How do you spend your FALL days?

To be honest, I am learning more about wildlife than I ever wanted to.  A category filled with invigorating, rustic and outdoorsy nature.   A world of fast moving creatures, rodents and carnivorous things than I can’t keep up with so I decided it’s better to educate than to procrastinate.  Why else would I let the critter take the lead?

It all started one night a few weeks ago when I took our puppy for a walk.  I returned to find feces in our living room.  Hmm, this looks like rabbit poop.  It’s not the dogs, and there’s no rabbit or deer anywhere near inside our home, I proclaimed.  What in the world could this be from?  The floor was clean five minutes ago when I stepped outside, and I certainly knew the looks of excrement from past experiences dealing with home critters and rodent invasions.  So I do, what I do best – ‘dial away’ to the ‘one-of-a-kind’ contractor who suddenly became my best friend.

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Before you knew it, the ‘Critter Control’ buddies were at my door steps -- panting to provide d-CON®, bait, and traps.  That’s all we needed – a little more havoc in our household.  But then, they proclaimed, as the poop experts do, “nope, this looks like it could be flying squirrel or bat poop”.  “Really, in my house?  I live here and I haven’t seen anything flying around, including a fly let alone a creature of that size and I’m not batty yet!” I stated.

“Well they are nocturnal critters and they probably don’t come out till you are fast asleep”, so he said.  Then I recalled when I was picking my son up from school one afternoon, and I noticed I had this crazy piece of gum like substance in my hair.  I thought I had brushed into a tree earlier and pulled this piece of goo out.  I looked at it, put it in a tissue, got grossed out and threw it away.  I really wasn’t sure what the heck it was.  I knew it didn’t look like bird poop on my head but what the heck was it?  It was not tree sap and I had not been in the woods recently – that would have been a miracle for my lifestyle.  Was something flying around by day or night in my home and I did not see it?  I tried not to stress nor think about it and went on with my day.  If I’d let that consume me, I’d be off to the funny farm by now.  But wait, that was coming.

Then, I dozed off late one night around 11:30 pm watching television by the fireplace and heard an “eek”.   I must have jumped a few feet alongside our puppy as she woke up startled too!  I found a flash light and searched for over 30 minutes, high and low, and could not find a darn thing.  I was determined to find the critter.

By now, I had hired ‘Critter Control’ full time and they had placed five large cages in my home and closed up every open hole they could find.  It was hysterical (well almost).  We had to barricade them from our 9 lb Shih Tzu to ensure she didn’t eat the peanut butter and sunflower seed mixture and enjoy all that.  But then, one morning, I noticed the food in both cages looked funny.  It appeared as though it had been nibbled or melted and had fallen off its cradle.  There was no way our dog popped in either cage or she would have set off the alarms.   Yes, all cages were wired to a “set-top box”.  Yes these were high-tech critter boxes with a battery-operated control panel in our backyard.  I felt like the FBI was supervising this project and it was only the local critter fellows.  Anyway, they seemed to have a ball with it while they charged me an arm and a leg, and I still didn’t have the original problem resolved.

The next night my daughter heard sounds crawl and run up inside her bedroom wall at midnight.  So the experts returned and did another sweep.  More peanut butter traps and sticky paper traps to boot. Now I had only hoped that I didn’t step in one and ruin my designer shoes!

About a week went by and nothing happened.  No more poop on the floor.  No more shrieks.  Nothing happened.  We were all starting to think this nightmare was over.  Well, perhaps it or they found their way outside.  We could only hope!  So I thought.  Then, I found more mouse droppings in the garage.  The experts returned again and found a field mouse in one of the outside traps purchased from Home Depot rather than the critter company’s outlandish sized traps which could have caught a raccoon or something along that size.  My minute-size traps seemed more appropriate for the outside rodents.  Nonetheless, away the experts went with more d-CON® and powder.

Then, the big city girl was receiving a call from her home security company while the police rushed over to find the ‘Critter Company’ who set off the local alarm in attempts to catch the real vermin  – no luck again. Here I was hoping ‘the critter’ set off the alarm.  Oops!

Next ‘the aha’ moment.  I never used this built-in sweeper with piping throughout the walls that came with our home for these plain reasons -- a great playground for any toy critter.   I noticed a portion of the pipe in the garage was busted and attempted to plug up all those holes inside and out.  We’ve lived in this home for well over 12 years and never used the darn device, so why start now?  They closed it up like a booby trap -- wires, duct tape (the all-in-one-kind solution), you name it, praying that every hole in the world was covered and the critter could not find its way back out.  We could only hope that there wasn’t a “live” family living somewhere in the middle of all this wall piping.  A built-in living room within a living room not my kind of hang out.

Okay, relax!  But then, I got out of my car one day and this critter raced down the tree next to me and hid under a hydrangea plant – what was that?!  My daughter and I crept around and saw this longgggg tail.  Then the critter guys text me this image below to ask us if it looked like this.  Oh yes, indeed it did!

Well, if it’s only a ‘vole’, I learned the following.  .  . 

What's the Difference Between a Mole and a Vole?

A mole is a mouse-like garden pest that causes subterranean damage. But so is a vole. So what's the difference between a mole and a vole? And why is it important to know the difference between a mole and a vole...?  The preferred diet of the mole is a carnivorous one. The mole will eat worms, grubs and adult insects. Neither the eastern mole nor the star-nosed mole is a rodent, so any gnawing damage you find on plants is unlikely to have been perpetrated by a mole. But rodents do exploit mole tunnels to wage subterranean war on plants, thereby making the mole an accessory to the crime!

The vole, by contrast, is a rodent. A vole will gnaw at the base of a tree or shrub, especially in winter; thus the metal guards sold to prevent such vole damage. A vole may also damage flower bulbs and potatoes in the garden. But mainly, the vole will eat the stems and blades of lawn grass. And the runways they leave behind in the process make for an unsightly lawn. Voles can also inadvertently damage plants by burrowing into the root systems of trees and shrubs, causing young specimens to experience dieback or to begin to lean.

Why is it important to know the difference between a mole and a vole? Well, here's one reason:

If you realize that the mole is mainly a carnivore, whereas the vole is a primarily a vegetarian, you'll know that they won't necessarily be attracted to the same baits (should you decide to try to catch one of these garden pests). A vole may be attracted to peanut butter as bait; a mole most likely will not.

By contrast, and in the meantime, my son thought he’d be funny and play a joke with me.  He sent me a bogus picture of a large rodent in a cage to my smart phone. It sure did look like an ugly creature and I had thought it was true that they caught something but it was too good to be true.  We had a good laugh and headed back to the drawing board.  We were not giving up yet and bound to bring sanity back to our home and our day jobs.  I think if it were that large, I’d be running for the funny farm before the critter had first chance.

Well, while I am still not certain what in the world enjoyed a short visit in our home I was certain to have a peace of mind back.  I had house guests visiting soon and I was on a mission to resolve this matter.  I did not want cages and sticky pads all over the home and did not want to scare the real house guests away.  Whether we have had ‘bats in the belfry’, or ‘if a flying squirrel resided in the basement only to find it return in the middle of the night to poop on my head at crazy hours of the day, and exit stage left’, seems unlikely, or ‘to simply blame this on a field mouse with large feces’, don’t think so, or ‘was it the vole that came into our home through the vacuum cleaner hole in the wall, excrement, and walked out the door just to mark his spot and make a short visit’, okay sure, . . . . I know the uncertainties can go on forever.

I had decided since our home had no recent occurrences, I was going to stop worrying about it, at least for the moment, or until the next FALL occurrence, but it was all too good to be true.  I awoke the very next day our house guests left, at 1:30 am, to hear loud rustle noises and eeks again.  I do believe that it may be ‘flying squirrels or bats’ stuck between the walls and now the effort will take a bit longer to tackle. The HD TV is even on the blink so maybe the family is behind that wall – no stone unturned.  Perhaps the cute little critters crawling about in their nocturnal world, who attempt to take over our illustrious home just stopped in to check things out, would prefer to find their way back to the outside.  Well, I hope we can help find their way OUT real soon.  I’d like to know they found their real family and we can just call it a day.  It will soon be HALLOWEEN and it seems more appropriate they get back home to their natural habitat, don’t you think?  After all this fun time, I actually forgot what I really do for living.

Let’s face it - these vermin’s can consume all your time and attention and scare you to death for a short while but when we FALL back to autumn, how do you spend your day?