Wranglers Escort Gremlins

Kieran Lindsey

Kieran Lindsey | Mar 30, 2012

First comes daylight savings time, then the vernal equinox, and the next thing you know young males and females, human and non-human, are lightly turning their fancies to thoughts of love… or something like that.

No offense to Lord Tennyson but is there any time of year when people don’t think about how to get some lovin’?

Alfred’s verse is much more applicable to wild creatures, who tend to limit their romantic exploits to very specific times of year. Talk about an insistent biological clock! Speed dating is the only option for those who have six months or so to meet someone, do the courtship thing, set up housekeeping, hear the pitter-patter of little feet or the flutter of tiny wings, then shove the kids out of the nest and off to the school of hard knocks before Mom and Dad head south to winter at their second home… or go their separate ways.

Depending on where you hang your hat, the wild things may be in the very early stages of this annual reproductive race against time or already decorating the nursery. In other words, it’s time to consider how to make your Ford Focus and Tommy’s Dodge Dart less attractive to expectant wildlife parents… or start twirling your villainous mustache while developing an eviction strategy.

A good place to start is with a quick spring day trip over to the Wildlife and Your Car FAQ page. Additionally, several Car Talk listeners have generously offered their own creative solutions to the animal-vehicle anti-attraction conundrum.

Penny in Albuquerque suggests other parts of the country might benefit from embracing New Mexico Driveway Chic. Her state is home to an industrious little rodent called the pack rat (a.k.a., wood rat or Neotoma—not the same species you see on A&E’s Hoarders). Penny explains, “Many people driving through rural New Mexico communities think the number of cars they see with the hoods open is a sign of defunct autos and poverty. Not so. Pack rats seem to find engines with their lids closed a perfect housing arrangement, which they promptly fill with their favorite bedding material, cholla cactus. Pretty soon they have an apartment established.”

You can probably guess what happens next. Someone decides to take the car out for a spin, the dried plant material ignites and, before too long, everyone—driver, passengers, spectators, pack rats—are heading for the exits like… well, like rats abandoning a sinking ship. Penny adds, “This happened to us with a backhoe we’re using at our new home site. The best way to deter this behavior (pack rat nesting and the subsequent Chinese fire drill) is to leave the engine compartment open to the elements. No roof, no residence.” Pack rats are widely distributed in North America so this approach to rodent management is applicable beyond the desert Southwest.

Sounds like a simple ounce of prevention, but what if you need a pound of cure? Bill Brudenell of Boise, Idaho suggests you try six to twenty pounds… of housecat. “We discovered a very effective, non-toxic method to rid our car of a mouse after finding definite evidence that one had take up residence in our car—an empty baggy previously full of almonds, nests made from shredded documents in the glove compartment, not to mention turds. First, I tried mouse traps baited with peanut butter, to no avail. Then we took a two-hour trip to our second home with our cat. Her yowling must have convinced the mouse that her/his new abode was not such a great idea. We have seen no more signs.”

It doesn’t take a psychic to know that where there are rodents there will be snakes, and that rule doesn’t exclude cars and trucks. Along with scaly stowaways, the Car Talk staff regularly receive pleas for help from folks who thought they were transporting their pet snake in a secure travel container, only to be disabused of this assumption when they reached their destination and realized Fang decided to step out and stretch his or her non-existent legs while en route.

A loose snake will hide out in places you never knew your car had. If you’re looking for a challenge, try persuading a snake wrapped around the steel skeleton of a bucket seat to leave.

I have.

Snakes aren’t all that open to suggestion, in my experience.

So imagine my delight when the following ingenious solution was submitted by Ray McEdward of La Mesa, California:

“I am a retired law enforcement officer and we had a ‘lost’ boa in a Ford Tempo late one evening. Being familiar with snakes, I suggested we put a heat pad wrapped in a towel on the front floor and then turn the A/C on ‘FULL’ to make the rest of the car cold. In less than 15 minutes, we had a snake curled up on the warm towel. Didn’t have to dismantle a single thing or put anything back together!”

This idea is going in my mental toolbox ASAP.

If you have a clever (and hopefully humane) solution to a wildlife-vehicle conflict, send it to us! Like to learn more about living with wildlife? Check out the Car Talk Wildlife Guru’s blog, Next-Door Nature.

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