Critters in the Window
My home office is in the basement. On the wall just above my desk is a small basement window, complete with a small window well. Every so often, a mouse, baby bird, frog, or other small critter manages to fall into the window well, where it is then trapped because it's too small to climb back out. I'll hear it scratching around, trying to claw its way out. I usually have to climb up on my desk to actually see what type of creature it is. That usually scares the heck out of the poor thing, unfortunately.
Yesterday, I was the one who had the heck scared out.
I heard the typical scritch-scratch in the window well, glanced up, and caught a glimpse of fur in a gap in the curtain. Poor mousey, I thought. I finished the paragraph I was editing, then climbed up on my desk to get a better look at the mouse. I pulled back the curtain, but the window was really filthy--unusually filthy. I pulled the curtain back further and moved closer to the window. I then noticed that the screen was shredded and only a few tattered bits remained hanging in places. The glass was covered with smeared paw prints. Wow, that's weird, I thought. This mousey must be really desperate!
I pressed my face against the window to get a better look through the shredded screen and the smeared paw prints. I then saw the animal in the window well: This was no mousey. It was so huge that I jumped backward and nearly fell off my desk! It was easily the size of a small cat. It had long fur, beady eyes, a pointy snout, a long thick hairless tail, and no visible ears. Its legs were hidden under its body, so I couldn't see what the legs or paws looked like. Was it a mole? I didn't think so, because it looked kind of big for a mole, plus it had really long fur. But I'm no expert. Maybe moles grow longer fur for the winter.
I climbed down from my desk and pondered the situation. My usual method for removing small critters from the window well involves a shovel, a bucket, and my daughter. It would involve my husband, but normally Brigid gets home from school before Ron gets home from work. Anyway, working together, we scoop up the mouse and deposit it in the bucket. We then take the rescued mouse across the street to the park, where we release it far enough away, we hope, that it doesn't come back.
I wasn't sure my usual method would work with this particular animal, however. I climbed back up on the desk and looked at the giant creature again. No, the shovel-and-bucket method would not work. Unless... Hmm, the animal had been staring without blinking the whole time I stood there looking at it. Had I frightened the poor creature to death when I opened the curtain?
I went outside to get a better look. The creature still wasn't moving when I stood over the window well. I looked around for some way to determine if it was alive, and I noticed a bunch of leaves on the ground. I dropped a leaf onto it. The creature moved a bit when the leaf landed on it, so apparently it was not dead. This was good news for the creature, but it definitely meant the shovel-and-bucket method was out of the question.
I went back inside and did what any self-respecting wife would do: I called my husband at work. Unfortunately, his boss is kind of picky about things and expects Ron to actually work during his work hours (geez), so, no, Ron could not drop everything and come get this monster out of the window well. But he did suggest I call animal control, which turned out to be exactly right.
The animal control guy showed up within an hour. At first glance, he wasn't positive what kind of animal it was, because its paws and legs were still hidden. He used a long metal tonglike device to grab the animal, which objected to being grabbed. The poor thing struggled, but the animal control guy prevailed. He was a bit surprised to note that the animal was a muskrat! He said a muskrat should have been able to climb out on its own, but perhaps the animal was hurt when it fell into the window well. The animal control guy (what are these guys called, anyway?) put the muskrat into a small pet carrier. He said he takes animals like this to a nearby wildlife area and releases them.
So now we have to replace the screen in our basement window. And I know I'll be a lot more cautious when I climb up on my desk to investigate the next time a critter falls into the window well.