I like squirrels. Watching them scurry up a tree and do their high wire act on the upper limbs fascinates me. I admire their keen eyesight, keen sense of smell, and keen hearing. They’re cute, fluffy, clever little rodents. They must have the psyche of daredevils otherwise why would they race across the road in front of my moving car challenging the fates and my braking reflex? But these traits are not what make me want to outwit them.
They bully the birds on my bird feeders. I like to feed the birds in winter when all their food resources are scarce. The birds patiently wait their turn on the feeders, but the squirrels chase them away and steal their food. Squirrels bank acorns and other seeds for the winter, so why maraud bird feeders?
I’ve purchased feeders guaranteed to be squirrel-proof. It says so right on the boxes they arrive in. But clearly they’re not tested with aggressive squirrels.
Here’s an example. It’s a complicated red metal bird feeder with “Gravity Door Protection.” Only the squirrels can figure it out. I broke my fingernails putting it together, and once assembled I tested it with my full strength and couldn't budge the spring that holds it closed. I filled it full of birdseed anticipating the last snowstorm. Squirrels are superb athletes and trapeze artists. They can leap almost 4 feet vertically and 12 feet horizontally. So I calculated carefully where to hang it — far from the ground or any branches they could access. The next morning the feeder was open and empty.
Another bird feeder attaches to my 8-foot sliding glass door by a very strong suction cup. I place it far from any moulding or windowsill a squirrel could climb. Yesterday I watched one jump from a ledge 10 feet away. It landed with all four feet balanced on the small globe of the feeder. The squirrel rocked back and forth to loosen the suction cup. This fast, crafty acrobat was neither shy nor easily intimidated. I banged on the window to scare this committed thief, but to no avail. He looked me in the eye and continued to rock until feeder, squirrel, and seed crashed to the ground. In mere seconds this greedy animal consumed what could have been generous meals for dozens of birds.
I’ve tried Teflon spray, Vaseline, spooker poles, swinging plastic bottles, baffled fishing line, and water bombs. I’ve even experimented with anti-squirrel cuisine. According to the experts, birds love safflower and nyger seed — squirrels don't. That may be true of New York and New Jersey squirrels, but Connecticut squirrels do not discriminate. Experts also say that squirrels avoid spicy food, but I can’t bring myself to season the birdseed with cayenne pepper as they suggest.
The birds I aim to protect don’t seem disturbed by either the squirrels or my determination to outwit them.
I’m a failure at squirrel thwarting.