Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chipmunks and Jewish Soul Food





For the last two years, my neighbours to the south and north of us have hosted some cute, but unwelcome stowaways under their garages: chipmunks. 

Every so often,  I would see one scurry out from under Deji's garage foundation, or the drainpipe from his roof, and across our driveway and disappear who knows where. Alternatively, the chipmunk would come from Joe's side, perhaps from under his living room window. 

Last summer, something started chewing tiny bites out of the black rubber sealing strip under OUR garage doors. Even when they'd torn a hole big enough, and left shredded rubber pellets on the ground outside the garage, I thought "How cute!" The chipmunks were just teething, I said. No harm done. Right? 

Well this summer, it's gone too far. All four corners of the garage door are bitten through, and so are the white rubber stripping pieces. Plus, they started to shred the drywall, they bit right through the insulation near the wiring to the driveway lights, and, to add insult to injury, they kept knocking over the frog lawn ornaments my cousin Judy gave me to put in our brand new landscaped garden. Now the poor ceramic frogs were missing legs and arms!

So I decided enough was enough. I called an exterminator GTA Wildlife Removal and Pest Control, and asked them to come get rid of the chipmunks. The man said they didn't handle chipmunks. Even though it's on their website. He suggested I go to Home Depot and get some traps, and handle it myself.

After extensive research on the 'Net, I discovered there are three kinds of people: those who think chipmunks are cute and should be left alone, those who drown them or shoot them with pellet guns, and those who trap them humanely and relocate them far, far away.

I decided to go for option number three. At Canadian Tire,  I found the Hav a Heart small animal trap, and bought it. There was a couple in the same isle who asked "You aren't going to kill chipmunks are you?"  I told them to mind their own business. 

The instructions were easy enough to follow. Open the trap, put it near where you think the chipmunks are burrowing in your garden or garage foundation, and wait a few days until the animals are used to the shiny metal box. Then, set the trap for real, with  some peanuts and wait for the chipmunk to be caught.  Well, I did everything the instructions said. After a few days, I put some peanuts inside. 

Nothing happened. I checked the garage every couple of hours. For two days. Nada. Niente. Zero. 

Then a friend Graham McWaters was over on a Wednesday afternoon, and suggested crackers and peanut butter might work better. Well, I was getting fed up, so I decided to try it. But I didn't have any crackers. 

I did have plenty of MATZA, the Jewish unleavened bread left over from the recent Passover holidays in late April. So I schmeared the peanut butter (Kosher, Organic Nuts Only) onto the Matza and placed it inside the trap. And went inside to make dinner.

Less then an hour later, BINGO! I trapped my first chipmunk.

Must've been the MATZA that did the trick. 

So I covered up the cage with a big beach towel, waited until it was dark, placed the cage in my van, and put on the heat so the chipmunk didn't get cold. Oh, and I had a bag of walnuts with me, too. 

At 10 p.m.,  I drove my chippie to the forested ravine area at Bathurst and Ilan Ramon Boulevard, in Vaughan. That's the site where the Toronto Jewish community is building a new series of schools, synagogues, supportive housing, theatres, banquet halls etc. I checked to make sure no one was there. I got out of my car, under the lights on the deserted strip of ravine, and waited until the woman walking her large black dog had passed by safely. Then I emptied the bag of walnuts into the grass, put on my gardening gloves, unwrapped the towel, and let the chipmunk free.

I think it's fitting that the MATZA loving chipmunk now lives on the Lebovic Campus land, far, far away from my garage.

The next morning, I refilled the trap, and waited. Two hours later, fresh MATZA and Kosher Peanut butter had a second chipmunk!

This time, we drove it to Twickenham Park, in Richmond Hill to let it free, with a bag of pine nuts to keep it alive out there. It's also a fitting spot: for as long as I have lived in the town, hundreds  of Jewish people walk through the park in the fall to attend High Holiday Services at the Elgin West Community Centre.  Oh, by the way, the park is also used by the St. Theresa Lisieux High School students, just in case the chipmunk was ecumenical.

It's been a week now, and my trap has been ready with TWO pieces of MATZA and Kosher Peanut Butter. But either the chipmunks are wising up to me, or, hope upon hope, I've got them all. The garage guy is coming Saturday to repair the damaged doors and rubber seals. I guess that's not cool to have him work on the Sabbath. I'll be in Beit Rayim Synagogue that morning. I think I'll leave the trap out anyway, just in case.