Yesterday afternoon a small rodent found itself trapped in one of the window wells. The wells are a good three feet deep, and the wood lining them is not completely vertical, but arranged in really narrow steps, so that should a person find it necessary to escape from the basement (in case of fire, for example), one could crank open the window, jump out into the well, then scramble up the side to safety - but only after carefully removing the screen, of course.
So anyway, this little creature found its way down there but couldn't get out, presumably because the bottom step was too high for it to scramble out. I think this little thing was a vole. It had practically no tail and a pretty big sniffer, plus it looked blind. It was just scrambling around the gravel, trying to escape the sun, which was beating down on it, and it looked frantic. Actually, the way these animals move, they always look frantic to me.
The kids spotted the vole and were fascinated. Fortunately, their curiosity stopped short of climbing down in there and trying to catch it, but they watched its every move, and probably terrified it even more with their squeals of interest. I, for one, was about equally interested and repulsed. I hate hate HATE little rodents. The way they twitch and skitter around just gives me the creeps. I also, however, have no desire to fish out dead rodents who were stupid enough to get trapped in the window well in the first place. So we decided we had to help the little guy get out of there.
Fortunately, I knew this moment was coming. A family we know in town had a nice big egress window installed in their basement by the same builder we've hired. Before our project began last fall, we went over to take a look at theirs, and we saw a narrow strip of screen had been tacked to the wooden lining of their window well. L and J explained that after removing a dozen or so dead shrews (shudder) who had gotten trapped in there and died, they installed that strip of screen for the little rascals to climb out. I did the same, only with a bit of chicken wire leftover from our garden fence.
The little vole was so traumatized, probably by my presence and all the hammering, it hid in the corner under a rock. At this point, I almost - almost - felt a little sorry for it. I was also a little nervous that it had exhausted itself so thoroughly already that it would just die right there. It didn't help that Daniel and Anya were both yelling "Come out, little vole! Come out and climb your ladder!!" We decided to lure it with a little piece of bread smeared with peanut butter placed at the very bottom of the chicken wire. Eventually, this worked, but it did take a little while for the vole to find the bait. Daniel thought maybe we should give it a little cup of water, too, but I told him that might encourage the vole to just make our window well its new home, and that would not be acceptable. Not at all.
After a little while, the vole finally made its way out of the window well, to the enthusiastic cheers of Daniel and Anya. I'm not sure where it went after that. Maybe down into the other window well? If it did, I've got some chicken wire nailed there just in case. I just hope it's not expecting a little snack on the way out.