MIKE’S LIFE: Dealing with flying squirrels in the attic

  • Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 7:24 a.m.

We’ve got flying squirrels. Again.

Most people, when they get flying squirrels in their attic, immediately think of the most quick and certain ways to get the critters out of their attic. Anyone who has had flying squirrels in their attic will tell you it sounds as if they are constantly rearranging furniture up there, occasionally taking breaks to claw out Morse code on the wall.

The sounds will keep you up at night, and they will also startle you at the most unsuspecting moments of morning preparation, as they tend to love living over bathrooms, so just as you are going to put a toothbrush in your mouth, you hear a loud “SCRAAAAAATCCHHHHH!!!!” causing you to jab the toothbrush into the roof of your mouth, which, we can all agree, starts your morning off wrong.

While the solution to eradicate a family of squirrels in the attic may be a no-brainer to some, it’s not that simple for us. The problem with the Gibbons family having flying squirrels is that we have had a flying squirrel as a pet. We had Skip.

We got him as a baby, and he bonded with me as his Mama. He would hang out with me, usually snuggled in my shirt pocket. He would ride in the car with me to work and would hang on my shoulder as I sat at my computer. My wife would take Skip across the room from me in our den and hold him up high, and he would soar gracefully to my chest, scurrying into my pocket right after landing.

Sadly, Skip met an untimely fate, having fallen in his cage one night. He was buried, and we placed a cross made from two small sticks at his grave. It is a site of great reverence in our household.

So flying squirrels, to us, are not pests. They’re Skips.

When they started running amok in our attic, my family heard fellow Skips just hanging out. For what it’s worth, while my wife and I tried to maintain the Skippiness we should, it REALLY got old staying up at night with them playing Skee-Ball upstairs.

So I decided it was time to set some traps. Before you call me a hypocrite, these are live traps, which harmlessly snag the critters so they can be removed and relocated. We last used the live traps when we had flying squirrels in our attic a decade ago or so, long before we knew Skip. We put the traps in the attic, applied some peanut butter as bait and retreated to the downstairs. Before the attic steps were shut, we heard a loud CLANG CLANG CLANG that tipped us of that we just might have caught a flying squirrel.

My daughter was about 4 at the time, and she helped me retrieve them. We took the clanging squirrel traps down from the attic and did what any nature loving flying squirrel fan would do – we went about two blocks up the road before we opened the back, sending a flying squirrel scrambling for freedom.

We decided we would take the same approach this time. My son was the helper this time, donning his headlamp flashlight and leading the way. We had two traps, both smeared with peanut butter at the back, just waiting to draw in our attic guests.

We chose a couple of strategic spots toward the back of the attic. My son opted to set them, which means they were set way back at a part of the attic where only someone his size would fit, meaning should I have to go retrieve the trap later, I would have to do some hybrid army crawl/crab walk to get to where they are.

I had told my son of the previous time when we set the traps, and he was excited to know we were most likely just moments away from having two traps slam shut.

We retreated from the attic, closed up the stairs and waited. And waited. And waited. After about 30 seconds, I gave up. “We’ll check them later,” I said. “How about now?” my son said immediately. I explained to him that while it technically was later, I meant MORE later. As in later that night. Or possibly the next day.

Indeed, we did check the traps later that night, and the next day and the next. They are still empty, save for the smear of peanut butter, which could probably use a refreshing.

My wife says she has heard them a few times, but they are not nearly as active as they were. And they certainly don’t have an interest in peanut butter. Perhaps they are gradually moving on, and they’ll disperse without the need of the traps. I’ll leave the traps for a few more days before I call the operation closed. I hope my son will go get the traps, however. I don’t particularly want to crawl back there.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama.

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