The other morning I was sitting at my kitchen table sipping a cup of coffee watching two squirrels, hanging upside down on my bird feeder, cram sunflower seeds into their mouths as fast as their greedy little paws could grab them. Four chickadees, totally ticked off, were flitting around on the ground under the feeder watching them too and complaining. I don’t have an issue with the squirrels if they’ll back off long enough for the birds to get a beak in. In fact, my bird feeder hangs on the lower branches of a spruce tree, the squirrel equivalent of appetizers laid out on a coffee table.
Not so my Dad; he wasn’t a squirrel hater, it was more the principal of the thing. The seeds were for the birds, not the squirrels, therefore the squirrels needed to go elsewhere for their snacks. He tried every squirrel-free bird feeder and gadget in the book. First the feeder was set on top of a pole that squirrels were not supposed to be able to climb. This actually worked pretty well for a while. The squirrels would get a running start, shimmy frantically part way up the pole, and just like in the cartoons, lose traction and slide slowly back down, looking over their shoulders as they descended. Squirrels are pretty clever when food is at stake however (except when they live on one side of the road and hide their supply of acorns on the other side of the road which happens all too often as far as I can tell by the body count) and it wasn’t many weeks before they started attacking the bird feeder from above, launching themselves from a nearby tree onto the feeder below.
To protect the feeder from aerial attack the next effort was a silver, cone-shaped roof that was supposed to deflect the squirrels. This also worked quite well for a few weeks. It was nothing to go visit my parents and see squirrels whizzing off the shiny surface in all directions, arms and legs stretched out like tiny skydivers. But eventually they adapted and it became like a squirrel Cirque de Soleil. They jumped gracefully from a tree, did a controlled slide down the metal roof (pitch on their paws?) and at the last minute would grip the edge of the roof and swing themselves up and under to grab a light lunch. When they were full, it was a simple matter of a quick slide down the squirrel proof pole, a dash across the lawn and back up the tree to digest in the comfort of their home.
Complete removal of the squirrels was clearly the next step. Out came the Havahart® traps and since my parents lived in Lebanon, it was a quick drive over the Connecticut River to transport the squirrels across state lines into Vermont. As far as I could tell the squirrel population didn’t diminish. My Dad insisted it was new squirrels but I wasn’t so sure. I wish we’d managed to band them somehow because I was never convinced that 1) the squirrels hadn’t clung to the underside of the bumper on my Dad’s truck and ridden back into town with him or 2) found a small boat and rowed back across the river.