2006-10-05 / Sam Bari

You can't beat a system you can't understand

Terrorism and animal rights
By Sam Bari

Faithful readers - it is time to warn you. Read this story and take preventive measures before the problem grows to pandemic proportions.

It all began when I bought a few bird feeders for my deck. I like birds, and enjoy their song. They are entertaining as well as interesting to watch. I had a separate feeder for humming birds, special food for cardinals, and an assortment of seeds and nuts for doves and other species. All was well for a few weeks until the bird population began to dwindle. I put food out at night so they'd have something to eat in the morning, but when I looked out on the deck at daybreak, there were few birds and the food was gone. That night I put the food out again, and clandestinely watched the feeders. It wasn't long before the thief made his presence known. It was a squirrel.

I decided to change tactics and put the food out in the morning. Then I stayed to run the squirrel off so the birds could enjoy their breakfast. However, that didn't work. The birds were too frightened to approach the feeders when I was around. So I went to the pet store to seek advice.

They encouraged me to purchase squirrel-proof feeders, and assured me that the problem would be solved. The initial feeders cost about $40, and the squirrel-proof models were more expensive, but I thought it was worth the investment. I followed the instructions and sure enough, the squirrel couldn't get to the food. However, he was visibly annoyed. Now, instead of foraging elsewhere, every morning he started scratching on my screen door until I came out and gave him food. I quickly grew weary of this routine, and decided to stop feeding him, thinking that he'd eventually give up and look elsewhere for a free meal. Not so. I'd sit in my office typing away and look out the window beside my computer only to find the pesky critter hanging on the screen staring at me with a very menacing expression on his little rodent face. As soon as he got my attention, he would start scratching the screen. He scratched until he tore a hole in it.

The next morning I discovered rips in the screens covering the sliding doors to my deck, the office window and the screens in my bedroom. I was being terrorized by a squirrel. I returned to the pet store and asked if I could buy a trap or some poison or something. They advised me to call animal control because it was against the law to poison, shoot or kill the squirrel.

Animal control did indeed bring a trap. I followed the instructions and the next morning the trap door was slammed shut. Finally . . . relief from the terrorist squirrel. I should be so lucky. The animal in the trap had a distinct white stripe down the middle of its back. Why? Because it was a skunk. I had trapped a skunk. The squirrel was watching and probably laughing his bushy tail off. Animal control said to throw a towel over the trap and open the door. The skunk would leave without spraying me when I went away. They obviously wanted nothing to do with the problem. I did as they said, and the skunk scurried off. Animal control brought a couple of different traps and one morning the squirrel was caught. Finally. The terror was over. The animal control people picked up the trap and promised to relocate the squirrel. All was well for three days. Then he was back. I called and asked sarcasti- cally if they relocated the squirrel in my driveway. They assured me that they didn't, but that they were bound by law to release him in his habitat, which meant they let him go something like two blocks away.

I was furious. I told them that, "I'd be arrested if I destroyed the screens on their houses and begged for food. I'd be locked up in a loony bin. The squirrel has more rights than I do," I screamed. "Yes, it does," they assured me.

I gave up and fed the squirrel on a daily basis along with the birds. It was costing me $7 a week to feed this free-loading rodent. That's $364 a year. I decided to deduct the squirrel expenses from my taxes. I was audited. I moved. I felt that living in a system I can't understand was difficult enough without being extorted by a terrorist squirrel.

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