Some people get saddled with animal pests. Perhaps the neighbor’s cat keeps coming around, getting into trash and killing songbirds under the feeder. Or maybe it’s the neighbor’s dog, killing livestock, barking at all hours and so on. But my animal pests come in a different guise. My unwelcome visitors are mostly wild.

My cottage sits on posts, making it relatively easy for wild animals to gain access to the under-parts of my place. And although I bank my sides in an attempt to thwart unwanted visitors, a determined animal can always find a way in. While a wild critter may decide to domicile itself beneath my house at any time, most of them choose late fall. After that, they spend the winter, not to emerge until spring.

Each fall, I go on a campaign to deter animal visitors. I’ll use those spray bombs meant for fleas and spiders and set two or three off under the house. Then I’ll get some plastic bottles of ammonia, poke holes in them and toss them under the house. And mothballs. I’ve used an awful lot of mothballs. You would think that after all these harsh measures, no animal in its right mind would care to stay under my house. But thinking and doing, to paraphrase an old Scottish saying, are two far different matters.

Nighttime intruder

Not all my animal pests live under the house. Some actually come in the house. One late summer night, while fast asleep in my loft, something awakened me by slapping me in the face. “AHHHhhh,” I screamed, before ducking my head under the covers.

The thing, I had no idea what it was, kept slapping my now-covered head. Screwing up my courage, I reached one hand out to my night lamp. Pulling the chain lit up the room. I lifted one edge of the blanket just a teeny bit and squinted around with one eye. Then it attacked again. A bat. It was a bat and it flew all around the house, incorporating my bedroom into its flight plan.

I got up and dressed, all the while holding a hand over my head to warn away the bat. Trying to capture it with a landing net used for fishing was futile, as was trying to swat it with a broom. I was reminded of the old Marty Feldman television ad, the one where Marty was bothered by a buzzing fly that he could not swat. In the end, the house was destroyed and Marty sat in his chair, the fly still buzzing around his head.

Clearly, this called for a different approach. There was only one answer. Shoot the critter. But shooting a firearm inside a house is in poor taste, if not downright stupid. Fortunately, I had at hand an air rifle, a very powerful and accurate one. I gave that sucker 10 pumps, the very maximum suggested number, and waited for my chance.

The bat landed on some trim in the corner of my ceiling. I took careful aim, squeezed the trigger, and “splat.” I hit the thing. But it did not fall to the ground. Instead, it summoned enough energy to crawl into the space between ceiling and wall. I never saw, heard or (thankfully) smelled it again.

Plodding giant

As an amateur astronomer, I spend plenty of time outside at night, panning the sky with telescope and binoculars. Last night, the first night in some time that was clear, I decided to check out a few galaxies and double stars.

After getting my scope set up, I took time to let it acclimate to the outside temperature and also, for me to develop my night vision. Sitting on my stool, trying to decipher different constellations, an odd sound in the nearby woods attracted my attention. Whatever it was sounded fairly heavy, a plodding giant. It was walking, that much was sure. But where was it walking to? For a moment, I entertained thoughts of leaving my scope and going inside.

“Daow!” I exclaimed. “You aren’t going to scare me. Go away.” It didn’t answer, but instead, kept coming.

The thing produced a number of, shall I say, disconcerting, sounds as it went. It groaned and sighed. And it was heading my way. “Mama didn’t raise no fool,” I thought, as I hastened into the house. There, I turned the outside lights on, ruining my night vision, grabbed a flashlight and stepped outside to confront this mystery intruder.

And there it stood, perhaps 10 feet from where I was previously sitting, a large and determined-looking porcupine. It all came together now. I had heard oddball sounds from under the house last winter. Also, I recalled that something had gained entry to the crawl space by gnawing on the skirting. The porky had spent the winter under my house and now, with spring in the air, was out and about, intent upon doing whatever porcupines do. And it looked as though this included walking toward me.

I shone my flashlight into its eyes and hollered. I waved my hands, tossed sticks and clods of earth. Finally, it slowly and ponderously turned and just as slowly waddled away into the woods. I hope it never returns.

Incidentally, had I not jumped up and run inside when I did, the porky might have brushed against my legs. Having had a single porcupine quill deep in the flesh once before, I can attest that they go in much easier than they come out. I attribute my removing myself from harm’s way to a beneficent providence.

Moose, deer, skunks, porcupines, weasels, coyotes, even a large wild cat (dare I say mountain lion?) have intruded upon my well-being in unexpected ways. Some might ask why I don’t move to saner climes. But I’m happy here in RFD Maine and even though they occasionally prove intrusive, I can live with, or at least co-exist with, my unwelcome visitors.