How Goes the Battle?
Camping at the foot of the Silver Island Mountains in August has been interesting so far. The heat each day has been predicted to be around 90, which is well above my comfort zone. Actually, the predicted highs are pure air temperatures, and may be correct. But as is common in desert areas, you’re actually camping in radiated heat as well, which comes off of vehicles as well as the ground. That bumps shaded thermometer temperatures up another 5 degrees at least, a perceptible difference when you stand in an open doorway or in front of a window. It’s predicted to hit 93 today and 94 tomorrow before dropping into the high 80s. That means I’ll be enjoying close to 100 degree heat until the break. Needless to say, I’m taking it easy for now!
The camper’s old Dometic refrigerator is not particularly happy about it, either. Even running at full throttle on propane, temps in the lower section have been edging up to 50 during the daytime, prompting me to clear its propane burner and stow purchased ice inside it in an attempt to help it out. It does help, but not as much as I’d hoped. I’d like to mount a tarp or other sunscreen in front of the unit’s exterior wall, but a good way to mount it without blowing away or stressing the solar panel hardware is not popping up, and the sole hardware store here in Wendover is not outfitted well at all, and that’s putting it politely.
The Vermin Battle has had mixed results. Last year, at a location about a quarter mile away, the camper was eventually overrun with mice, and the flies were incredible. I actually had multiple fly strips hanging from the ceiling then. This year, the fly count is minimal, and I’ve had no mouse intrusions. The new Tri-Level Vermin Defensive System (TVDS) appears to be holding so far. That system consists of two or three ultrasonic repellers inside, as well as baited snap traps in key locations. Outside, a Victor Tin Cat mass trap acts as a lure away from the trailer. It has caught two mice so far, apparently intercepting them before they could get to the trailer.
What I hadn’t expected were chipmunks. Active, cheery little creatures that scamper about in amazing quantity here. Larger than mice and more agile, the openings in the Tin Cat pose no threat to them. None have tried to come into the camper, so they have been of no concern – until I heard one methodically tearing the felt-like lining out of the trailer’s white tire covers. Then I noticed one disappear up into the front end of the Ford. Uh-oh. Opening the hood revealed a nest the size of a hat on top of one of the two batteries, and an annoyed chipmunk peering out of a fenderwell opening to see who the big dumb intruder was. The nest was made entirely from dark insulation, which prompted me to wonder what this insulation had been stripped out of. It wasn’t from the tire covers. It wasn’t the camper’s fiberglass. My guess was that they were stripping the Ford out.
How long before they started idly chewing through wiring insulation, potentially disabling it? I’d once returned from a week-long vacation to find that my ’58 GMC pickup wouldn’t start, the result of a woodchuck eating away all the insulation around the ignition wires. Never again, I had grimly determined, never again. Now, here was the Ford, a virtual electronic minefield.
As Bugs Bunny liked to say before his cartoons were deemed too violent for children and taken off the air, “Of course you realize, this means war!” I went back into the trailer to figure out how to best protect the Ford. In the meantime, the chipmunks joyfully frolicked outside, and one even took to seeing how far he could climb up the screen door. Three times. Whenever I would go outside they would scamper away and leave me in peace for a half-hour. Then they’d return as boldly as before.
I decided as a result that two approaches would be required to defend the Defiant’s Power Module from further attack. First, one ultrasonic speaker would be deployed under the hood, powered by the Ford’s batteries via a 50-watt inverter that I have. A 7.5-watt solar panel I have was added to keep the constant power drain from affecting them. Should that fail, a baited snap trap was placed on each battery. That was Phase One.
I reluctantly determined that a Phase Two would be necessary as well. I was often seeing 4 or 5 chipmunks at a time, and that was just around the Ford only. I had to aggressively scale down their sense of ownership of my campsite, and end their perception that the area was fair game. They needed to perceive a threat. I managed to set aside my mental legacy of the Disney Syndrome, where all small creatures talk to each other in their matching little hats and vests, and break out my ancient Crosman Model 130 air-pump .22 pistol.
It was a pitched battle from the start as I confined my shots toward the front end of the Mighty Furd, some 30 feet away from the trailer door. If it’s any consolation, I missed far, far more than I hit. The end result at this point has been no apparent further intrusion into the Ford’s engine bay, and only occasional area visits by one chipmunk at a time. The party is apparently over, the danger has been perceived, and target practice is at most once a day now. The scattering gravel at least lets them know that the area is still risky to be in. Lest you think this is an inordinately cruel solution, note that I also unhappily discovered that these chipmunks are eagerly cannibalistic, and the small, limping badger in the area carries away what’s left when I’m away from camp. Not the happiest post I’ve ever written, but it’s real. Now and then, in between the magnificent vistas and the interesting people, you get this. A sweaty, death-dealing desperado!