Thursday, August 28, 2008

How to remove a squirrel from your fireplace, or I heart Google

The area I live in is semi-rural. I live in a small subdivision built in 1970, in a village of about 1500 people, surrounded by dairy farms, cornfields, and bush. So we do tend to interact with the local wildlife a bit. For example, there's been a skunk digging up my back lawn for the past couple of weeks looking for grubs. This morning, I took Old Carp Road on my way to work. It winds through forest for much of its length, and on the trip I had to honk my horn to get a fat doe to leave the middle of the road and I passed three wild turkeys grazing (or whatever it is that turkeys do) under the trees. The other evening, four fat raccoons came out of the culvert in the ditch beside my house (four!) and climbed my oak tree. I shouted at them to scare them off, but they just looked at me, and if those tiny paws could have formed the right shape, they'd've given me the finger for sure. But I digress...

This morning I got Leah up early for a 7 a.m. dentist appointment. At 6:45 she was sitting on the couch waiting for me to get my go-cup of coffee, when she suddenly said, "Holy Cow, Mum, there's a squirrel in the fireplace!" Our fireplace has an old brass surround with bi-folding glass doors (like old closet doors) and behind that, a chain-mail curtain, so that you can enjoy the heat of a fire without having sparks jump out and burn the carpet. Both the doors and the curtains were closed. I could see something moving around in there, but it was dark. Leah said it was a smallish squirrel, I couldn't see it very well, but the cat sure wanted to check it out. I decided to wait until after the dentist -- hey, maybe I'd get lucky and it would climb back out again. Maybe. If I was really lucky.

Forty-five minutes later we were home. The squirrel was at the front of the fireplace. He was huge. And grey. And he was sort of hanging from the chain-mail curtain. I could see his paler belly and the underside of his tail. What the hell was I going to do? Well, when in doubt, google it. Surely I wasn't the first person in the world to have this problem. So I went downstairs and googled "squirrel in fireplace". There were a surprising number of hits. Probably not as many as would result from "Hugh Jackman shirtless", but a respectable number nonetheless.

The first site, a wildlife rescue, said: "Do not remove the squirrel through the fireplace as it may escape into the room. Secure a heavy rope from the top of the chimney and drop it down to the fireplace. The rope provides a perfect escape route during daylight hours." Riiiight. I'm going to risk life and limb climbing a ladder and stuffing a rope down my chimney for a freaking squirrel. I don't think so. I'd sooner follow the advice of the 16-year-old staying with us: "Why don't you set it on fire?" (I'm pretty sure she was kidding.)

The next site, DoItYourself.com was a goldmine of information (and if this ever happens to you, this is where you should go for advice. Screw the rope down the chimney). It said that you have a couple of other choices:

Removal Through the House

Close all doors to any rooms in the house that the squirrel is not in. Close all of the curtains on the windows or the doors in the room where the fireplace or exhaust fan is located. If necessary, use newspaper to cover incoming light sources. Leave the curtain open on the window or the door where you want the squirrel to exit. Open that window or door as wide as possible. Remove the screen, if necessary. Open the door to the fireplace or the cover from the exhaust fan so the squirrel can exit. They will escape towards the light.


Now you're talking. That made a lot of sense. I locked the cat in the bathroom, the girls all went in my bedroom to watch TV, and I opened the sliding glass doors in the kitchen. I closed all the other doors and curtains, and the sun shone in the open door like a beacon to squirrely acorn-filled freedom. Gingerly, I opened one of the fireplace doors and the mesh curtain and jumped back. The squirrel didn't move. And I don't mean a cowering-in-fear kind of not moving, it was more of a not-breathing-ex-parrot kind of not moving. Great. Now I probably had a dead squirrel to deal with. I had changed into old clothes and was wearing heavy suede gauntlet gloves, and I pulled the mesh curtain aside. No movement. There were tufts of fur on the floor of the fireplace. He must have been thrashing around pretty good to cause that kind of damage. The body looked funny, though. Kind of formless and fluffy rather than furry.

Slowly, I put my hand out...and grabbed hold of....a big wodge of the grey insulation that had been stuffed between the edge of the fireplace surround and the fire brick inside the fireplace. It must have been dislodged by the squirrel running around in fear after falling into the fireplace. It was hanging against the mesh curtain doing a remarkable impersonation of the underside of a squirrel. The real squirrel was long gone, he probably climbed back up the chimney before we even left the dentist's office.

What an anticlimax. Two things occurred to me at that point: 1) if this ever happens again, I'll know how to deal with it (thank you Google), and 2) it is better to be lucky than good.

31 comments:

  1. HA HA HA! great impersonation it did.

    poor little squirrel. he prob got tired waiting from your dental appt and figured before he loeft he would play a trick on you.

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  2. Oh man, you really had me going there. I seriously thought the squirrel was playing possum and was going to jump up and bite you.

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  3. 1. Are you sure there was ever a squirrel? :)

    2. Did you also google High Jackman shirtless?

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  4. Wow, I was waiting for the chase scene around the living room followed by screaming girls and squirrel excrement cleanup, LOL. Glad it didn't happen that way!

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  5. I am cracking up now! We did about the same thing to get rid of a bat once. I was cowering though.

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  6. I live within 10 minutes of the heart of the city of Ottawa and I'm surrounded by wildlife. I've never seen so much wildlife on a regular basis as I have in Ottawa. We have wild turkeys roaming our subdivision, there are hundreds of groundhogs and rabbits everywhere, the occasional raccoon, all manner of birds, squirrels, chipmunks, rats, mice - foxes, and I even saw something that looked like a coyote a couple of times. I've got wildlife sites bookmarked permanently

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  7. Better a squirrel than a wild turkey. Those are some nasty looking things.

    Damn you had me going... I had a racoon get wedge itself between the snowbank and the sliding window. It saw me in the kitchen and made no plans to move. I tapped and it left. I returned to the kitchen 10 minutes later. It was back. Creepy things.

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  8. You have the greatest stories! I'm glad you didn't have to grab it, but I'm not TOO sad it was in there in the first place--it gave you a great blog story!

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  9. I'm a little East of where you are and we have resident raccoons and skunks.

    Your squirrel in the house story had me going. I was considering the 16 year olds option as being quite reasonable, or maybe let the cat and the squirrel go at it. Having a squirrel run through the house, I don't think so. (What if it took a wrong turn!)

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  10. Hahahah! How funny! LMAO!

    It reminds me I need to blog about a pigeon in our kitchen. I used google too, but that was no help!

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  11. We had the same thing happen to us except my husband wanted to feed it once it got into the house so he didn't want to leave.

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  12. I have a squirrel in my fireplace right now. I looked at the same sites as you did. My plan is to make my husband deal with it. Hopefully it will be gone by morning!

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  13. Anonymous2:16 PM

    I also have a squirrel in my fire place. Poor little guy, my boxer scared him by trying to get through the glass (luckily she didn't) I am not trying your idea, I just had my carpets cleaned, plus we have 2 opening with no doors - lots of work. I'm hoping we have a smart squirrel, who will climb back up. We may try the rope...otherwise it may be squirrel bbq for dinner...just kidding, I would never never do that!

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  14. I was just googling how to remove a squirrel and found your blog....I have to share our last squirrel experience with you.
    About a year ago we had a similar experience. My parents were living here at the time and my Mother and I were sitting on the couch and heard noise coming from the fireplace. We alerted my Dad and he checked it out, exclaiming "there's a squirrel in there." Now, at this point in time my parents had lived in this house for twenty years. This was the first squirrel encounter we had during that time. Anyway, we get my husband and come up with the brilliant idea of My dad "shooing" it out of the fireplace, my husband trying to through a towel over it, and (all else failing) the front and back doors being wide open with my Mom and I each holding a broom to "shoo" it out the door if necessary. So we sit here and get ready. My Dad opens the "chain mail" curtain and stands up quick. The squirrel runs and jumps then goes over the couch and out the front door. About this time we realize my Dad is on his knees saying "oh my god". When we check on him he informs us that when the squirrel took off out of the fireplace it jumped and....well...let's just say it hit him in a VERY delicate area. So, needless to say, we know how NOT to get a squirrel out, we are finding a Good way to get one out! LOL

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  16. I grabbed a 1/2" piece of pipe I had in the garage, and a length of rope to make a snare like animal control uses. It took about 30 min but I was eventually able to snag it around the neck and safely released it into the yard.

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  17. Anonymous6:43 PM

    A very similar thing just happened to us about an hour ago. We live in Eugene, OR, in a hilly area with lots of trees. After starting a big fire in our fireplace, I heard some metallic sounds I could not recognize. I then saw a big furry thing moving slowly up the metal mesh. I got startled and yelled "Holy shit, there's some kind of animal in here!". My wife came running and told me to put the fire out before it got burned. I was in shock for a moment, and she had to say "Get the fire extinguisher!". So I did. After putting the fire out we started looking at it through the glass door with our flashlight. We couldn't tell what it was at first. A squirrel, an opossum? After the dust settled, it was clear that it was a squirrel. After thinking about it for a while, we decided that it wasn't safe to try to get it out ourselves, because of the possibility of getting bitten. We called a company that does animal removal services. The man first carefully tried to get it with his metal rod and wire, but after the squirrel moved to where the logs were, he grabbed it by the neck with his bare hands. He released it in our front yard and, surprisingly, she ran and climbed up a tree. Relieved that the squirrel was still alive and well, and really impressed with the trapper's skill, we felt like the story ended well.

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  18. Anonymous3:33 PM

    Just released a squirrel trapped in my fireplace :) Used the old trail of tasty nuts to lead it to the open door. It was a pretty shy squirrel though and took it about an hour to finally see the green grass and head outside...

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  19. Anonymous6:53 PM

    I'm not even lying i found your blog while looking for a way to get out a squirrel from my fireplace, and by the time i read youre idea and got everything ready the little booger was gone!!

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  20. Anonymous11:05 AM

    We think we have squirrel or a raccoon and our house was built in 1920. We have a gas fire place that no longer werks and he/she has been going up and down our stairs for two days. Since we have like three dogs it doesn't have to worry about food or water. Our Boston Terrier scared it into our gas fire place and now the poor thing is stuck. It's kind of weird that a 10 year old is blogging but I am. Any way, when I started playing Moonlight on my Chickering Piano from Boston, it started scratchingat the metal. And when I started playing Fur Elise, it just stopped, so either it liked Moonlight and hated Fur Elise, or the other way around. I started talking to him/ her because mom went to somewhere to get an animal trap. The squirrel is now called Steve/ Stevette (We have no idea whether it's a boy or girl.). Well I will call it Steve. Well apperantly I obviously knew, most animals LOVE peanutbutter. ( I am the smartest of the clan! Wink, wink, Nudge, nudge.) Well Poor Steve still hasn't got out. I have always wanted a squirrel, and now I technically have one, that I can't play or interact with :( and :). I was on YouTube and saw a video abot a squirrel climbing over this Lab looking dog. That's when I said," Moomy, Can we get a squirrel?"
    And she said," H*** NO!" Well my Poppy used to love handfeeding squirrels(and still does,)So I thought if I stuck my hand down there with pb, Icould grab Steve, But then I said," You could get rabies when it bites you." So, we still have not got the poor thing out.

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  21. When you see a mouse, bat, or squirrel; don’t freak out or you might scare them and provoke them to attack you! Keep your composure, stay calm and think clearly – don’t PANIC! Open your windows and doors, and show them the way out. Help them leave peacefully and defend your home!

    -Selena Slough

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