A love-hate relationship with the squirrel

Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Squirrel-proof products are available to keep the rodents out of bird feeders and away from flowerbeds. FRED LYNCH flynch@semissourian.com

Ah, the squirrel.

People seem to love him or hate him depending upon their experience with this little long-tailed creature. I'm not sure in which category I belong.

I used to love the little critters. The only A+ I ever got on a creative writing paper was about a squirrel, "The King of the Woods."

As a Boy Scout on camping trips, I loved to watch them in the woods as they scurried about looking for food and caching it away for the winter. They certainly would be good role models for industriousness and saving for the future.

Unfortunately my most recent experience with squirrels resulted in a $1,500 house repair bill. One particular "tree rat" decided that he liked to chew on the siding of my house in several different places. By the time he got done with my house, it looked like it had skin cancer.

Finally he left the premises, or got bored with chewing on my house, or decided he wanted a change of diet, or died of old age, or became dinner for the owl that lives in the woods in front of my house. No matter what his fate, I'm sure glad to be rid of him.

Even though I can't quite figure out whether I like squirrels or whether I hate them, I do know that the stories people tell me about squirrels make me laugh -- a lot! One gentleman had a squirrel in his attic. Another captured 94 squirrels in his landscape (the number changes with each telling of the story) with his trusty rodent trap, and then released them in a local park (I won't mention the name of the park). Someone found out about his relocation work and asked him to find a new location to relocate his squirrels to.

Several bird enthusiasts have told me about the squirrel in their backyard that has unlocked the key to making squirrel-proof bird feeders no longer squirrel-proof. The words used and the gestures made by birders keep me in stitches.

With all of the interest in, or hate of, squirrels, I decided it would be fun to list products sold to homeowners and landscape owners in Southeast Missouri that are either used to get rid of or to attract squirrels. So here goes.

If you want to keep squirrels out of your bird feeders you can add Squirrel Away to the feed. This ground pepper is supposed to be so hot that it cleans out their sinuses and burns their tongues. Although there is no physical damage to the squirrel, they make a beeline to the nearest watering hole.

There are several "squirrel-proof" feeders on the market. Some flip the squirrel off the feeder (the Flipper), some whip the squirrel off the feeder (the Whipper), and some just close when a squirrel gets on the feeder (the Buster and the Heritage). You can also purchase tube feeders that are encased in a wire mesh that is large enough to let small birds reach the feed while keeping squirrels away from dinner.

If you don't want to buy a new feeder, you can purchase baffles that keep the squirrels away from the feeder. Hopefully they will slide off of the baffle, land on the ground, and theoretically never reach the stash of food in your bird feeder.

If the squirrels in your landscape are digging up your flowers you can spread some Rid A Critter around the flowerbed. This repellent is usually successful, but squirrels never seem to fit any pattern.

Fall flower bulbs also seem to be a target for squirrels. If you find them digging up your tulip and daffodil bulbs, dip the bulbs in powdered sulfur before planting. This should help keep the squirrels away.

If you can't outsmart the squirrels in your landscape, you can trap them and take them to the country. Just don't let a lot of people find out what your doing.

Those of you who love to watch squirrels, don't feel left out. There are several different squirrel feeders on the market which makes watching them fun. Corn-on-the-cob feeders include a table and chair, the Squnge (a feeder on a bunge cord), and the Squirrel Go Round.

You can also attract squirrels to your landscape by putting up a squirrel house. This nest box will allow you to watch squirrels as they rear their families.

If you can't feed the squirrels, but still want to enjoy them, you can purchase posters and squirrel coffee mugs. If you want live action, there are videos on the market that will give you and your kids and grandkids quite a laugh.

When you consider money spent on squirrel damage repair, money spent to attract squirrels, money spent to repel and outsmart them, squirrels have quite a financial impact on the local economy.

Perhaps we can get someone in the chamber of commerce to study the issue and estimate the squirrel's economic value in dollars here.

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