I’ve created a monster: My misadventures with the eastern gray squirrel

By Janet Carroll | Oct 03, 2012
Courtesy of: Sylvia Kawabata An eastern gray squirrel snacks on some seeds from a backyard feeder.

Ever since I set up a feeding station in my yard, I have been trying to outwit the eastern gray squirrels.

The squirrels ravish my backyard plants. And they have found ways to get food from my feeders no matter.

In my first attempt to stop the squirrels, I fed them corn to fill them up, but instead of having three squirrels come to my yard, I ended up with 12.

I stopped that activity.

Then I put my feeders on poles instead of hanging them in my trees. On the poles I installed a tube baffle, so the squirrels couldn’t get to the feeder.

That worked for a while until the squirrels figured out how to get over the baffle and up to the feeder.

So I added a flat baffle above the tube. That worked, sort of. The squirrels couldn’t get to the feeders, but they still hung around on the ground beneath the feeder, eating the food that the sparrows, chickadees and nuthatches dropped.

I was back to three squirrels – a lot better than 12, but still too many.

I had also seen a Douglas tree squirrel around my house. I overheard someone talking about a feeder that the gray squirrels couldn’t get to, but Douglas squirrels could. I was so excited! I gave the feeder a try.

It was true that the gray squirrels couldn’t get the food from this feeder, but there was no seed catcher on it, so plenty of food fell on the ground, providing food for six squirrels – and some rats as well.

My next idea was to put seed catchers on all the feeders.

But the gray squirrels held onto the cage around the Douglas squirrel feeder and used the seed catcher to their advantage: They took seeds out using a hole in the seed catcher that was supposed to allow for drainage. They also knocked the seeds to the ground from this hole.

Another seed catcher I had was square and easy for band-tailed pigeons to eat from. In a frenzy to push each other out of the way, the pigeons knocked lots of seeds to the ground.

The squirrels were there, waiting below.

At a neighbor’s suggestion, I bought a three-pie tin package for the squirrel feeders to cover the hole and I removed the other seed catcher.

I had two squirrel feeders by this time, and put two pie tins on one and one tin on the other. Within a day, the one pie tin was completely demolished.

I replaced that pie tin with a metal one, and thought I was good to go, since the double pie tin had not been destroyed.

However, the squirrels just reached into the seed catchers for food, or they swung on the feeder, making seeds fly out of the seed catcher.

Lastly, and finally, I put a zinc metal band around the base of the feeder so they couldn’t get to the seeds. I was back to three gray squirrels.

Yes, in my darkest moments, I have thought of getting rid of the squirrels permanently.

Why not trap them and move them elsewhere? It’s illegal to move them unless it’s to another part of your property. My property is not that big.

And even if I illegally took them miles away, more squirrels would come to fill their place, so what’s the point?

I have accepted that there will always be gray squirrels in my yard. But three is the limit.

Janet Carroll is a member of the Mukilteo Wildlife Habitat Project. After two years of getting landowners to certify their yards as wildlife habitat and conducting educational activities, Mukilteo has been certified as a National Wildlife Federation Community Wildlife Habitat.

The group continues their commitment to wildlife by creating and enhancing wildlife habitat in Mukilteo and connecting residents with nature. For more information on the project, go to www.mukilteowildlife.org, contact the group at mukilteowildlife@gmail.com or 425-514-5979.

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