At some point you give up and admit that it's really a squirrel feeder
July 3, 2014 7:12 PM   Subscribe

Most backyard bird enthusiasts have felt the frustration of fuzzy-tailed thieves filching from their feeders. But for some, just watching the gymnastics squirrels go through to get to the goods is gratification enough.
posted by Jacqueline (41 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
My mother is in a neverending war against the squirrels with her backyard feeders. I have to admit, I kind of root for the squirrels. Talk about dedication.
posted by TwoStride at 7:57 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I once had a matching set of solar-powered Christmas lights to do up the shrubbery with out front - they didn't work very well. Sunlight here in the winter is too weak to have them more than sort of check in as "present."

Anyway come the spring I thought "well maybe they'll be good for the patio" and wrapped them around a crabapple tree. Next morning I come out and find all these neat little lengths of wire and a solar panel staked in the ground - some squirrel bastard had come in the night and stolen all of the LEDs, or their casings at any rate. I guess the icicle texture made them look enough like a nut that they seemed like easy pickings. Months later you'd be digging in the garden or a flower pot and find some hidden cache of plastic holiday nonsense.

I hope it didn't kill them, I like squirrels well enough for all the nuisance at what seems like very little benefit.

Years later, the city decided that the abundant Christmas lights in city park should be replaced with LED ones and the same damn thing happened. Now we just have one tree lit up, and there's a 4 foot tall metal sheath around it about 20 feet up, which probably won't help.
posted by angerbot at 7:59 PM on July 3, 2014 [9 favorites]

Nice use of alliteration.

Also, nice videos.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:00 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

FWIW, the squirrel-proof feeders that close up when something too heavy sits on them (like this one), hung from a metal shepherd's-crook type dealie stuck into the ground, work 100%.

I still have squirrels, but they have to make do with whatever scraps the birds drop on the ground.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:02 PM on July 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

It appears that since my bird feeders became a bird hot spot, the squirrels have been more than content with the scraps on the ground. From a practical perspective, I shouldn't even care - birds, squirrels, it all looks like food to my cats. But the squirrels can be so brazen. I had one chewing on the window screen that was the only thing separating it from a cat, inches away.
posted by wotsac at 8:13 PM on July 3, 2014

Thanks, Sys Rq! I'll definitely look into that feeder!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 8:40 PM on July 3, 2014

I remember watching Daylight Robbery in school many years ago. Devious little fella's so they are!
posted by TwoWordReview at 8:50 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Did the first squirrel actually (ugh) puke while spinning on the wheel?
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:56 PM on July 3, 2014

If you can't defeat them, you can at least laugh at them.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:58 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Did the first squirrel actually (ugh) puke while spinning on the wheel?

Maybe (that's certainly what the slow motion replay would have you believe), but I think it's more likely he just lost some seeds from his cheeks.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:02 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I got nothing against squirrels but if you don't want them around, this is the purpose for which God invented the air rifle.
posted by Sternmeyer at 9:16 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

May I present to you, Twirl a Squirrel
posted by bartonlong at 9:21 PM on July 3, 2014

So much energy and cleverness expended for bird seed. Or maybe there's a principle involved, like this is the squirrel version of Mount Everest.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:40 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since we're on the topic of squirrels and bird feeders, may I present perhaps the greatest talk ever given at any programming language conference, EVER IN THE HISTORY OF MAN: Militarizing Your Backyard with Python (SLYTAwesomeness).

Admittedly, it's a low bar
posted by kjs3 at 9:56 PM on July 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

A couple of years ago, my mother bought a replica 1911 airsoft gun that shoots these little plastic balls, to scare the pigeons and squirrels with. She'd fire it at the metal garage door, or into the leaves NEAR the critter which typically made them flee.
Today, the squirrels run THROUGH our yard, but rarely stop to scrounge. It's been a very interesting (and fun!) experiment in conditioning.
posted by ApathyGirl at 10:38 PM on July 3, 2014

I didn't think squirrels could vomit - rodents can't, for some peculiar evolutionary reason.

That aside, I am still a bit sore at the fact that humanity has domesticated all kinds of cute animals but not squirrels. They're so fluffsome!
posted by cmyk at 11:55 PM on July 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

posted by hortense at 12:20 AM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Admittedly, it's a low bar

Not anymore.
posted by yonega at 1:01 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I got nothing against squirrels but if you don't want them around, this is the purpose for which God invented the air rifle.

My mom is a vegetarian, animal-rights supporting, anti-gun ex-hippie, and she still has an air rifle to shoot squirrels with. She says she doesn't kill them, just "stings them in the butt".
posted by lollymccatburglar at 2:30 AM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I never understood the squirrel hate. They are so cute, and so fun to watch! I like birds but they kind of lack in the entertainment department.

I fed some squirrels (and birds) all winter long. Every morning I'd throw a couple of fistfuls of black sunflower seeds and a cup or so of regular birdseed onto my patio, and then the cat would sit there half the day watching the critters come eat. By spring I was ankle-deep in sunflower seed shells on the patio.

One of my squirrels is darling, and brazen. He'd come right up to the patio door and beg. He'd rattle the screen to get my attention, and if I didn't come quick enough sometimes he'd climb right up on the screen and hang there. On nicer days this spring when I'd have the glass door open, he'd still come up with the cat sitting there. More than once I found them nose-to-nose.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:06 AM on July 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

Be glad squirrels aren't allowed to compete in Ninja Warrior.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:56 AM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

A couple of years ago, I was up really early while visiting Jessamyn, and caught this fellow snacking.
posted by pjern at 3:58 AM on July 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

My mother was totally obsessed with the squirrels that raided her bird feeders. She rigged up a live trap with a cord and she'd sit patiently and wait until the squirrel went inside the trap (an old aquarium). When they took the bait she'd pull the cord and the lid would drop. Then she and my father would drive an aquarium full of pissed off squirrel a mile or two away and release it. I figure she reduced the squirrel population in her yard for at least 20 minutes but it kept her entertained for hours when she was dying of cancer and had little energy for anything else.
posted by leslies at 5:20 AM on July 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

Love squirrels. The nasty temper, the grubby way they eat and their gymnastics give them character! They live for French fries; so just give them a few and they will leave the seeds alone.

There is enough goodies I give them to go around for them and the birds, but my fondest memory was an elderly neighbour who used to bring peanuts on his daily walks -- every squirrel on the block ran to him as they climbed on him and danced around him. They were patient, affectionate, and used to do flips even after they were full. I am in awe of those fuzzy little thugs...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 5:48 AM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

They're unbelievably persistent. After years of failed prevention efforts, I settled on one of those weight-sensitive-door feeders. Even that isn't 100% effective. A sufficiently motivated young squirrel can still manage to find enough of a grip on the smooth acrylic body of the feeder to hang upside down and loot the seeds. It's tiring, though, and after a few weeks, the squirrel gets too heavy or something, and can't do it any more. It's good enough.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:01 AM on July 4, 2014

I was pretty surprised how common and tame the squirrels in Berkeley were when I moved there from Ireland - they were everywhere, running under cars, across telephone wires and through parks in broad daylight whereas in Ireland they aren't really found in urban settings and usually run a mile when they see a human.

I'm talking about grey squirrels, not red ones - unfortunately I don't think I've even ever seen a red squirrel in Ireland due to the ongoing genocide committed by the grey colonists.
posted by kersplunk at 6:14 AM on July 4, 2014

My parents, who live in rural New Hampshire, struggled for years to find a perfect squirrel-proof bird feeder. They finally found one they were happy with. That winter it was knocked over and stolen by a bear. Go Team Mammal!
posted by Daily Alice at 6:16 AM on July 4, 2014 [10 favorites]

During Japan's Sengoku or "Warring States" period, the samurai, many of whom subscribed to a particularly nihilistic version of Zen Buddhism, had a saying: "The karma of a bushi (soldier) is so bad, that they can only be reincarnated as another bushi."

If you ever get the chance, take some time to really observe squirrels. See them climb trees in a circular fashion, always keeping the tree between themselves and threats. See them scale the face of a brick wall, and flatten themselves out against it when they sense danger. Observe them running along a telephone wire, or the eaves of a house, being ever so sneaky. And then see how that big fluffy tail gives them away, every time.

Squirrels are reincarnated ninja.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:40 AM on July 4, 2014 [12 favorites]

I'm never going to get over how people put out food for wildlife, and then get cranky when the Wrong Wildlife eats it. As if the squirrels should know this food is only for visually-appealing songbirds.

I love squirrels. Keep it up, little critters.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:48 AM on July 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

All this talk of war is a bit weird. Every day or so I sprinkle a couple handfuls of birdseed on the lawn in front of my apartment. Within minutes, I have a bunch of birds and squirrels enjoying brunch together without bothering each other at all, and the cardinals and finches and such keep appearing throughout the day. The bluejays are the real assholes, but everyone else seems to get along just fine.

The squirrels do get most of the sunflower seeds, though.
posted by mediareport at 6:55 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, I like squirrels, but if they get into your house, forget it; just board it up and run.

Mostly, though, people around here (the suburbs of the suburbs of Toronto) don't like squirrels because they dig little holes all over the lawn, all over the garden, all over the flower beds, constantly -- some to bury nuts and seeds, and some to pretend to bury nuts and seeds if they think another squirrel's watching (the more squirrels, the more "pretend" holes each one digs, so the holes increase exponentially). Of course, some saps will still pay to have their lawn aerated...

I suspect dog people hate squirrels more than non-dog people, since a lot of dogs go bananas whenever they spot one, and that's got to be pretty annoying to live with. I am not a dog person.

One squirrel chewed the buds off my peonies this year, which was a bit perplexing, but I was far more delighted to see it in action than I was annoyed that it happened. Peonies are a bigger hassle than squirrels anyway.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:43 AM on July 4, 2014

I like squirrels. Luckily when the squirrel came into my house (what is WRONG with you cats? my aunt swore that the obese semi-feral tailless cat was a mighty hunter but she only hunts kibble) it saw me and ran right out, brushing its furry little tail against the indifferent cats.
posted by jeather at 8:00 AM on July 4, 2014

"Hey man, that other cat sure looks like he needs the food."
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:16 AM on July 4, 2014

I think it's because cats are ambush hunters, and they know they're not going to sneak up on the squirrel. So no sense in wasting energy.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:56 AM on July 4, 2014

I don't hate squirrels. They are cute and entertaining when their apparent infestations let them give up scratching for a while. They are voracious, however. If I put up a squirrel-susceptible bird feeder, they'd tag-team the thing continuously until it was empty, and the birds would get essentially nothing. I'd have to fill it twice a day at least, and the added nutrition would fuel a classic case of induced demand. I'd be awash in hungry squirrels in no time. Not a pleasant prospect, regardless of their innate charm.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:19 PM on July 4, 2014

I never understood the squirrel hate.

Neither did I. So they get into the trays of food left out for cute animals? Hey, they're cute animals. Food for all the cute animals! Feed all the cute animals!

Then last summer turned into The Summer Of A Single Bite Taken From Every Damn Tomato No Why Bother Eating One Entire Tomato Then Seeing If Another Is Needed Let's Just Ruin Them All Oh You're Leaving a Bowl Of Water Out For Us How Cute Ms. Chamberlain Like That Ever Worked.

That was the summer I learned how to wrap plants in chicken wire while weeping and not getting too many cuts on my arms. Fuzzy little wasteful fuckers.
posted by maudlin at 12:23 PM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

At the moment this is eight cents on Amazon.
posted by bukvich at 1:27 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you don't want the squirrels, just add hot red pepper flakes to the feeder. The birds don't taste them, but the squirrels sure do!
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 2:59 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm gonna try that, swimming naked. I'll mix in red pepper flakes with the birdseed, let it set a few days, then spread it out and see what happens. Very curious to know if it actually works, even if I'll probably stop using it once the experiment is over.
posted by mediareport at 4:37 PM on July 4, 2014

(like this one)

I could watch that product video on repeat forever.
posted by mosessis at 6:33 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm gonna try that, swimming naked.

That sounds slightly painful, but hey, to each his own.
posted by cacofonie at 1:54 PM on July 5, 2014

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