I concede: Squirrels win ... again

Friday, September 1, 2006

My wife thinks the war I'm waging on the squirrels in our backyard is pretty funny.

She should laugh. She's the one who gave me a BB gun with a laser scope (I am not kidding) for my birthday a few years ago. I've managed to put the fear of ... something ... in a few of the little buggers. I don't suppose my rodents from Hades believe in God. Mostly they just laugh at me, too.

You don't think squirrels laugh? Come over sometime and I'll show you.

I know some of you think squirrels are cute and cuddly. You're the type who's easily swayed by a fluffy tail. Perhaps you need to know that tail is infested with lice and fleas and goodness know what other pestilence.

One reason the squirrels love our backyard is the ample supply of food. That food is intended for the birds, but the squirrels help themselves. I have mentioned on more than one occasion about my lifelong quest to find a squirrel-proof bird feeder that is actually squirrel-proof.

Do not be misled by the flashy claims of the dozen or so manufacturers of bird feeders claiming to be inaccessible to squirrels. Maybe there are some dumb squirrels somewhere in the world that can't get into those feeders, but my squirrels have a party when I put up a new squirrel-proof feeder.

"Look!" they chatter to each other. "Joe just wasted more money on another feeder we aren't supposed to be able to get into."

And then there are the shrieks of squirrel laughter.

Oh, I forgot. You still don't think squirrels can laugh, much less shriek.

Sometime in the mid-1980s I purchased a bird feeder that was as close to squirrel-proof as I've ever had. I used it almost 15 years. Then I saw this ad for a battery-operated feeder that flings squirrels to the ground whenever they touch any of the bird perches on the feeder.

I was so taken with the idea of inflicting misery on the squirrels in my yard that I bought one of the newfangled contraptions and replaced my trustworthy rodent puzzler. The next morning, the new feeder, battery and all, was on the ground. Stealth squirrel attack in the night? No. Raccoons. They loved the merry-go-round ride until several of the heavy critters tried to ride at once and pulled the new feeder off its perch.

So now I had demon squirrels and demon raccoons in my yard, thanks to a manufacturer who knows few men can pass up new electronic gadgets, no matter how worthless they are.

Over the following months, I have tried every squirrel-proof feeder on the market. My squirrels accept each new challenge with the attention a 4-year-old gives a sack of lollipops that fall on the floor when Mama isn't looking.

Reluctantly, I waved the white flag a few weeks ago. I put the feeder that had worked so well back up. No more gizmos. No more mechanical contraptions waiting to fail. No more batteries to replace. Just good old Yankee ingenuity.

Within 24 hours this year's crop of young squirrels had figured out how to hold on to a crease in the roof of the all-metal feeder with their back feet and hang over the edge, foiling the weight-sensitive perch that is supposed to close off the feeder when a fat squirrel lands on it.

Now it's official. There are exactly zero squirrel-proof feeders in an age when you can fry bacon without a frying pan and track every turn of your automobile with a satellite something-or-other.

I give up. Squirrels, based on a comparison of cubic inches of brain matter, are a thousand times smarter than humans.

Well, this human, for sure.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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