How do you like your critters?

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Turning Point by Beth Irvine

In a fish bowl or in a dish for supper?  Personally, I like my chicken crispy; my fish pan-fried; and my cats curled on my lap. From time to time, other beings, winged and furred, have made their way into family living space and the results have cast shadows far larger than the event. 


My mother tells the story of her grandmother bringing her husband’s favourite horse into the house. Grampy was dying and he longed to see his horse again, so Celia just brought it on in. Grampy died happy and the horse was quite content to be led back out.


There are some creatures, though, that should never be allowed into the house. And some which, once they’re in, are difficult to persuade to leave. I have never lived through the excitement of having a bird’s nest stuffed in the chimney, but as a young home owner, I did come home one afternoon to something large and grey, rustling and coughing amidst the ashes of the fireplace. I scarcely dared approach the thing but realized, one way or another, I would have to deal with it.


It proved to be a pigeon, in much more fear of me than I was of it.  I dealt with it by going to the next door neighbour to ask for help.  What followed was very instructive . . . concerning how not to solve a pigeon in the fireplace problem! It might seem that the first step would be to remove the screen. What happens when you do, however, is that the terrified creature becomes energized by the hope of escape and dusts the whole house liberally with ashes. The neighbour huffed and puffed, and popped several nitro-glycerine tablets, before the pigeon finally burst out the front door in a flurry of dusty feathers and quite un-pigeon-like squawks.


It need not have been so elaborate a procedure, as I learned the summer the bats developed the habit of flying directly up the staircase whenever I opened the door to the porch and the outside door. Propping open both doors was necessary, for example, when bringing groceries into the house or taking garbage out. For a while, it seemed I couldn’t do either without following up with Bat Patrol. I became quite handy at sneaking up on an exhausted bat, ice cream bucket in hand. The idea was to cover the bat with the bucket, slide the cover between the wall and the bucket to contain the bat. It was then a simple matter of carrying the bat in the container outside, ensuring the doors to the house were closed and then removing the lid – in much the same way as children of a certain generation used to capture bumble bees in jam jars.


February is not the season for bees or bats. Mice and rats are the uninvited critters of winter and there seems to be a bumper crop this year. Has the mild weather made them more adventuresome?

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