Any unexpected noise at 2:30 in the morning can be hard to ignore.
Especially if that noise is something scratching inside a metal stove pipe between your own oil furnace and the chimney leading outside.
I had just got home from a late night of work, and was getting clothes out of the dryer before hitting the shower when I heard it. Something was scurrying up and down the thick metal exhaust stack. When I noticed the damper door start to move, meaning that the unseen critter was trying to escape the piping into the house, I sprung into action.
While attempting to hold the damper closed with a metal fireplace poker, I started brainstorming what could be scurrying around in the pipe. A mouse? A rat? A squirrel? When an inch-long claw slipped out of the damper door I was trying to hold — I realized this was no squirrel. Lucky for it, we have been using our woodstove while giving the oil furnace a break.
The next morning, after deciding that pest removal services were obviously not made for those on a journalist’s salary, it was time to tackle the project personally. Armed with a flashlight, Leatherman, canvas leafblower bag, duct tape and the trusty fireplace poker, my wife and I took apart the galvanized exhaust pipe and finally found the culprit.
A screech owl.
I was expecting to see an oppossum or small raccoon. I was also ready to take any means necessary to eliminate the pest problem. But this was an owl. She and her feathered cousins helped keep the vermin population under control at la casa de Zaktansky. I just couldn’t bring myself to poke her with the poker.
So I called in reinforcements. Mike Dupuy, the falconer and birds of prey expert from the suburbs of Penns Creek, to be exact.