Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Omigod, It Must be Rabid

Spring is a few months away, and that will mean animal babies all over the neighborhood. Baby birds with their mouths wide open in nests, waiting to be fed. Pollywogs swimming in vernal ponds. Baby raccoons, skunks, foxes, possums, etc. living huddled together in hollow logs and trees, in old stone walls, under sheds, decks, and raccoons in chimneys. They could be at your house. You're sitting at your kitchen table late one morning in late May, drinking coffee, and watching the new leaves on the trees and the new green grass filling in after the winter. Suddenly you see it! An adult raccoon is walking across your back lawn, It's daylight, and they're nocturnal. They aren't supposed to be out in daylight. Something must be wrong. It must be sick. Could it be rabid? Relax. You're right, they shouldn't be out during daylight, and normally aren't, but out back is that old dead tree with the hollowed out area near the top. You've been planning on having it taken down, but haven't gotten around to it. Well, inside that tree are four baby raccoons about four weeks old and they are hungry and getting hungrier every day. The days are getting longer, the nights shorter, and the babies need to be fed, so the mother is forced to stay out during some daylight in order to get enough food for her kids. A normally nocturnal animal, seen outside in daylight during April, May, June, and into July is not a major cause for concern, as long as they appear to be acting normally. It's that kids will be kids and they need a constant supply of food. Always use caution around wild animals, but in this case, enjoy watching something you normally don't see.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Squirrel Flue

At this time of the year, gray squirrels are breeding. After they breed, the females start looking for a place to build their nest and have their young. They prefer hollow trees, but will get into attics, or build a nest (made out of twigs and leaves) in the crotch of a tree branch. One annoying habit they have, however, is that they will check out chimney tops as possible nesting sites (thinking they are hollow trees) and if they fall down the chimney, they are trapped. The flue liner inside the chimney is too smooth for their claws to hang on to, so they can't climb back out. If the damper on the fireplace is closed, they are trapped on the smoke shelf above the damper. If the damper is open, Oh, Oh, they are in your fireplace. Hope you have glass doors on the fireplace, if you don't, they could be in your house. They can also fall down chimneys into wood stoves, if they are connected to a chimney. They also sometimes fall down chimneys right into furnace pipes. They normally don't survive this. There are two basic ways of removing them. The first is dropping a very heavy (at least 1" in diameter) rope down the chimney from the top, thereby giving them something to climb out on. If you attempt to "do this at home", use extreme caution. Some newer houses are built with roofs that make this almost impossible without special equipment to get you up there. The second way is to go into the fireplace, grab the squirrel, and carry it outside and let it go. Not recommended for amateurs! This whole problem can be prevented by getting your chimney(s) capped. That will keep out raccoons, also.