By the time I returned…

Robert Stanger Contributing writer

In a strict sense of the word, our cabin on the river is not “inhabited” for much of the year … basically from the time the leaves are clear of the trees and the woods start to ring with gunshots until the early spring when the trees are again green with leaves.

But in a looser sense of the word, our cabin has “inhabitants” for the entire year in the form of mice and flying squirrels. Bats also used to reside in niches in the cabin’s cedar planking and under a circular Amish sign hanging there, but in evenings now I never see bats flitting above the river in search of insects.

The bats along the river have apparently fallen prey to the “white nose “disease which has decimated bat colonies throughout the East.

Before their apparent disappearance, a bat made its way into our unlit oil stove. We heard its thumping inside the firebox, and when I opened the stove, it flew out. We managed to get it out of the cabin by opening a window in a small bedroom, taking the screen off, and shooing the bat in that direction.

The bat had gotten into the stove via a vent at the top of a 20-foot flue. It descended the length of the flue, followed the flue as it turned sharply into the stove, and got past a damper to enter the firebox. Perhaps we should be thankful that the bats seem to be gone … but we aren’t.

We don’t mind the flying squirrels as our permanent “guests” as they never enter the cabin proper and are amusing to watch with flashlights in the evening around a campfire as they scamper along the siding, peer out of crevasses in the siding, and glide to neighboring trees.

But mice are a different story. They get into everything in the cabin in search of food and snug places in which to retreat during the cold months.

Last winter, the mice chewed a hole in a plastic container holding pounds of birdseed that was in a closed cupboard above the refrigerator. They consumed the entire contents, leaving only sunflower seed hulls. They also carried much of the seed to various hiding places throughout the cabin.

Just after we acquired the cabin, workers removed a section of wall in the rear of the place in order to install a flight of steps from the second floor. They found a huge fiber “nest” the mice had made within the wall.

During the first summers we lived at the place, the cabin was alive in the evening with the noise of mice scampering within the walls and above the plaster ceilings. I tried using poison to trim the rodents’ ranks, but abandoned this due to the odor that emanated from within the walls from corpses of mice that had eaten the poison and died.

I then turned to traps with some success. But now we mostly just try to ignore the rodents, even as we have to clean up their droppings, which are everyplace in the kitchen where the mice search for food. We have even found droppings at the bottom of glasses.

The worst incident we have had at the cabin involving intrusion from the wild terrain outside was when a host of yellow jackets entered the building through very small crack in the siding below a window.

They traveled about 15 feet between the outside and inside walls, then chewed a hole through drywall and entered en masse a small utility room we had added at the back of the house to give us room for a back stairs and a rear entrance to the house. I found them swarming there when I entered the small room.

I left the door to the outside open as I emptied most of a can of insecticide into the room. This eliminated the problem for the most part, although a few had managed to enter the main portion of the cabin. I was even stung on the neck a few evenings later as I sat reading in a chair below a light.

The more one is stung by yellow jackets, the worse the reaction can be. Because of the number of times I have been stung, I now have a strong reaction to such stings with the site areas becoming swollen and feverish. I have endured badly swollen feet, a forearm and a thigh in the recent past.

Some people are so allergic to the stings that just one sting can be fatal, as was the case with a Youngtown lawyer who some years ago died at a golf outing in Hubbard when yellow jacket stung him on the lip as he was drinking a can of pop.

The lawyer apparently had a severe allergic reaction to the sting, or anaphylaxis.

Those who are very susceptible to the stings may need to carry an Epi-Pen which contains the adrenaline required to counteract the life-threatening effects of the sting

Any edible material left outside in a wild area is, of course, an invitation for a nocturnal visit by prowling creatures.

One evening we placed a bag of excess garbage in a small cellar pump room we thought was inaccessible from the outside. I was unpleasantly surprised the next morning to find the garage strewn all over the floor of the small cellar.

A small animal, probably an opossum, had obviously smelled the garbage and had then found an opening into the pump room just big enough for it to squeeze through.

Screech owl visits to the cabin area in the dead of the night can be positive or negative experiences. Positively, the unearthly calls can briefly deepen one’s ties to the natural world. On a negative note, the trilling is certainly piercing enough to awaken a person from deep slumber. They make a lot of noise for a bird only 7 to 10 inches tall.

It wasn’t s a little screech owl that attacked one of our cats late one evening when the cat ventured into an open space between our cabin and a neighbor’s. After hearing her scream, my wife went out and carried “Pumpkin” inside. The cat’s right ear was somewhat mangled, as the owl had apparently tried to grasp it on the head with its talons.

Due to the presence of scat, bears are apparently frequent nocturnal visits to our cabin area.

I described one visit previously, in which a bear climbed the large basswood that borders the river at the rear of our cabin to get at our bird feeder.

Another visit came one evening as I sat in a chair reading in a room off the kitchen. A kitchen screen door opens onto a small porch, from which I heard a scraping sound. I went to the screen door just in time to see a large bear run down concrete block steps located just off the porch that lead to the river.

But the bear didn’t keep on going after it reached the foot of the steps. It stopped at a small flat bench area that parallels the river, and looked up at me, as if expecting a snack.

I stepped back into the kitchen to get a flashlight in order to get a better look at the bear. But perhaps the bear may have thought I had gone to get a weapon, as by the time I returned to the door, it had run off.


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