By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Those nasty, wire-chewing varmints

Wick's World


October 19, 2017

I often hear the phrase, “Autumn is my favorite time of year.” I love sunny 70-degree days and cool 50-degree evenings. The air is crisp when one greets the morning sun and the bright red of the oak trees blend in with the yellowing ash and poplars, making Minnesota as pretty as anywhere this side of Vermont. When James Taylor sang, “The Berkshires seem dreamlike on account of that frosting,” he could have been sitting with his guitar in the woods of Northern Minnesota.

The blaze orange of maple trees match a deer hunter’s garb, reminding us of hunting season. Deer stands spring up as quickly as chanterelle mushrooms. Minnesotans always have many species of some sort or other they can hunt. When was the last time a hunter was told about a shortage of deer and black bear, or even mushrooms? I would emphatically like to add varmints to the hunter’s list, for there certainly is no shortage of mice and red squirrels.

Hunters, for just one season I would like to ask you to put away your deer rifles or gunny sacks. Instead, pick up your pellet guns and set your mouse traps. Then go to the hardware store and buy one of those live traps for getting rid of the menace plaguing all neighborhoods — the nasty wire-chewing varmint called the red squirrel.

Imagine sitting around an autumn fire chatting with your neighbors. An outsider has recently moved to our state because they just love the place called “Minnesota nice.” Then they have to go and ruin it all by saying the two dreaded words, “red squirrels.”

Fire pit stories are no longer a mellow yellow. Phrases change from an awe-inspiring, “I saw a big black bear” (note: Minnesota bears only come in one size: big) to an outpouring of frustration surrounding a nasty, dreaded red squirrel that has taken residence somewhere in our attic. This is worse than last year when we had to live trap a chipmunk that chewed a hole in the side of our doggy door.

I was in New Mexico when, by default, my wife became a varmint control expert. She would place the occupied live trap in a box and hightail it to the woods. Meanwhile, she learned as much as she could about varmint control. The biggest lesson is this: Both squirrels and chipmunks need to be transported far, far from the green, green grass of home. If you don’t, they will be back at your house within days. Preferably the varmints are transported across a large body of water. We have two great choices: The Mississippi River or the Minnesota River. Being equally distant, I take my varmints on a 10-minute ride to their new home in Hastings. My wife prefers the Minnesota River crossing near Old Shakopee Road.

By now, you are probably asking yourself, “Why don’t they just kill them?” Believe it or not, the DNR has rules about killing squirrels. If you are lucky, your hunting season will be limited to mice. The problem gnawing at me like a red squirrel gnawing at my vinyl siding is this: Aren’t we just moving our back yard problem to someone else’s back yard?

While mice in the garage are not such a problem, when they’re in your car, it is. Don’t worry; you will know when you have a mouse nest in your automobile’s heater. When you turn on your heater fan for the first time this fall and a horrible stink pervades the vehicle, it means you have just ground up Mama Mouse. The varmint’s stinky carcass will have to be removed by disassembling your entire dashboard. This varmint problem is so prevalent in the Twin Cities that Burnsville Toyota has a mouse removal special each fall for only $89.95. Don’t even bother trying to be a back yard mechanic with this one. Pay the bucks; it’s easier than removing a dashboard.

Last year, Toyota’s mechanics had a surprise when removing the stink from my car. A half dozen baby mice scurried across the workshop’s floor. The mechanics were rather entertained that day. I am now forever etched in Toyota lore as the “The Mouse Man.” John Steinbeck, move over. I am now the new proprietor “Of Mice and Men.”

Hunting was bountiful this season. The tally came to three red squirrels, two chipmunks, one mole and numerous chickadees and nuthatches. It appears that they all take the same bait — sunny seeds. The birds were easy game. I could simply lift the cage door and watch them fly away. Varmints were a much tougher problem to rid. If you add $10 worth of gas to the $89.95 mouse special, hunting season ran us about a hundred bucks — dollars, that is, not the ones with horns.


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