In the annals of feuding you may recall the Hatfields and McCoys or the Capulets and Montagues. Soon historic records may include the tale of the Hvals and the Squirrels.
The long-simmering conflict between Norwegians and rodents shows signs of heating up again.
“Gosh-dang, flippin’ dangin’ squirrels!” my husband recently hollered from the Delightful Deck. “Leave my garden alone!”
I’m not censoring his language. That’s an exact quote.
It seems the squirrels that run along our fence line, taunting our indoor kitties, have gotten bolder and are tiptoeing through the garden, leaving a trail of holes in their wake. They don’t even have the courtesy to take a zucchini or two with them when they scamper off.
When a freshly picked cucumber tasted bitter, Derek blamed the squirrels.
“I bet they’re peeing on my plants,” he said.
He’s not the only Hval engaged in rodent warfare. Several years ago his brother bought a lake cabin. His wife thought the squirrels that skittered and chattered among the pines near the deck were adorable.
“We fed them,” she recalled. “Then they started eating our beach towels.”
Well, that wasn’t cute.
They stopped feeding them, but the squirrels called squatter’s rights to their deck. And their roof. And their beach towels.
So, my brother-in-law got some humane traps, and they launched the Hval Catch and Release Rodent Relocation program.
It turned out to be a full-time job, which wasn’t ideal since they are part-time lake dwellers.
“The squirrels came back with their cousins and their friends and screamed at us for trapping them,” my sister-in-law said.
Things escalated the year they returned to open the cabin for the summer and found squirrels had gnawed their way through the bathroom ceiling.
The pesky varmints had chewed up the drywall – and the bath towels.
“They destroyed the bathroom,” my sister-in-law said. “Thank God we’d shut the door, and they couldn’t get into the rest of the house!”
That was the last straw.
Armed with BB guns, my brother-in-law and his sons declared war on squirrel. I won’t go into the gory details, but let’s just say squirrel hunting became something of a family hobby.
You’d think the message would have been clear, yet each year the squirrels spend several days berating and taunting my in-laws when they return to the cabin.
Property damage is one thing, but personal damage is quite another.
Recently, a Facebook friend related a terrifying tale of a squirrel gone bad at Manito Park.
Heather Rose Clarke was taking an early morning Sunday stroll through the park on a paved path when she saw a squirrel off to the side. She stopped to take a picture and the squirrel approached her.
“I thought it was really cute! It went behind me and grabbed my ankle, so I turned with my upper body to take a pic,” she wrote. “That’s when it locked its claws and started biting me! I was so surprised. I tried to shake it off, but it was really attached. I reached to grab it off and that’s when it clamped onto my right arm and wouldn’t let go.”
In a few terrifying minutes the squirrel left her a bitten, bloody and scratched-up mess. A friend took her to minor emergency, where the doctor allayed her fears about rabies, cleaned up her wounds and gave her a prescription for an antibiotic. He told her he sees this a couple times a year.
“The one thing I want to stress is that I did not antagonize the squirrel to make it attack me. It literally came up to me, and at no time did I move toward it or threaten it,” Clarke said. “It totally took me off guard. I have walked in Manito hundreds of times and never had an incident.”
According to Fianna Dickson, a spokeswoman for the parks department, Clarke is not alone.
“We’ve received reports of two squirrel attacks recently, and have called out a wildlife management contractor to provide advice,” Dickson wrote in an email. “As I’m sure you’ve read, some wildlife experts speculate the squirrel who attacks may have been hand-fed by someone, and then seeks food again from humans and is frantic when it doesn’t receive food. We continue to ask the public to please refrain from feeding wildlife in parks.”
So, no matter how photogenic you think those furry, brown-eyed rodents are – don’t be lured into offering them a snack, unless you don’t mind being an appetizer on their menu, or having your beach towels served up as the main course.
I, for one, agree with Carrie Bradshaw, a character in the television show “Sex and the City,” who said: “A squirrel is just a rat with a cuter outfit.”
Contact Cindy Hval at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.