The Many Critters Of North Salem
We had moved to North Salem only a few months earlier in the fall when I was brushing my teeth and heard a disturbing scraping sound above my head. Of course, I immediately thought of the movie, Poltergeist. A nice family just moved into an equally nice house when they realized it was built on an Indian Burial Ground. I immediately looked to see if a clown puppet was hiding under my bed.
I asked my husband, Mike, to come upstairs and made him listen while still holding the toothbrush in my hand. He heard it too. "We'll call an exterminator," he said as we both listened and heard a loud thump. "And maybe a priest," he added.
The next day, the exterminators were in our attic, and we heard them talking. "There's blood over here," said one. "Oh, look! There's a nest over there," explained the other." Mike and I locked eyes and wondered just what in the holy hell was going on in our attic.
As we soon learned, a whole ecosystem was happening above our heads. Unbeknownst to us, there were some holes in the walls where mice, bats, and flying squirrels, were entering and exiting our house daily. In fact, the flying squirrels even built a nest. Clearly, while we were getting set up in our new home, they were too… all without lawyers, paperwork, or chipping in for a downpayment.
As it was explained , until the holes were repaired, there was no point in exterminating anything as new creatures could come back the next day. In short, until the gaps were filled, we had to cohabitate with our newfound friends. I would have preferred my in-law's visit. Just saying.
On my daily call with my parents, I brought them up to speed on our nocturnal zoo upstairs. "I didn't know flying squirrels were real," my father said. I guess he'd never seen Rocky & Bullwinkle – not that it's a documentary, but still.
Always the optimist, my mother picked this moment to share with me when one of her good friends had bats in her attic and the bats burrowed through the ceiling during the night. I began sleeping with a tennis racket just in case I had to defend myself.
After "Operation Remove Mammalia" was successful, winter came. It was around 9 pm one night, and I was in the living room reading when I heard a scream. I followed the sound to our backyard, and after a quick Google search, I discovered it was a Screaming Fox. The noise was awful, but I learned that screaming foxes are not fighting or calling for help when they cry. Instead, it's just a form of communication. As an Italian woman, I understand this completely.
When we lived in Brooklyn, we'd have the occasional mouse (similar to a field mouse, except Brooklyn mice tend to complain about the L subway), cockroaches the size of taxis, and a drunk person on our stoop (true story). But bats making plans to burrowing their way through my ceiling, foxes that yell, and squirrels with the gift of flight were all new territory for us.
While some of these animals are not welcome, moving here has also introduced us to beautiful deer playing in our front yard, some of the most gorgeous birds I've ever seen, and some friendly goats. I also remember one morning when we were getting ready to drop the kids off at school, and we saw an owl in a tree nearby, just calmly sitting there checking us out.
It does feel nice to be more in a natural setting and have an opportunity to introduce the kids to new experiences and animals they may not have otherwise seen in the big city.
Still, that doesn't mean I want any of them in my house… especially not my attic.