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Top Ten Ways
to Prevent Squirrels From Eating Your Birdseed

SquirrelRemember the delight and wonder you felt the first time that you watched a squirrel gather and bury an acorn? Perhaps your mother or father explained about the squirrel storing away for the winter. "Later they return when they are hungry to retrieve the stored food."

You might have learned the meaning of the term "to squirrel away" from this lesson.

Or, perhaps you can remember explaining it to a youngster, sharing one of the delights of backyard nature.

We live in an area with an abundance of water oak and live oak trees. They produce perhaps the most delicious of all acorns. This is also an area with an over-abundance of hickory trees. Each hickory tree is capable of producing over 5,000 hickory nuts in a season (it seems).

How is it possible, then, that local squirrels have forgotten their native rituals. How is it possible that our local squirrels not only do not remember where they have stored food for the winter - they may not have even tried to squirrel it away in the first place!

Squirrels in my Back Yard

As I write there are ten squirrels in my back yard. Despite the hickory nuts lying around (I have neglected to pick them up) and the oak trees providing abundant acorns, all of the squirrels are trying to steal wild birdseed from the bird feeders:

It is the squirrel backyard Olympics! All events staged to relieve me of my birdseed before the birds can get to it.

Not that any of this disturbs the birds themselves. Given the opportunity, the same birds that will flap their wings furiously to chase away another bird from a feeder will eat docilely and neighborly right next to a squirrel.

The birds are not paying for the seed.

Have the squirrels in your backyard been disqualified from their Olympic team because of weight? Have they tested positive for traces of birdseed in their blood?

If so, you need to try to correct the situation.

Here are ten possible ways to prevent squirrels from eating your birdseed.

1. Understand them - Love them - Feed them

It is important to understand that squirrels are God's creatures too and deserve their share of food and entertainment. There are a number of toys available like the squirrel swing to feed our furry little friends. They provide entertainment at the same time. Place these feeder and toys in your backyard where you can enjoy watching them.

You should realize that this strategy is very similar to strategy nine. Furthermore, if you really cherish squirrels, you might want to consult strategy ten.

2. Baffle them from Below

bafflebuilt in baffleIf your feeder is hanging from a pole or large hook, it should be away from any springboard that the squirrel can use to jump. Now all you have to do is prevent them from shinnying up the pole. Do this with a baffle. Choose a baffle that meets your size and esthetic needs. Mount it high enough so the squirrel cannot jump to the pole over it. (Squirrels can do the standing high jump to 3 1/2 to 4 feet). That's all there is to it.

Some feeders come with a built in pole and baffle.

above the feeder baffle3. Baffle them from Above

If your feeder is hanging from a tree limb and (again) there is no way for the squirrel to springboard to the feeder - hang the feeder under a baffle. The squirrel cannot climb down the chain (you're not using ROPE, are you!?) without being stopped by the baffle.

4. Make 'em Jump

The squirrel broad jump world record (launching from the trunk of a tree) is 15 feet 8 inches. However, your normal backyard squirrel can only jump about eight to ten feet horizontally (with a running start). Hang your feeder from a limb on a fishing line. They cannot climb down such a thin line so they must try the jump. Use a fishing clip to attach the feeder and easily remove it for filling and cleaning. The disadvantage to this method is that if the squirrel ever does make the jump the force is likely to break the line and send the whole apparatus to the ground.

5. Use a Gadget

This is a last line of defense. If you cannot keep the squirrel at a distance, get a feeder that won't let the squirrel eat. Most of these work because a squirrel weighs more than a bird. The feeder mechanism lets the birds perch but if something heavier lands on the perch the mechanism closes the feeder.
(I understand that a certain diet company is trying to adapt this to a refrigerator.)

Auto close feeders are very effective and it is fun to watch the squirrels outwit them.

The ultimate of this type is the famous Droll Yankee Flipper. It uses a rechargeable battery powered motor to twirl the squirrel off when his weight trips the switch. This feeder is also long enough so the squirrel cannot hang by their hind legs and eat (bypassing the perch). This feeder is so expensive that you might want to consider number 10, below.

feeder cage6. Cage Them Out

Several feeder models have a metal cage around them. The cage holes are large enough to let small birds in, but not the squirrel. Don't leave your pruners lying around the garden. I've seen squirrels using them at night to cut through the cage.

7. Capsaicin - Work on their Taste Buds

Capsaicin is what puts the hot in hot pepper. Squirrels are similar to us in that their taste buds can detect hot pepper. Birds cannot.

If you can not keep the squirrel away from the feeder and your gadgets cannot keep them from the food your next line of defense is - pepper the food!

Use the hot pepper you normally sprinkle on your pizza, or pepper that you've grown, dried, and chopped yourself, or any of the commercially available mixes. Mix it with your birdseed. One taste and the little critters will swear off your seed forever.

[One note of caution. You want to be very careful when mixing the hot stuff. Mix it outdoors. Keep it away from your mouth, nose, eyes, and other organs. Wash your hands thoroughly after.]

I have noticed, in the waning evening light, zydeco music coming from the backyard. Squirrels are swinging on feeders, eating the peppery hot sunflower seed, and drinking tequila. However, that's probably unusual.

8. Serve What They Don't Like

It is hard to find a seed that a squirrel won't eat. (Think about it. If your starting point is hickory nuts or acorns, most seed looks pretty good). Safflower might fit the bill (no pun intended). Most squirrels will not eat safflower. I don't know why. As an added benefit, most of the black birds that arrive in large flocks to empty your feeders don't like safflower either.

Unfortunately, the only birds in our backyard that readily eat safflower are cardinals and titmice. Most of the other birds can take it or (more likely) leave it.

I've noticed that squirrels don't touch our thistle seed that we put our for the goldfinches. Goldfinches and perhaps a few other house finches that are lost enjoy thistle (or nyger).

9. Give Up

You might consider all these methods much to extraordinary to keep some cheap seed out of the mouths of a few squirrels. On the other hand, you might have tried all of these methods (in combinations) without very much success.

In either case, you just might consider giving up this quest. Do not give up on the birds, though.

10. Counseling

If you have gotten this far, have tried all these methods without success, and are still frustrated and looking for more alternatives you might check your health insurance policy.

Call your employee benefits Vice-president. Perhaps counseling is covered. Perhaps when a Human Resource Vice-president discovers your squirrel obsession you suddenly have other problems that will eclipse this squirrel thing.

Otherwise, here are a few web sites that you might find helpful:

"The Squirrel Lover's Club Homepage" - www.thesquirrelloversclub.com  - Slightly over the edge. Links to other pages that are WAY over the edge.