* * * CREATURE-PROOFING YOUR HOME OR COTTAGE * * *
It was about 1:30am on the Maddawa plains during MILCON 85, our annual combat exercise. My regiment was deployed into the field and we’d dug into our respective defensive positions for the night. I’d joined the Armored Corps so I wouldn’t have to dig holes but it appears that the brochure was lacking in depth, namely 48″ of dirt to be specific.
I pulled the midnight watch for OP duties (Observation Post) and me and buddy warily trudged about 300 meters forward of our hide location and tapped out the team preceding us. Now, you have to realize that the mind is constantly in motion, easily bored, and looking for opportunity even when you’re nothing more than a walking corpse. You might be wandering the land of your nods but that old brain of yours is alert and taking everything in – sounds, smells, sights. And, when it doesn’t have a clear picture it begins putting one together for you. At night, you see things – and hear things. Things that aren’t really there. And, that’s why they usually put a senior, more experienced member of the Troop out with the newbs. But, not tonight. Tonight, the senior, more experienced members of the troop were sleeping – hey, the enemy were a day or two away, right? Just send the newbs out on their own. It’ll be fine. JUST DON’T GET CAUGHT SLEEPING. Now, it’s been twenty years so the details of the evening are kind of sketchy, but I’m pretty sure my fox-hole buddy, that night, was the same guy that I got busted for stealing a truck with (but, that’s another story). He was a weapons tech and was a combat clerk – yeah, 7.62mm typewriter and everything (later I hand in my typewriter and convert to a 76mm gun but, again, that’s another story).
So, we’d finished our shift and I offered to run back and wake the next team. That’s when crap hit the fan and I ran into 400 pounds of stink – I’ll never forget that. I smelled it. I heard it. Then, it ran in front of me. So, I shot it – with my 9mm Sterling SMG. I emptied 30 blank rounds into the air and in the muzzle flash saw teeth, eyes, and fear – and that was just my reflection in the eyes of the bear. Well, that ignited shouts of “Ambush, ambush, ambush… we’re under attack” and soon the whole camp was alive with the sounds of gunfire and para-flares going off. The flares lit up the bush in a weird red glow and three bears ran amongst 60 or so men running amongst three bears.
I’d run for the 2 ton supply truck thinking I could climb up and out of harms way. But, when I got there the Sergeant Major had locked it up tight and no one was getting in – seems he’d been sleeping in the back of the truck and woke up to a bear trying to get to the food supplies.
* * * CREATURE-PROOFING YOUR HOME OR COTTAGE * * *
So, what type of plastics are useful in keeping the wilderness out?
Window glass is about 3/16 to 1/4″ thick. If you were to simply replace it with acrylic you would gain about 30 times the impact strength but it will eventually break under relentless pressure. Polycarbonate would be a better choice being a hundred or so times the strength of acrylic. HOWEVER, there is a rubberizing agent in the material that will mar and scratch when attacked by claws. And, you get a couple of big old bear claws up there in a deep freeze and you could puncture it. Polycarbonate, as a solution, fails more times than not because it was incorrectly installed – someone (or something) literally pushes it out of the frame. Polycarbonate is prone to cracking at the stress points caused when holes are drilled into it – and if the holes were forced, such as by self-tapping screws or nails, then you might as well just leave the window open.
IF YOU DRILL HOLES IN POLYCARBONATE you should debur the hole using a chamfer bit, or at least sand down around the hole to make sure there’s no notches. That’s where things WILL CRACK and then it’s only a matter of time before some pesky rodent yells FOOD FIGHT! and the whole forest drops in for dinner. Where possible, screw in a supporting frame around the installation of the polycarbonate – on 24″ you’d probably want at least 1.5″ (width of your jack stud) of 3/4″ OSB plywood (the lamination process makes it tougher than a strip of natural wood) – meaning if you have a 24 x 24″ window you really want a piece 25.5 x 25.5″.
When the sky falls: I’ve heard of animals falling right through acrylic skylights. Most probably, the home owner used an ammonia based cleaner to wash the acrylic skylight which attacks the integrity of the material at the molecular level. The acrylic is further weakened by a few seasons of snow resting on it and then, when Mr. Raccoon stops by to see what’s for dinner – FWOMP!
Teething Pains: Animals are adept at using all parts of their body to get into where they’re not supposed to. They learn from experience. They know when to shove, when to pry, when to kick, and when to bite. Acrylic and styrene will chip off when gnawed on. Polycarbonate has a rubberizer in it that makes it more resilient to teeth, but eventually it will fail, too. Polyethylenes, such as HDPE and UHMW are probably your best bet for lining a food bin in the barn or in the cottage where you don’t want furry critters eating their way in (ponder the porcupine below) – this is what I’d recommend to a zoo or farm where you have animals with hooves and/or big teeth (goats, sheep) that gnaw and gnaw.
Consider lining the bottom 24″ of an outside wall with HDPE or UHMW
Another concern, especially around remote cottages, is crawly animals frying themselves on exposed transformers and power transfer stations. The Midsun Group have come up with some ingenious solutions using polycarbonate disks: