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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

February 1997

[illustration of a spider] [illustration of a spider]

The beast within

Share your stories of wild animals that felt right at home...in your home!

David L. Sperling

Wild animals. We just couldn't live without 'em, right? As much as we know you thrill to the sight of soaring hawks, scampering otters or crooning bullfrogs, there are moments when wildlife gets a little too close for comfort. Like the raccoons and crows that tear through your refuse on "garbage eve." Like the bats that squeeze into your attic and manage to find their way into your living room. Like this household encounter Tim Sweet reported from his Clintonville home:

On an early spring evening, my son went down into the basement to look for his football. Instead of finding a pigskin, he discovered a skunk waddling around behind the furnace. Needless to say, when my son bolted up the stairs to report his findings, we were a bit skeptical. I don't know why, but we had to see it for ourselves. Make no mistake, there indeed was a skunk in our basement!

We tried leaving the French doors open so our visitor would wander out, but we were afraid to leave the door unattended over night for fear of what else might wander in to enjoy the warmth of the house.

Next we hired a service with expertise in removing wildlife nuisances. They baited up two live traps with bacon and some kind of banana skunk scent and placed them in the basement; the traps didn't work.

Finally we called in another specialist from Appleton who bravely held a sheet in front of himself and walked the skunk ever so carefully into a wooden box. It contained a packet of poison that killed the unwanted visitor before it let go with a drop of its highly effective defense mechanism – not our preferred solution, but it was practical.

We eventually discovered that the skunk got into the house through a part of the attached garage; that the builders had insulated but never covered with a board. We took care of that the following weekend to prevent a return visit.

We're betting that several other readers have had similar experiences when bats, bears, birds, carpenter ants and other animals stopped in for a visit. Send us your short stories by the end of July and we'll print them in our December issue along with some practical advice on how to clean up and seal up your home so wildlife will come close to the window without becoming house guests.

Suggestions for crafting your tale

1. Tell a short story, quickly. We'd prefer stories of one typed page or less so we can print at least eight-10 stories. Describe how you discovered the animal had gotten in, steps you took to find its point of entry and how you were going to get it out. Also mention actions you took to prevent repeat visits.

Give us a little more than "A mouse got in. I set a trap. It swacked him. Case closed." Those stories where the animals manage to outsmart you for a while or take you on interesting journeys of discovery through your home are particularly interesting. (Nesting critters in the chimney, air duct, attic and crawl space are always a good read...in hindsight.)

2. If you managed to dissuade animal intruders without using poisons, killing traps and "lead headaches," make sure that's part of the story. On the other hand, if the only safe solution was dispatching the animal, readers should know that too.

3. If you snapped photos or slides of your family decked out in full battlegear to thwart the invader – pith helmet, mosquito netting, gloves, long catch pole, nose pin; you get the idea – or if you took photos of the triumphal procession – a la Peter and the Wolf – wherein the vanquished beasties were paraded past the adoring innocents – include those too. Or perhaps describe the event to your kids, grandchildren and knee-high Rembrandts and have them draw a picture.

4. If you eventually contracted with someone to help you remove an animal, give other readers a hint of where to find those contacts.

5. Send submissions to: Animal Stories, Wisconsin Natural Resources, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707 by July 31, 1997. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope if you want your story, photos and artwork returned at the end of the project. Entries will be returned in November 1997.

David L. Sperling edits Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine