As a youngster, I watched my father stand at the window watching squirrels that were on the bird feeder watching him. “They’re nothing but rats with fuzzy tails….,” he mumbled. Gee, I thought those were harsh words. I liked the little fellas, their tails flicking and chat-chat-chat sounds as they spotted the frowning enemy looming large at the window. Like so many people around the world, my dad spent years trying to outsmart squirrels that depleted his costly sunflower seeds. Of course, nothing worked. Don’t you know you can’t outsmart a squirrel?
Later in life, when I began to feed my own birds, I was amused by the antics of those silly squirrels that seemed to jump extreme distances or drop from unseen places in trees or travel upside down on wires to reach my feeders. That feeling of amusement lasted… ummmm…. about 2 years when it was replace by annoyance… then exasperation… then anger.
Maybe it was the cost of the good bird seed I bought or maybe it’s simply in our genes but somehow I picked up my father’s quest to outsmart the rodents that raided the feeders. No longer were they cute little squirrels. They are rodents… rodents that now look at me, tails flicking with their chat-chat-chats as they view the enemy looming large in the window from their perch in the middle of my feeder. I am my father after all. It doesn’t help that one lab hates them and guards the feeders. These squirrels wear watches. They know the dog’s schedule. When the dogs come inside, the squirrels immediately appear and have a party. I hear them on the roof. The trees quiver with activity. They walk by the windows and stand up to look at me just inches away. A taunt? Yes, I think so.
For more years that I can count, I have declared war on feeder-raiding squirrels but when I visited my daughter in Maine last week, I was amazed that she was at peace with her squirrels. Like I once was, she is amused by the antics of her squirrels. They do not eat her sunflower seeds. What’s the secret? “Roasted peanuts in the shell,” she said. The squirrels have their own feeder and they adore roasted peanuts. Her costly oil sunflower seed is close by in a platform feeder. They’re not interested in the bird feeders or the suet. She purchases unsalted roasted peanuts for human consumption, not raw peanuts in the pet store. So now I’m home and I’m attempting to declare my own truce with these squirrels. I’ve placed roasted nuts on the ground and watched the squirrels. They’re still unsure of my intentions and nervously watch me as they ‘steal’ a nut and run away to eat it. But, hey, they do love this new diet and for the past week, the peanut solution has worked. No squirrels on the bird feeders. I do mix raw peanuts and a little corn with the roasted peanuts just because I think raw peanuts have more nutrients. I am humane! Stay tuned.
Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester