Squirrel Wars

squirrel wars

Gary Westlake

It burns my shorts that too many of the sunflower seeds that my wife Dianne and I put out to attract birds to our garden get eaten by squirrels. I donít mind if they take a few, but they chase the birds away and gobble birdseed faster than we can put it out. So we have had multi-year campaign to outsmart, outwit and outlast these acrobatic hooligans. I have to say up front that, although they are winning at the moment, we are certain, in the long run, that we will be victorious.

Our early attempts involved the commercially available deterrents. A disk mounted on the pole below the feeder just acted as springboard assist for them to get to the goodies. Even baby squirrels can jump over such feeble devices. I am convinced that they looked at us as if to say "Is that all youíve got?" And forget about those plastic finch feeders for holding your Niger seed, because the squirrels just gnaw through the perches to get inside. We have since changed to the metal kind without any perches and that seems to keep them out of the Niger seed Ė so far.

We tried the chemical route. There is a substance that you can get to coat your seeds, made from cayenne pepper extract. While neither squirrels nor birds are supposed to be injured by this, the theory is that the squirrels will leave the seeds alone and the birds donít care. Well, it seemed to work for a week or two but they were soon back and in greater numbers. I think word got out in the squirrel community and those that liked it hot and spicy all came to our place. Or maybe they had become Mexican squirrels. Chemicals did not work for us.

Last year, I was sure that we had the final solution. We put a length of stovepipe on the poles that support the birdfeeders. I stuffed the pipe with chicken wire to keep them from climbing up through the inside. For three months we had peace. Birds came and twittered and flitted. Some birds even tossed a few seeds to the waiting squirrels on the ground. That seemed only fair. What we failed to understand, is that, while we only thought about the situation a few happy moments of the day, the squirrels were on the task twenty-four/seven. One day, to our amazement, we saw one of the squirrels on the feeder. After staking out the feeder for a while we saw that this scoundrel took a running leap up the pole, jumping over the stovepipe totally and on to the feeder with one graceful motion.

Now I know that we could buy the type of birdfeeder that is made of steel with a perch that only allows small birds at the food. As soon as a heavy squirrel or large bird lands on it, the door to the food closes. It sounds like this ought to work, but we already have two perfectly good feeders and we should be able to make them work without such a large expenditure. Besides, there is a principle involved.

I am convinced that at least one of our neighbours is actually leaving food out on the ground for the squirrels. I know this because our dog, who is completely driven by what his stomach tells him to do, escapes to find squirrel food any chance he gets. I donít understand why the squirrels cannot be satisfied with the walnuts and apples that they hide in our flowerpots and in the woodpile.

So now, winter is here and the squirrels are slowing down, this is where we are: squirrels ahead. We remain optimistic though. I could reveal the details of our present strategy here, and most of you would not reveal a thing to the other side. However, I know there are squirrel-lovers out there and its just not worth the risk.