Seeing red, and ducking

Steve PiattIn a perfect world, our three Labrador retrievers would be on the same schedule, eating, sleeping and heading outside to answer nature's call at the same time. That's not the case, however, and as a result I'm usually never sitting – or sleeping – for more than a couple hours at a time before getting nudged by an anxious Lab trying to tell me it's time to make a trip outside or time to fill the food bowl. And it doesn't really matter if it's 9 p.m., midnight or 3 p.m. That's why you might see me answering emails in the middle of the night; trust me, it's not because I work all the time.

When you're stepping outside in the Adirondack darkness, there's no telling what you may encounter. Haley, our youngest Lab, is afraid of heavy rain on our tin roof, sending her slinking into my office closet. Yet a couple years ago she had no problem chasing a bear out of our bird feeder and up the hill. Ben, in his younger days, was a repeat offender with porcupines. Coyotes howling in the distance – and sometimes not far from the house – always grab the dogs' attention. Fortunately we don't seem to have any skunks around.

We do, however, have plenty of red squirrels whose bold ways have me regularly taking inventory. I've decided to go the trapping route instead of wasting a shotgun shell on them. That decision may have been prompted by the fact our kerosene tank is located in a likely shooting lane. The last thing I need is to touch off a shot and see it followed by an explosion worthy of an "A Team" or "MacGyver" episode.

So instead I turned to the good folks at Victor, with their time-tested rat traps. Actually I took a tip from a neighbor and friend – and owner of a trapping supply business – who dealt with his own squirrel problems and tallied plenty of reds but also about 40 flying squirrels. Don't think because you don't see those unique critters that they're rare. What they are is nocturnal, and there are probably as many flying squirrels up here as their are red squirrels. And they can be an even bigger problem than the reds, especially if they find their way into your roof or attic.

That's why I've decided to be proactive on this, after hearing the horror stories from friends who had flying squirrel problems. This weekend, the battle begins. I'll mount the rat traps high on trees to keep them out of the dogs' reach, bait them with apples and start the count. I'm not sure if I need a nuisance permit to do this, but hey, I'm an Adirondacker. Sometimes things just have to be done.
This flies in the face of my typical kill-it-to-eat-it philosophy, but I've heard of the damage these squirrels can do inside a home, and have also watch them regularly tear holes in our porch screening in an effort to poke around and maybe work their way into our bird seed bin. After a while you get a little tired of it. I even traded stories with some subscribers at the recent Altona Sports Show up here; they had the same issues and dealt with them accordingly.

The clincher came a couple weeks ago when I let the dogs out for their "last call," a phrase they've actually learned to understand. A flying squirrel came off the side of the house, buzzing me like a high and tight Roger Clemens fastball. Okay, maybe more like a Tim Wakefield knuckler, but you get the idea.

So something has to be done. And the trap-on-tree, baited with a piece of apple, seems like the next logical step. I'm not waiting until I get buzzed by a flying squirrel as I watch March Madness.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, New York – Steve Piatt

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