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Debbie Sharp Loeb, teacher by training but full-time mom to a disabled son, craftsperson, bead artist, great cook, creative homemaker & terrific spotter of cool new products for everything under the sun, presents Hodgepodge: recipes, household hints, stories about children, friends & relatives, cool stuff, music, & much more.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How To Outwit Squirrels

(The following was sent from Geranium Farm reader David Bendix.)

Subject: Kathleen Liebenow's brother, here.
I lived for many years in Wyoming, in a small town at the foot of the Bighorn mountains in the far northern part of the state, near the Montana border. We had the eastern variety of the big bushy-tailed gray squirrel there, and I spent the better part of two years trying to figure out how to squirrel-proof my bird feeders.
Finally, my wife found and gave me a copy of a book called "How to outwit squirrels.", a HILARIOUS read about the author's attempts to figure out a way to keep squirrels out of their feeders. The book really disappointed me, though: the first line in the dedication is that there IS no known way to outwit squirrels. I did, however, eventually (after a solid year of plotting and 
brain-crafting) come up with a foolproof way to prevent any squirrel from getting into my feeders.
First, I tried hanging one feeder from a very skinny clothesline wire.  That worked for almost a full day. The squirrels discovered that they could creep out along the wire by hanging from it like sloths.
Back to the drawing board. I obtained through somewhat illicit means a pair of disc plows. They look
like big cymbals. I hung them on the clothesline wire on either side of the feeder. They couldn't figure out how to get around them. That worked for almost a full day. The squirrels discovered VERY quickly, though, that they could simply jump from the ground up to the feeder, hang by their back feet from the wire, and eat sunflower seeds as long they liked - UPSIDE DOWN.
Little monsters. I tried shooting them with my pellet gun pumped up to just knock them off the wire, but not break their skin or injure them.   That worked, but you can't be outside all the time, and my wife pointed out that I was spending several hours a day in a nonproductive task that only highlighted the fact that the squirrels were both smarter and more persistent than I was. Me, with an MBA.
Next, I strung a wire from the house roof to a tree at a much greater height than they could jump straight up, and repeated the trick with the two plow discs. Aha!! Success!! For exactly 3 hours. My mistake was in hanging the feeder within ten horizontal feet of the house. Although squirrels can't climb up the side of a house, they CAN cross the street, climb up a utility pole, find an electric wire, telephone wire, or TV cable wire that leads to the house, follow that, cross the house roof,
and jump from the roof straight out to the top of the plow disc, and before the disc could spin around and dump the squirrel off onto the ground, hop neatly over the disc, hang upside down by their back feet, and clean out the sunflower seeds, leaving the grosbeaks, sparrows, finches, and chickadees to starve to death while it's 35 below zero. Actually, Wyoming squirrels stay in their nests when it's that cold, so I prayed for cold weather so I could delude myself into thinking that I'd outsmarted them.
Jane tells me that she's talking to a divorce lawyer. In fact, she's booked herself a trip to Jamaica to talk to the divorce lawyer. He's from a neighboring town in Wyoming. Hell, this is KILLING ME.
Finally, though, I move the feeder out from the house another twenty feet. The next morning, I take a picture of 5 adult and 4 juvenile squirrels hanging from their back feet on the "unproductive" side of one of the plow  discs, staring at the disc.   I feel a strong pang of guilt. I don't want the squirrels to starve to death, after all. So I go to the store and buy 10 pounds of unsalted peanuts. For ten dollars.
From then on, I feed the squirrels 1/4 pound of peanuts every day. By hand. I mean, they eat from my hand.   And not one ever bites me. And I never see them in the bird feeder again.
God, am I SMART, or what?
We have the WESTERN variety of the gray squirrel here in Yreka, but they're not as enterprising as the eastern ones, I guess.  They may not be as SMART as the eastern ones, but they more than make up for it in sheer meanness. Our cats - a couple of which are big, strong, fearless cats, are terrified of those squirrels. Hell, these squirrels are nearly as big as a small cat, and they have really terrible teeth.  One of my cats once mad the mistake of tanging with a squirrel in the yard, and he ran back to the house bleeding from an ear and a cheek that had been bitten through. Of course, they don't HAVE to be very enterprising squirrels: I have a huge walnut tree that provides them with a perfectly adequate living all year. Appparently not a damned thing I can do about it either, although I
lay awake some nights pondering the possibilities........h mmmmmmmmmmmm. I
wonder if I could figure out a way to squirrel-proof a walnut tree.

{Have an amusing squirrel story? Send it along and we'll post it on Hodgepodge.}

Sent in from another HP reader:

I have several three inch sections of PVC pipe on the long arm that I hang my feeder from.  The squirrels cannot balance on the moveable PVC and they fall off.  The branches above the feeder have grown stronger so now they just climb the branches above the feeder and bounce down and eat!  I mean eat – they cracked the plastic holes and ate the contents in one morning - - I quit after that…  I enjoyed David’s stories and I too made peace with the squirrels (and raccoon) that eat from the feeder.  Oh the mice eat the seed right out of the bag in the shed and through a plastic bin in the shed too!  I just made peace with the whole process and go about my day!

and another  . . . . .
Hi, Debbie

Loved the squirrel story. Here's mine:

I once lived in a house that had a small bay window that jutted out from the house and was shingled on top.
I had a small feeder attached to the window by suction cups. It was about midway up the center of the window.

I was enjoying my tea one morning when I saw an arm reeeeeeeach down from the top of the window, followed shortly by the rest of the squirrel. It landed in the bushes below the window, and I thought that was that!

About five minutes later, there was a huge rustling, and the squirrel climbed up onto the sill. It reeeeached up and got one claw into the feeder, and then managed to get its whole body into the very small feeder.

At that point, I gave up and scattered some seed on the ground for it.

Adelaide Kent


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