to share my housing accommodations with that little furry animal. I considered two options, poison or a trap. Poison was summarily rejected for this simple reason, he probably would expire in some remote and impossible to access cavity. The result, I would be aware of his pungent presence longer than I wished.

The answer was a live trap. Probably, one of my friends had such a trap. However, to pursue that source would take time I did not have. I wanted that critter gone! I drove to town and bought a live trap.

Where better to set it up than from where Mr. Munk made his debut, the pantry-utility room? The lure was a trail of sunflower seeds leading inside the trap and to the far side of the trigger plate. Now, time to wait for the slam of the trap door and the resulting freedom demanding chatter.

After about three days, I noticed that, where some sunflower seeds had been, now there were only hulls. I was suspicious. Chipmunks usually are more thorough than that.

Next morning, while at breakfast, a new stranger, a mouse, checked my identity. Not liking what he saw, he disappeared before I could pursue.

I wasted no time in loading mousetraps with peanut butter and placing them near the live trap. Now, defenses were in place.

Over the next couple of days, the sunflower seeds continued to disappear, leaving their hulls behind but with the mousetraps still loaded and not tripped. Could Mr. Mouse be allergic to peanuts?

Then, it happened. Mr. Mouse and I met as I was opening the door leading into the garage. As if cued, he did a quick exit into the garage and disappeared. I slammed the door shut. I have not seen evidence of his presence since. He must have sensed my intent to shorten his life.

After a few more days, I concluded Mr. Munk either returned to the outdoors or is spending the winter holed up somewhere in the house. The live trap is stored and all is quiet.

Now you know why no one calls me, “Trapper John.”

I wonder where the critters are?

John C. Walter, a Cummins Inc. retiree, is a member of a panel of community writers whose opinions appear weekly in The Republic. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be reached by email at columnists@therepublic.com.

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