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Squirrel Mecca

>> Monday, March 1, 2010

I love these photos.  My Dad sent them to me - they show his front stairs and his driveway:

The question they bring to my mind is, how many gray squirrels can one man have in his yard?

I don't know the answer for certain, but I know it's A Whole Lot.  My Dad's yard has sort of inadvertently become the neighborhood squirrel mecca.  Most of the time if you look out in his back yard, there are a dozen or so birds at the feeders, and nearly as many squirrels on the ground under the feeders looking for dropped seeds.

For years when I was a kid the squirrels were sort of the enemy because they'd get into the bird feeders.  It's amazing just how quickly one lowly gray squirrel can reduce an expensive bird feeder to a pile of little plastic shavings.

It took my Dad years to figure out the ultimate squirrel baffle for the feeder pole.  He tried live trapping and relocating squirrels, who I swear just came back no matter how far we transported them.  I think he gave up on that tactic when it seemed as though 3 squirrels moved in for each one he removed.  He tried all sorts of other measures to discourage them from getting into the feeders, including greasing the pole to deter them from climbing it.  Grease didn't work, but ultimately it turned out he just needed the right shape and size of baffle on the pole, which he ultimately discovered through trial and error.

Despite the years-long battle, somehow the gray squirrels seemed to grow on him over the years.  I totally get why.  I have a hard time being in a bad mood while watching a squirrel.  They're such neurotic, daft, jolly little creatures, with their twitching tails and happy hopping.

Dad long ago gave up on trying to evict the gray squirrels from his yard.  He knows a few of the regulars and can tell them apart.  He takes pains to feed extra goodies to the ones who have mange (as evidenced by their bare naked little rat-like tails) to help them stay warm through the winter.  He's had squirrels with all sorts of injuries from cars, dogs, cats and each other, and squirrels with seemingly strange neurological problems, like the one who would slowly tip over to the side whenever he tried to sit upright.  He was quite charming, in a sad sort of way.

I swear the word is out in the entire Central New York gray squirrel community that if you're in bad shape, go to my Dad's house.  The pickings are good there.  Whenever I look at the squirrels we run into anywhere on our hikes, I'm always struck by how skinny they look compared with the robust ones in my Dad's yard.

He's also had quite a number of squirrels who come running toward him when he goes out to fill the bird feeders.  It didn't take them long to learn who keeps peanuts in his pockets along with his spare change.  For a while he had one who, when he was hungry, would climb up on the deck and launch himself at the kitchen window, sticking to the screen like velcro.  The sound he made when he hit that screen would make me jump just about out of my skin. 

For a while he had another (or perhaps even the same one) who, whenever someone opened the back door, would come running full tilt at the storm door and launch himself at it, hitting it with a thunderous bang and sticking to it.  I have no idea what that little fellow found to stick to on the smooth metal door.  The squirrel hitting the screen on the window was amusing, but the one who launched himself seemingly at you to land on the door was straight up disconcerting.

Any time anyone opens the garage doors at his house, a search of the garage is advisable before closing the door again.  A squirrel has gotten trapped in there more than once, that's for sure.  Although given the amount of black oil sunflower seed in the garage, it's not like they'd starve in there - they'd just make a mess.

Dad suffers them all with grace and good humor.  Even when they chew on his deck and scare the dickens out of him by launching at windows and doors at high velocity, the worst he'll say to them is "Shoo!  Stop that!"  Judging by the numbers of squirrels in his yard, he apparently never says it convincingly enough for the little ruffians to stop their antics for more than a few minutes.  They know they've got it good.


Woodswalker March 1, 2010 at 5:34 PM  

Your dad sounds like my husband. He shovels the snow off the patio under the birdfeeder before he tackles the walk, because he doesn't want the poor darlings to have to dig for the seeds. We have about 10 regulars and I have to admit, they sure are fun. And determined. I watched one try to jump to a feeder and miss it 26 times. The 27th time he made it and never missed again.

Ellen Rathbone March 2, 2010 at 10:00 AM  

Hooray for your dad! He's got some very lucky squirrels at home.

Oldbird March 2, 2010 at 12:05 PM  

I did evict a red squirrel recently. He was causing some problems, refused to abide by our code of conduct. He now has some new digs.

Woodswoman Extraordinaire March 2, 2010 at 12:29 PM  

Woodswalker, I love that story about the 26 failed jumps. I wish I had that kind of tenacity! Have you seen the squirrel obstacle course video?

Ellen, they're absurdly lucky.

Oldbird, is it improper discrimination to evict only the red squirrels? I joke, but I do understand evicting red squirrels - my love of squirrels does not extend to those aggressive, destructive little bug-eyed beggers. They're so much meaner!

Sneaksleep March 2, 2010 at 5:16 PM  

My dad's best friend fought the good fight against squirrels his whole life--he used to call them "rats with designer tails". I don't bother fighting them, myself. I'm still too traumatized by the time my mom found a squirrel carcass *inside* the squirrel-proof birdfeeder when I was younger. The feeder bar was weighted so it would close the lid on the feed trough whenever anything heavier than a cardinal got on it, but apparently this bugger found a way to open the roof-lid of the feeder. Too bad for him it was spring-loaded to stay closed. :(

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