Furry Thieves and Masked Bandits

     Some are bold daylight punks, while others operate under the cover of darkness performing daring feats of theft that leave us perplexed and frustrated. Most every yard across the United States is plagued by pilfering fur balls of one type or another. Raccoon, possum, chipmunks, squirrels, mice, voles, and moles, I’ve battled just about everything in my backyard but bears! If you feed birds, you probably have your own collection of war stories. You all ready know that fighting these battles taxes both your patience and your pocket book.
     Squirrels are the most brazen, numerous, and visible of this band of free-loaders. They are prolific breeders, producing two litters each year. Even though squirrels don’t live long, (average life expectancy is ten or twelve months) there never seems to be a shortage of them. Especially in a yard with a well stocked bird feeder! Most people actually enjoy watching squirrels. They are cute, intelligent, and amusing. But the charm quickly wears off and then the welcome wears out.. They have voracious appetites and they hoard food. A squirrel can easily empty a bird feeder in an afternoon, especially when they start stashing your seed at remote locations for winter use. I once discovered the larder of one of my resident chipmunks under the floor boards of the garage. They had worked very hard to accumulate a twelve pound stash of sunflower seed in a nice dry spot. Their behavior became a real problem when I discovered I three more stash sites before the end of July. Just imagine how much seed a squirrel can put away!
     Squirrels, being rodents, feel the need to chew on everything they touch. More bird feeders end up in the trash bin because of squirrel damage than for any other reason. Their sharp gnawing teeth tear through wood, plastic, and can even damage metal. Because squirrels were designed for a tree climbing, limb leaping life, they are ideally suited to gaining access to our bird feeders. They can climb practically all known surfaces, even the skinniest of poles. I had a Grey Squirrel that routinely scaled a stucco wall to reach a second story balcony. From the deck railing, he would then launch his furry self six feet out to land squarely atop a wood feeder mounted on a tall pole. A squirrel can master vertical and horizontal jumps of seven or eight feet. And they posses both exceptional problem solving skills and incredible persistence.
     When you are battling squirrels, remember, you are not alone. Seek the help and support of others who have fought in this war and don’t give up! Solutions do exist for almost every situation.

The 10 Step Plan
To Squirrel Free Bird Feeding:

[1] Place feeders on poles at least eight feet from any vertical structure such as buildings and trees. Keeping the feeding station beyond a squirrels leaping range will eliminate aerial assaults.
[2] Place a baffle on the pole at a height of five feet. All feeders should be mounted above the baffle line. Squirrels will be unable to climb or jump past a properly installed baffle.
[3] If placing feeders in trees, use only the lowest branches and hang them eight feet out, away from the trunk. Hang the feeder under a large dome baffle to prevent an aerial assault. To prevent ground attacks the feeder should be up at least seven feet..
[4] Apply carnauba wax, wd40 or hot pepper grease to poles and other mounting hardware. Squirrels hate getting their fur messed up, sometimes spending hours grooming and fussing over the offense to their fine coat.
[5] Treat sunflower seed and mixes with a hot pepper additive. Effective against most mammals, it has an unpleasant taste and works in about eighty-five percent of squirrel cases. Birds do not have the same taste receptors as mammals and are not affected by the product.
[6] Convert to safflower. Safflower seed is despised by all but the most desperately hungry or mentally unstable squirrels. An added benefit to the conversion is the disappearance of blackbirds from your yard. Grackles do not care for safflower and starlings are unable to crack open the hard shell.
[7] Human ingenuity has created some amazing advances in squirrel resistant feeder technology. Consider investing your money in materials and design. Feeders that exclude squirrels by way of weight sensitive mechanisms and physical barriers are worth the investment in the long run. A good squirrel resistant feeder can pay for itself in seed savings in less then a year!
[8] Bribery. It works. A squirrel will take the path of least resistance to a good meal. Provide a reliable food source on the ground or in a tree away from your bird feeders. Keep it stocked with whole corn, peanuts, or sunflower seed. A squirrel will spend his time at these snack bars rather than working his tush off to get to a well protected bird feeder.
[9] Trap and relocate or trap and recycle, the choice is yours. In many states, a home owner may eliminate squirrels or cottontail rabbits from their property at any time of the year if they are causing damage. Check the local firearm ordinances before breaking out the heavy artillery.
[10] Get a dog. Preferably something fast and persistent like a terrier. Word spreads fast in the ‘hood’ - don’t be mess’n with Barkey’s ‘crib’! The challenge of course, is training Barkey not to chase after the birds as well.

Kelly Larson
Northern Flights Wild Bird Store
Bemidji, Minnesota 218-444-3022