a young child looking out the window at a squirrel that is looking into the camera


The Squirrelly Story of the $500 Mother’s Day Gift I Didn’t Ask For

May 4, 2022

I used to think squirrels were stupid, but that’s probably because my sole frame of reference was the one that kept visiting our backyard one September to eat rotting crabapples from our tree, then falling off our fence, tipsy from the fermentation.

In hindsight, I should have recognized the cleverness of a creature who can appreciate an open bar.

That was the same year of a fateful camping trip, where one of my kids thought it would be fun to chase a squirrel up a tree. In turn, it sent a shower of pinecones raining down around our site, demonstrating that squirrels are not just crafty, but vengeful, and not a species to be trifled with.

You’d think I would have learned my lesson. 

You would think.

Two years later, in the spring of 2019 — a more innocent time, before the word “COVID” was even on my radar — I received what was inarguably my worst Mother's Day gift ever: a $500 cage for pests I didn’t even ask for (I know what you’re thinking and no, I’m not referring to my kids).

For Joe Wilson, a happy squirrel named Eli prompted a frank and open conversation with his kids about life and death.

Meeting Our Squirrel Foe

It started with what I naively believed was one fat squirrel that seemed to take great pleasure in hanging out on the roof outside my then-nine-year-old’s bedroom. She was not a big fan, both because she remembered having to take cover in a tent during the siege a few years before, but mostly because squirrels apparently start their day at unholy hours like 5 a.m..

My daughter couldn’t sleep, which meant none of us could sleep. It was like early motherhood all over again, which I should have seen as foreshadowing.

My partner finally deduced the squirrel was living somewhere in our roof once it became evident this particular squirrel had one hobby — and that was staring him dead in the eye through the window, daring him to do something about it.

A squirrel outside Tamara's daughter's bedroom window, staring back at her husband

He being prudent, but more importantly very, very tired from the early wake-up calls, decided to find out exactly where our new resident had made its home. He discovered we weren’t dealing with just one squirrel, but an entire family of them.

He suggested calling an exterminator.

“But they won’t hurt them, right?” I asked anxiously, which led to a tense few minutes of conversation.

Insulated Threats And $500 Doors

The kids and I spent a few days playing a fun game with our new tenants, where we would run out to the car in the garage and try to avoid falling pieces of insulation, loosened from the ceiling by the squirrels running along the beams. I finally caved and told my husband to call someone in.

The pest control company, clearly knowing their worth in these cases, listed the options. The most humane one was building a one-way door that wouldn’t let the squirrels back in once they went outside.

A $500 one-way squirrel door.

"Somehow, the fact that this incident fell outside the usual parameters of domestic expenses landed it in gift territory."

I am relatively certain replacing the human-sized door on our house cost less. I was also mistakenly led to believe rainy-day funds are supposed to cover things like replacing a hot water tank or mechanical issues for your car, not dealing with a household of rodents illegally squatting in the rafters of your garage.

Somehow, the fact that this incident fell outside the usual parameters of domestic expenses landed it in gift territory. The irony that I only joined the club that made me eligible to celebrate Mother’s Day by suddenly being responsible for needy, sometimes-annoying creatures was not lost on me. I just foolishly assumed it only meant the ones that had exited my body.

The next morning, I opened the door to discover a large piece of insulation covering the roof of my car, letting me know in no uncertain terms that the squirrels had overheard the phone call with the exterminator and weren’t happy about it. They had a lot of attitude considering they weren’t paying rent.

Being a parent can be tough, espeically when there are small and sharp toys lying about to be accidentally stepped on — here are some of the worst offenders.

The Sounds Of Angry Squirrels

It turned out, the space they were inhabiting was too tight for a squirrel door, so the pest control company installed a cage instead. I don’t know exactly how it worked, but it was immediately effective.

A couple of the squirrels became trapped right away, and their family members clearly weren’t pleased about it if the loud squawks of protest coming from the top of our house and the tree just outside over the next two days were any indication. If I’d thought the annoyance of regular squirrels just going about their daily business was bad, nothing could have prepared me for the constant and loud disruption caused by squirrels full of rage.

My motherly instinct took over for a brief moment, when I asked my partner, “We aren’t displacing a family of squirrels and leaving them homeless, are we?” He replied that he was not having this conversation, which was a little rude given he had just been handed a get-out-of-jail-free card, if jail was a busy mall and a trip to the florist.

Eventually, the whole family was caught and safely released. One showed back up in our garage a few days later, and my husband chased it outside, eerily reminiscent of the famous scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The squirrels never tried to rebuild their home though, which means I won.

Looking back now, that particular memory was probably my real Mother’s Day present, because you can’t put a price tag on that kind of real-life Griswold moment. Or the sweet, sweet taste of victory.

Article Author Tamara Schroeder
Tamara Schroeder

Tamara Schroeder is a freelance writer from Alberta who graduated from the journalism program at Mount Royal University so long ago, it was still a college at the time.

When she isn't listening to her nine- and 12-year old talk about Minecraft and Animal Crossing, you can usually find her running, enjoying the mountains or talking to her lively Twitter community about everything from ADHD and mental health to the time she got tipsy at a Fred Penner adult sing-along and spent $300 on a life-size concert poster.

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