Long Time Feeder. First Time Complainer
As many of you may already know, I’ve been feeding squirrels in my back yard pretty much ever since I’ve been feeding birds. They’ve presented challenges at various times because they’re so unbelievably intelligent. In fact, most of the stories I’ve read of peoples’ problems with squirrels have stemmed from them underestimating them in some way. My squirrel mantra is simple: they WILL figure it out. Period. No matter what the problem is. They will eventually work out a solution if one is available. Thinking that they’ll just give up if you challenge them is just foolhardy. Making something more difficult for them only deepens their resolve. I swear this is true.
Let me give you a few short examples. When I first started feeding birds I put up the standard pole system because I didn’t know how many squirrels are in this area. Our property backs up to woods and I should have suspected this but I was new to birding. I think it was probably a day or two after I saw the first squirrel and figured climbing up a metal pole would be herculean. You know how this turns out. Next thing I see is Mr./Mrs. Squirrel comfortably resting in my hopper feeder ledge and munching away. Talked to the Wild Birds Unlimited people and they suggested baffles. Put them on. Problem solved. For now.
Over the next year, the trees in our yard grew and the limbs jutted out over the feeder station. The closest branch was at least twenty feet above the station. Again, I reckoned that would be a death defying drop so I made no immediate plans to prune anything back. That was until I was working away in my office and heard a loud thump in the back yard. That’s right. It was a squirrel that had lined up his leap and (without a parachute or wings of any kindj-LOL) dropped himself an insane distance on to the feeder and stuck the landing to boot! All he needed to do is hang over onto the feeder ledge and he was snackin’ aplenty. Pruning happened soon after.
My final example should give you a much better idea of what you’re up against. I had put up a squngee to feed them corn from a cob while amusing us with their theatrical gymnastics. For those of you who don’t know what a squngee is, it’s basically a chain with a spring loaded wire attached to it that allows the squirrels to jump on it and bounce all over the place while they get their corn. It’s hilarious to watch! For some reason, it took them almost a week to figure it out but once they did, it was hilarious!
A month or so later, I noticed one of the squirrels was perching above the squngee looking like they were working out a physics problem. They’d look, try hanging down a little, get back up, look some more, scale down the chain and back up. It looked like they were dumbfounded as to what to do. The next day when I went out to feed them, I saw the squngee draped over the branch and empty. I first thought the spring had just whipped it back up. Since there were other branches near where the chain was, I didn’t think any more of it. I put another corn cob on it and went about my day.
The next day, as I was just watching the wildlife in my back yard I discovered something that to this day still blows me away. It was a squirrel out there on that squongee limb PULLING THE CORN COB UP TO THEM! I kid you not. So, I figured out a way to attach a 2.5 lb weight to the line and the squongee has been used as it was designed ever since.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a challenge as much (or more) than the next guy. I also really enjoy watching these little hoodlums play and fight with each other. I mean who can keep from smiling when they see two squirrels running circles up a tree trunk while chasing each other? As long as there was no major threat to me or my home I was ok with it.
The Attic Is The Line In The Sand
Earlier this year, I had noticed what seemed like an unusual amount of traffic in the gutters coming from the side of my house around back where my office looks out. There was no digging sound or any reason to think they were trying to get into my attic. I just decided to note it and pay attention like I’ve talked about elsewhere in this blog. Besides, they have a “squirrel highway” in back that connects the trees in my to nearly all of the trees accessible from my back yard. It was not uncommon for a squirrel to start in my neighbor’s tree in the front yard, jump on to the roof, off onto my fence and get back to the squirrel box on the fence in back. It was also not unusual for them to go from there to a tree in the woods, over to my other neighbor’s tree and onto their roof. From there, they only need to jump to a small tree on the side of my house to get on my roof again. That would make the back gutter the primary shuttle area to get over to my fence again. Needless to say, traffic was not uncommon.
While traffic wasn’t uncommon, a squirrel staying in one place and moving a short distance back and forth WAS uncommon. Just in case, I called the man who does yard work and odd jobs for us to see if he could come out, clean the gutters and check this area of the gutters out. He came out and told me something had been trying to get in there and he chicken wired it so they couldn’t. Do you know it has taken almost a month for the traffic in this area to return to normal? Every morning, they would come by and see if anything had changed. Luckily, the chicken wire has held. I’ll have the man come back out to check it soon but we’re not hearing anything suspicious. Again, the amount of determination they have should keep anybody from ever selling their smarts short.
A Wire Feeder In Time Saves…
One day a couple of months ago I had one other significant run in with a squirrel. I was downstairs reading after knocking off for the day and I heard what sounded like a squirrel running on the roof above our den. Again, this was not unusual so I paid it no mind. Then, I could hear little footsteps that sounded a LOT closer than on the roof. Shortly after that, the clincher: digging sound coming from what must have been beams in the attic. Knowing I needed to take quick action, I banged on the walls and ceiling and she left. I didn’t hear anything more that day but also was positive there had been what I call incursion. She had gotten in and steps needed to be taken!
The next day, I got up on a ladder and spotted the place she had gotten in. I was able to take a wire peanut feeder, crush it, insert it into the hole, secure it with the hanging wires to my gutter and then leave it. Later that day, I saw a squirrel up near it. I yelled at her and she jumped on to my fence and started toward the back fence. She had nesting materials in her mouth. Deciding that I wasn’t a real threat to her, she ran back towards me, back up the house to that point in the gutter. I asked her where she was going and you should have seen her expression when she thought she was going to slip back in that hole and found the feeder blocking it! It was priceless! Since that day, there has not been any more trouble out of them.
For those of you who are thinking, why didn’t you just call an animal removal specialist? To be honest, I did and I would have gone with one if my solutions hadn’t worked. My major hurdle: the price. I know peace of mind has a value and I wouldn’t be worrying about the cost if I had been overrun by them. I’d take the hit and move on. The main reason besides that I didn’t go with one yet is that our gutters need replaced. I’d rather pay somebody to fix those areas correctly than somebody who would just screw on some metal or mesh on it. If there is eave, soffit or fascia wood that needs replaced, they’ll see it.
Until then, I’ll keep my eyes and ears peeled. I think they’ve made their beds for the winter wherever they are but I won’t underestimate them again!
What About You?
I know I’m not the only person out there who’s had a run in with squirrels. Tell me your stories by leaving a comment below. Let me know how you dealt with them and what success you’ve had. Also if you’ve found this article entertaining, please share it on your favorite social media platform by clicking the link at the bottom of this post.
Enjoy your back yard oasis!
Here’s a short squirrel video which I think illustrates my point pretty well.