7 Gentle Ways to Use a Broom in Spring

1. The Raccoon in the Kitchen. What do we expect, really, opening wide the doors for spring-cleaning? A raccoon that visits in the daytime is not likely to be rabid; it is just looking for pie and cookies. Fortunately, the broom is at hand—when used properly, this is the tool of choice for nearly all household wildlife encounters. If the raccoon is disinclined to leave when you ask it to, then without cornering the animal or blocking its way, wave the brush end of the broom suggestively at its bum, and direct it out the door. It may assume the disaffected look of an aloof teenager. Be insistent.

2. The Opossum in the Bathroom. Once discovered, the opossum will bare all fifty teeth and hiss in a convincing effort to look ferocious and inedible to an enormous predator such as yourself. But in reality the opossum is quite shy, which is why it is hiding in the quiet bathroom, not the busy kitchen. If it becomes overly frightened and falls into its defensive corpselike state, then no amount of prodding with your broom will induce it to revive. The opossum will be your houseguest for some hours. Consider yourself fortunate—few humans are able to study North America’s only marsupial up close.

3. The Bat in the Bedroom. There should be no swatting and waving of the broom as is typical in bat encounters. Sure, bats are potentially rabid, fly erratically, and may secretly be vampires. But they are also delicate wild creatures, and now here is a very frightened bat in your care. Open all the windows and close the doors; get your broom and stand quietly in the corner. At dusk the bat will start flying around the room and, one hopes, out the window. If it has snuggled into a curtain or is hanging in a houseplant, then stay in your corner and ever so gently use the stick end of the broom to coax the bat into flight.

4. The Flicker on the Gutter. Yes, you fancy yourself a bird lover, and flickers are gorgeous woodpeckers, and their drumming is a fabulous rite of spring, and we all want to be enlightened about coexisting with wildlife. But good lord, it’s five a.m.! No one will judge you. Take the stick end of the broom, lean out the bedroom window, and pound on the gutter until the bird leaves.

5. The Crow on the Porch Rail. This crow is likely accustomed to finding dog food on back porches, or was tamed by someone who has fed it since it was young. Such tame-ish crows are often beaten to death with brooms by people who think the bird has come to attack their dachshunds or their toddlers. If the crow bothers you, then shake your broom at it. But you may consider sitting outside with the crow for a bit. Say something pleasant and look the bird in the eye. Crows are excellent extraverbal conversationalists.

6. The Chickadee in the Living Room. Put down the broom. Open all the windows and doors. If the chickadee leaves, you can go on with your housework. If it exhausts itself and ends up in a panting heap in the corner, walk confidently over with a dust cloth, gently cover the bird, and take it outside. If you like, set the bird on your open palm and allow yourself the harmless imagining that it rests there briefly because it knows you are helping, rather than because it is so frightened it has forgotten, in this moment, how to fly. Feel the warm belly and the wildly beating heart. After it does fly, make yourself some tea. Who could go back to cleaning after the wonder of a bird in house and hand?

7. Moths in the Entry Lamp, Bees on the Dessert Tray. Butterflies, sugar ants, another bird, a house mouse. Breathe deep, and put the broom back in the closet. Our homes are semipermeable. We live in more-than-human neighborhoods. Be careful what you sweep.


  1. Great list! My favorite spider removal tools are the postcard and water glass, just slam the glass over the critter, slide the card under, and carry the whole unit outside. A variation of this worked well for a flying squirrel being chased madly around the midnight house by my cat — a large tupperware and a piece of solid cardboard helped me capture the ruinous rodent before one more shelf or table top got swept clear in a rush of flying furry feet…

  2. A flashlight does a great job of herding nocturnal critters toward the door & out of the house if you kind of want to keep your distance from them.

  3. Any gentle ways of ridding my attic of mice? Please share!

  4. We once had a chipmunk trapped on a screen porch; it climbed up as high as it could to escape from the cat. Carefully slipped a yardstick between belly and screen, pried it loose until it gripped the stick, then carried it out to the yard like a popsicle.

  5. Especially in the fall, we often have bats as guests in our 1880 house. After practicing many disinvitation techniques, a combination of patience and my daughter’s butterfly net seems to work best. Opening a window is important, but bats want to go higher, not lower, to escape; sitting calmly and waiting as the bat circles the room is key. In my experience, they don’t eventually fly out the window on their own but rather tire and hide—endangering both themselves and my cats, who may eat them or be bitten. Hence the net: when little Draculito gets low enough, I extend the net quickly so he flies in. Takes practice—they are good at sharp turns. Then out the window he goes—off to protect my kids from mosquitoes and other pests for another day.

  6. Sheryl, I’ve used a Pestacator to rid the house of mice who were gnawing wires in the walls all winter, it’s a sound device that’s super high pitched that drives them nuts, but people and pets can’t hear that frequency.

  7. Does the Pestacator work on squirrels? Our eaves have been squirrel condos for years–I didn’t want to trap (kill) them, but their scurrying, squealing, gnawing, and acrobatic flips are worrying me re: wires and ceilings . . . . We live in a semi-urban area in 1800s house–any advice appreciated!

  8. Wow! A Great piece of art. Thanks for this writing. I never thought of such a broom until I read this one.

  9. Bravo for the wonderful writing and gentle author’s light-hearted outlook on living close with nature. Not so much an essay of how to rid of animals in the house but how to savor these sometimes visits. My next read will be the Urban Bestiary.

  10. This is such a lovely, compassionate piece. Just beautiful. Thank you.

  11. I feel the poetry of this essay in my chest, wiping tears from my eyes, beauty does this to me. Thank you for lovely writing!

  12. I loved this piece, its sense of empathy and love for the wild animals. It reminded me of a time when a canvasback accidentally flew into my chimney, and I didn’t find it until I lit a fire. It almost died, but magically it revived. Just now remembering the experience because of your essay, I want to write about the canvasback as touchingly as you have written about your creatures.

  13. A wonderful, good-hearted list. But I wish folks would quit mentioning bats and rabies in the same sentence. Yes, bats like nearly ALL mammals can carry rabies (a few, like squirrels, seem to have special resistance). But your odds of contracting rabies from a bat are vanishingly small. Tiny. Approaching zero. Most bats in the US would have a hard time getting their teeth into you if they tried; their jaws are designed for scooping up insects that really CAN jeopardize your life. Like, say, mosquitoes. In fact, you chance of getting rabies from ANY animal in the US is pretty slim; about one-half person, on average, dies of rabies each year. Bats are one of our most valuable pest controls, and they are in great danger at this time due largely to white nose syndrome. Cherish them; don’t freak out about them.

  14. I was “swept away” by the poignancy of this brief article. From stopping to help injured wildlife along the road, to running outside when a bird impacts my window, to growing organically—I make sure that my heart, home, and yard are wildlife refuges.

  15. Thank you for this lovely list. We have to be mindful of any wildlife that enters our suburban home. We have four cats, and we’ve often had to rescue tree frogs and anoles that work their way in. Fortunately, the raccoons, opossums, bats, and birds that live in our neighborhood observe boundaries and stay in our backyard. Well, there was that one night four raccoons came into our screened porch through a cat door and made a ruckus. I didn’t need a broom to shoo them out. They took one look at me standing on the other side of the French door and shot through the cat door, one after the other. The cat door chases been kept shut ever since. Wildlife in our neighborhood is also one reason why my cats are all now 100% indoor.

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