As the summer winds down, I’m reminded that we humans aren’t the only ones preparing for the long winter ahead.

Critters of all sorts also are battening down the hatches.

My husband, Phil, called me at work the other day to say he was mowing the lawn and the mower quit with a bang. Try as he might, he couldn’t get it started again.

He took the machine to the repair man, who called him the next day to say he had it fixed but Phil wouldn’t believe what had caused it to croak.

He found a big mouse nest made of hay and straw under the mower hood and with it was a large snake skin that had shed after eating the baby mice in the nest.

The repair man surmised the nest had been there a long time. It was all black and burned on the bottom from years of mowing. Phil figures the nest was inside the used mower when he bought it three years ago from a local farmer.

You hear all sorts of stories about how squirrels burrow under car hoods and mice and bats get into houses through the tiniest of spaces.

A friend told us this summer that snakes always get into his house through the basement. He lives on the ocean in Harpswell and when his son and daughter-in-law, who is petrified of snakes, come to visit, she always asks beforehand if he has seen any snakes lately.

Before her last visit, he told her honestly that he had not seen a snake in the house in six months.

But, wouldn’t you know it, shortly after she arrived, a snake showed up inside the house.

These critters seem to know just how to shock and horrify.

Many years ago when I lived in a Skowhegan apartment, a bit outside of town, I arrived home to find a long white furry creature in my bathroom. I hadn’t a clue what it was and slammed the bathroom door, trapping it inside.

I ran, heart-thumping, to my landlord while Chloe, my cat at the time, kept watch over the crack under the bathroom door.

My landlord’s son was a firefighter and versed in all things wild.

He quickly declared my unwanted guest was a weasel and could get very nasty if backed into a corner.

So he donned his firefighting garb, slipped into the bathroom, closed the door behind him and after a swift scuffle with the weasel, steered it out a window, where it promptly scurried off into a nearby field.

A friend several years ago went on a trip and left her home in the capable hands of a woman who agreed to feed her three cats.

One day, she was sitting in the living room and looked out into the foyer where the cats’ food dishes were and noticed an unfamiliar and rather odd looking, black and white animal she assumed to be a cat chomping away on the food.

Realizing it had come through the cat door, she started to approach the animal with plans to shoo it back out when she realized it was not a cat at all, but a skunk!

Lucky for her, she managed to get the door open without being sprayed and the skunk eventually ambled its way out.

My husband recalls the time he was staying at the family camp and arrived to hear something scrambling around inside the Franklin fireplace.

He opened it a crack to find a gray squirrel, completely black with soot, scampering around in the small space. Phil closed it shut and tried to pluck the squirrel out with fireplace tongs.

But the squirrel, having none of it, began to run around in fast circles, making more of a ruckus than before.

Phil got a Havahart trap, put some peanut butter inside it and propped it against an open stove pipe hole on the other side of the chimney.

Within a short time, the squirrel was in the trap, the animal control officer had arrived and the rodent was taken away and released a few miles down the road.

As the chilly weather arrives, we can expect these critters to start collecting food and finding places to hide away. More than likely, they’ll give us fodder for more stories.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 25 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]

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