Battling wild critters in our home

When battles with wild critters move into the home, things can get ugly.

And I’m not just talking about mice, although we’ve done battle with plenty of them. One winter I caught 38, an even dozen of them trapped in a kitchen drawer. And this doesn’t count the mice our cat killed. Often we would wake in the middle of the night to a commotion in the dining room outside our bedroom door, as the cat and his quarry careen around the room. Sometimes I had to get up and stomp the mouse to death. My stomping record is eight, in a two-week period.

Eventually Linda got tired of my stomping and hired Modern Pest and they’ve done a great job of wiping out our mice every year.

Bats were a particular challenge. In the early years, I’d try to kill them with a fireplace poker. For years there was a hole in our kitchen ceiling where I once missed a bat with the poker. After getting educated to the benefits bats bring to the neighborhood, and worried about their diminishing populations, I started catching them in a long-handled fishing net, and gently releasing them outside. Sadly, we haven’t even seen a bat in many years.

Then there is the snake episode. Linda hates snakes. One day as she was washing the kitchen floor, she moved a wicker basket that I’d left outside for some time the day before, and a large snake slithered out of the bottom of the basket.

She grabbed the fireplace shovel and jumped up on a kitchen chair, gradually bludgeoning the harmless thing to death. At one point in this fierce battle, she called me. All I could do was encourage her to keep at it. She was still shook up when I got home. She still shudders when I bring up the incident.

Every wild critter that could get into the house, did so. Red squirrels were particularly nettlesome. I watched for them at the bird feeder, and if they turned toward the house after dining, I would shoot them. If they headed for the woods, they got a reprieve. A chipmunk once resided in my workshop and the garage, darting into a tunnel under the cement floor when he saw me.

One sunny Saturday morning, I opened the bulkhead door to air out the cellar. A bit later, heading out of the cellar up the bulkhead’s steps, I met a huge raccoon coming down the steps. We had a stare down, and he eventually reversed course. I’m not sure what would have happened if he’d continued down the steps. He was certainly too big to stomp to death.

And then there was the night I woke to a terrible ruckus directly below my pillow, under the floor. Turned out to be mating raccoons.

One morning Lin was getting ready for school and there was a chickadee on her computer, apparently brought into the house by the cat. Another time, the cat brought in a sparrow. Lin yelled at the cat and he dropped the bird. It promptly lifted off and flew into my office. Lin put on a pair of gloves and chased the bird around the room, finally catching and setting it outside. Not all wildlife-in-the-home stories have a bad ending.

But some of these encounters are frightening, especially the rabid fox that entered our garage while I was out of town. Lin called the local game warden and he came and shot it. Our dog, chained in the front yard, had to be quarantined for a while, even though we weren’t sure it got near the fox. All was well that ended well.

And I guess that’s the message here. Choosing to live in and around our homes, we must expect, occasionally, that these wild critters will like our homes. Some we can live with. Some not so much.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.