Dealing With Seed Gorging Squirrels
For additional fun after reading these ideas check out the following website.
Birdfeeder Information and Tips
A few years ago I challenge my cyberspace friends from around the world to help me with a problem. I have put out seed for wild birds as a hobby. For the first few years it was great. Then the squirrels came. Then they built nests in my small forest behind my home. Then there were 12 to 15 squirrels on my deck at one time taking nearly all the seed.
So I attempted to stop or outsmart the squirrels. My efforts proved to be mostly fruitless and expensive. So I asked for helped.
BTW one benefit of all my efforts I created a standup comedy routine about my battle with the squirrels and performed it at the Atlanta Punchline before 300 people as the graduation requirement of a Stand-Up Comedy class I took in 2000.
Have fun reading through the many, varied ideas my cyberspace friends shared with me and each other throughout a week.
Ideas from Cyberspace?
Here's a practical and personal challenge I would like help with. Since Merry and I moved into our own home in Athens, Georgia 11 years ago I (we) have been feeding wild birds. I have striven each year to attract more and more species of birds.
Our lot is a half-acre with the back portion being a slice of natural woods left al-natural.
Squirrels have been annoying in the past with the feeders that are at the edge of the trees but not on the deck. This year there are 2 maybe 3 nests of squirrels(12 to 18) in our little woods alone. They love the cuisine in my feeders hanging above my deck. So far they have broken 3 feeders and chewn through another.
I tend to use a varied mix of seed in order to attract the greater mixture of birds from the standard:
blue jays, bluebirds, several types of sparrows, 4 types of woodpeckers, chicadees, titmouse (mice), wrens, terns, starlings, cardinals. This year I have had a mix of finches, indigo ? (can't remember the name of this bluebird) and others I haven't found in my bird book.
BUT NOW THE GREEDY EXCESSIVELY EATING HOARD OF SQUIRRELS LIVING IN MY OWN YARD ARE DEVOURING MY GOURMET BIRDSEED.
So far I have tried repellent birdseed reported to be distasteful to squirrels. It is drenched with pepper. My squirrels must be from Mexico or further south. They love it too.
I have tried galvanized ductwork hoping they couldn't climb on it (ha ha). Currently I am using fine wire chicken wire. It has deterred some of them.
So my challenge this week to the list is to generate 144 ideas for deterring squirrels from my feeders or causing them to move on out of my yard or to encourage them to eat something else besides the expensive special bird seed.
In the neighborhood across from our's, where Merry and I would go for our daily morning walks, there is a house with 4 very expensive--squirrel proof--feeders. Each time we walked by them this spring there have been squirrels in each one, wolfing down the people's birdseed.
Thanks for your help up front.
Squirrels need your love and God's love too. Consider soothing your internal anger by putting out inexpensive squirrel food for the squirrels and the special food for the birds. Both my squirrels and my birds are a joy to me each day.
Peace, joy, and serenity are my reward each day.
We don't have squirrels in Australia, but to keep possums from crawling along something, I have seen funnel shaped devices, similar to those used on ship docking lines to stop rats crawling up them.
In regards to the case of the DIRTY ROTTEN SQUIRRELS
1) Set the bird house on a tall pole 30 feet away from trees
2) Get rid of the birds and raise squirrels
3) Start genetically controlling the squirrels by developing nonseed eaters
4) Dig a trench and fill it with an endless supply of bird seed and keep squirrels busy
Off the top of my head--how about putting out something that squirrels find most appetizing and birds don't--larger variety of nuts--maybe they will be drawn to that as a feeding area instead
Short of trapping them, which is the only thing that ever worked for us, and then taking them elsewhere to live, I have wondered if working with them might do it.
Best of luck--and this could be a fun brainstorming exercise as well as potentially helpful to your problem, so thanks for posting it!
Hanging bird feeders on monofilament line or thin wire rope rather than pole mounted ones.
Get a cat (or two) and bell them. Their presence and stalking of the squirrel will probably not result in any kills (the bell) but will keep the squirrels away. Dogs can work as well if they are an appropriate hunting breed.
Traps for the squirrels either humane ones and then relocate the little devils or perhaps develop a taste for squirrel stew. Might even be a market for the skins.
A slingshot for squirrel target practise.
1/ The best idea I can give u is move to New Zealand - we don't have squirrels!
2/ Artifical python on the bird table post [btw we don't have snakes either]
Cathy, Auckland, NZ
What is inexpensive squirrel food? Now here is starting place for some gun-shoeing creativity. I don't know. I feed my birds and squirrels chicken scratch. I also have a little bird feeder that I put the special bird seed into. Perhaps day-old bread, spillage from the feed store, all sorts of leftover legumes from the vegatable wholesalers market?
How much do you need for 12 to 16 or 18 squirrels per day? I don't know. It seems to me that the squirrels have certain times of day when they are active and then go "dormant". so maybe it is just enough to keep them happy until their internal clock says "lets go somewhere else.
Where do you place inexpensive squirrel food so that they will stay away from the expensive bird food? My squirrels come from along the top of a fence. I have a platform for them which is where they spend a busy time eating. The bird feeder is further down the line and hangs out on a hanger. A few squirrels go down there, but not many.
In answering your challenge I feel like I have had a mental warmup. Thanks.
PS: It just occurred to me that there is an assumption in my thinking-that I am "feeding" them in the sense that without my food they will not be fed. Ah hah, a moment of clarity.
If you supply enough food, in enough niches, you will have a diversity of folks to 'watch' without having to decide if the allocation favors the population of 'worth'.
I wonder if the competition for resources is necessary. why not just feed more seed and stop sweating the small stuff?
This is the world's problem in micro cosmos!
Reading back I note that I forgot to mention that, at our home in Cheverly, Maryland, we had two races of squirrels. I suspect they were the same species, but there was a sable-black race, and the usual gray variety (I tried to coax the albino from the Dirksen Senate Building's oak trees to my trap, in hopes of even greater squirrel-hood, but he was too clever for me . . .)
The grays and the blacks rarely would eat together -- in fact, they often fought over the seed, while the jays and cardinals stole their booty. We increased the number of stations, the variety of feeding situations and the amount of seed -- at a total cost of under $50 (none of the added stations were squirrel-proof, intentionally). Within a few weeks the two races would often graze at peace.
Then the red squirrels showed up.
We brought some peace to those warring squirrels, and in retrospect the price was mere birdseed!
I've never seen black squirrels anywhere else, and I hope they still survive in our little forest off of Route 50.
If you can afford Penelope's solution of increasing the size of the pie, it usually works, in my experience.
Until next year, when there will be more squirrels.
who was there first? you or the squirrels? why is it more important for the birds to have a readily accessible food supply than the squirrels? do we diminish survival skills of wild birds/animals by feeding them?
I once had a similar problem. even with pecan trees in the yard and more than enough pecans to feed the squirrels, they would dominate the bird feeders. after the last bird feeder fell, I bought a squirrel feeder. the kind that holds a cob of dried corn. they're fun to watch too.
I'm going to use a bit of the process I've learned from you and suggest whatever comes to mind--feasible or not. These are clearly less than elegant solutions!
Rig the feeders with a weight activated alarm, something that gives off a shrill noise, flashing lights, or both. It will only go off when the squirrels climb on (I'm guessing that the birds don't dine in the presence of squirrels), and the startle should be fairly aversive.
Get a large, well trained dog. My beast ignores birds, but becomes quite agitated at the sight of invading mammals. If the dog spends his days in the yard (weather permitting, of course) the squirrels may move out.
Install invisable electronic fencing around the property then capture the squirrels, drug them, put tiny electric collars on them, and deposit them outside the fencing. Hey, it keeps dogs in, why not squirrels out?
Good luck, good thinking, and good health.
All my best,
A two story squirrel motel and bird feeder combination. Squirrels check in to get a couple of seeds but they can't check out. Release them and repeat till they learn. Thus it becomes a humane conditioning system without having to relocate the cute little pests !
How is that for a great win-win solution? Want to design one ? (I am a designer)
It seems pretty obvious that squirrels and birds inhabit pretty much the same ecological niche, so, naturally it is hard to separate them.
There are many books on the problem, but I have no idea how successful they are. Animals certainly seem pretty creative, especially where food is involved.
I have no real solutions to propose, but a few strategies to consider:
1) Get to love squirrels. It's interesting. At one time Janet and I used to go to parks to feed squirrels and it was annoying when the birds came (seagulls and pigeons). So, can you attract fifty different varieties of squirrels. Maybe you should name them, tag them, etc.
2) The only real difference is flight, but squirrels can do a lot of jumping and climbing. Maybe a helium supported feeder, nowhere near a structure the squirrels can jump from.
3) It seems to me that squirrels might have a preferred food to bird seed, such as nuts? If so, squirrel feeders to distract and fatten them up might be useful.
4) (This is the ultimate test of your creativity) Get to love squirrel. Get yourself a pellet gun or .22 and a recipe book..yum yum... Think of the primeval joy at hunting your own breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Imagine the parties, the backyard barbeques ...each guest gets to shoot their own dinner (This may require recruiting new friends from different demographics, but, after all, you are in the middle of Georgia.)
One suggestion is to put up a squirrel feeder. Find out what they like best and make it readily available to them, while continuing to make it difficult for them to access your birdfeeders. Metal rocker cones that dump
Another is to shoot or trap them and simply eliminate the problem altogether. This is, or course, only temporary as others will move in when you eliminate the existing tenants of your place.
Another suggestions is to create a moat around your bird feeding stations and use it as a pond for goldfish -- to add to your enjoyment of nature and your landscaping variety.
The only hope is to arm the rebel alliance. The birds must fight for their right to eat. We must air lift the proper armament to them... (or would you ground lift to birds?)
You bring the weapons to the river, I'll try to get them across the Brandenburg Gate. With any luck we can topple the aggressive squirrel regime.
Hope that helps.
I had the same problem (although I was using regular birdseed, not gourmet )
The setup I have now has actually been working for about the past 6 months.
I had a pole about 8 feet high from which to hang the birdfeeders. From the local wild bird store I bought a squirrel deterrent that attaches to the pole. It is a metal cylinder about 8 inches in diameter and 2 feet high, and must mount at least 4 feet above the ground. Also, the pole is supposed to be at least 6-8 feet away from any branches or other objects the squirrels can jump from.
Now the birds are happily feeding, and the squirrels seem content to sit on the ground and pick at the few seeds that get dropped or knocked out. Yes, the birds and squirrels are happily coexisting.
I have a pair of cardinels, chickadees, and goldfinch. In the winter I had morning doves, house finches, woodpeckers. The "black oil" sunflower seeds are very popular.
good luck, Maureen
>I have tried galvanized ductwork hoping they couldn't climb on it (ha ha). Currently I am using fine wire chicken wire. It has deterred some of them.
Alan, I am surprised that they were able to climb the galvanized ductwork.
Another idea: 0 0 0 _-_ _-------_ _--- ---_ _-__________________-_ I I I I _I_______ I_ I I ------------ well, the idea is to hang the feeder, by chain so it can't be chewed. It has a large smooth metal (like galvanized!) roof with a diameter large enough to prevent the squirrels from reaching the food from above. (Hopefully they will slide off the roof). It should be hung high enough to prevent squirrels from jumping up to it, and also far enough away from the tree to prevent jumping to it from the tree. Birds can fly to the feeder, of course.
Good luck! Mike
Well, I have very much enjoyed reading about the squirrel delema!
My partner and I live on the edge of a filbert tree orchard in Oregon (filberts are a very tasty and expensive nut) and I've NEVER seen a squirrel anywhere in that orchard. I asked the farmer once why that was and he told me that he uses a squirrel trap he invented. It looks a lot like a mole trap and, unfortunately for the squirrels, works like a mole trap!
We've caught squirrels under our house using a live trap with CAT FOOD as bait (the cheaper and stinkier the better). Believe it or not it ALWAYS works for us. It's also worked in catching other strange and assorted creatures who think the spot under our water heater is just dandy to live. In fact, that's how we caught the PREGNANT SKUNK that was making a nest under our master bedroom! AAAAaaauuugghh!
Thank goodness for cat food! Good luck with the squirrels - Christy King -
I am so impressed with these squirrels!! Paint the metal roof black and coat with PAM or wd-40 (whooooosh) Collar the pole with a light metal serrated collar the bends downward with a weigh load. Dull the shiney side to the birds (too bright!) Feed them separately with "problem food" (stuffed in pine cones - something that challenges their unique abilities). Bird bath style feeded with a clear collar under the bath (like a dog elizabethan collar.) Provide holes at the lowest point so seeds drop to the bottom. They sprout and eventually create a fresh food sanctuary.
I have no real solutions to propose, but a few strategies to consider: >>
Building on these,
1) Make the obstacles increasingly difficult. Observe the squirrels' creative problem solving skills and persistence. Develop a creative problem solving skills course, book, video, game based on what you learn.
2) "Train" your squirrels through increasingly difficult obstacles, and start your own Traveling Trained Squirrels circus. Join The Big Top.
3) Spike the food with squirrel sterility stuff. If none exists, invent it and sell it and become a millionaire.
I'm coming a little late to the squirrel deterrence discussion, and I apologize if I repeat.
We've had a lot of success over the years with two lines of defense.
First, we try to make sure the squirrels have something. They seem to love especially peanuts and corn, both in our old haunts in the forests of Maryland and down here in the Texas plains. A low-lying pan for the squirrels usually keeps them happy.
Second, we use a pole feeder from Droll Yankee that is advertised as being squirrel proof, and for us it has been so when properly installed. The pole is about 0.75 inches diameter, which is tough for a squirrel to climb. The tray on the bottom level is about 22 inches diameter, in a rather upside-down bowl form. It's too far for any but a monster squirrel to hold on to the pole and successfully climb around. We haven't had a squirrel defeat it in more than a dozen years. Droll Yankee recommends a cover to go over the top, which can be set to limit the size of birds getting in, and we have used it to prevent squirrels from dropping down from the top. The pole has to be set far enough from any place a squirrel can use as a launch pad to prevent them from jumping to the tray.
When the wolves disappear, the deer multiply and get smaller and unhealthy.
Providing a welfare state for squirrels and birds will certainly do the same so a little excitement with cats, dogs and slingshots is the most humane balance to the feeder problem.
The cats can have very small bells. The slingshots pebbles can be eccentric poly with holes that whistle.
Put the feed for the bird on a roof, constructed like a mushroom. The squirrels cannot climb on a plain pole, if they can there is no chance to get on the roof because of the big distance between the pole and the edge of the roof.
I have a store bought feeder that is a flat ceramic dish that is supported by a tight bundle of three rods that open up towards the top to hold the dish. I took a long pipe and stuck it on the ground and inserted the stem / bundle into it, providing some height. Just like you said, it seems to work. The squirrels are eating the left overs from the ground while contemplating their next move. I did see them consulting a beaver on some engineering plans.
You might be able to create one with
1) a large flat dish about a foot diameter 2) a large funnel used for automobiles with a long stem 3) a 5' long tube (the stem fits the tube) 4) some duct tape or epoxy to attach the funnel to the bottom of the dish.
Use the pipe to dig its own hole (You will need something to poke the mud out from its end). Install away from trees on open ground. A second unit could be a bird bath.
buy a pellet gun and kill them little bastards
Ah, now I see! I said I had come late to this discussion -- scrolling back over a busy week's unread mail, I find the REAL challenge: 144 ways to deal with 'em.
I wrote earlier of what worked for us -- Droll Yankee squirrel "resistant" feeders and feeding the squirrels directly. Here are some others that didn't work so well for us, but might for you.
1. Cages around the feeders, through which the smaller birds can scoot with ease (chicken wire cages I've seen -- they make extra steps replenishing the food, but work, sort of). I've heard of cages as large as 8 x 8 x 8, walk- ins. This will frustrate your cardinals and blue jays unless you can figure a way to let them in.
2. Suspend bird feeders on wires -- grease the wires (squirrels will defeat this ultimately).
3. Feeders that will shut if a squirrel's weight pushes on the perch bar.
4. "Audubon" style feeders, with metal cladding around the seed openings.
5. Peanut butter spread on nearby trees. The theory is the squirrels will go for the peanut butter and leave the other stuff alone. If your peanut butter is going away after dark, watch for flying squirrels (much smaller than the other ones) and if you see one praise the heavens that you did.
6. Get a yard dog. The birds will learn the feeders are out of the dog's reach, or fly away. Squirrels will learn there are places they cannot follow birds. The dog will get frustrated, though.
7. Get a funnel mounted to your feeding station pole, high enough that a squirrel cannot jump over it. The funnel should be inverted, made out of metal, and wide enough so that a squirrel cannot reach around it to get a foothold -- a radius of at least 11 inches, and probably more is better.
Hope that helps.
Ed in Dallas
I love david's answer concerning keeping the birds out of the squirrel feeders :-)
we too (two) feed the birds and the squirrels.
so ... I have some thoughts on sunflowers as a finite resource. probably as a consequence of thinking these days about class, gender, race and competition, i have a question ... what if we approach the bird/squirrel thing as competition for resources. is it an artifical construction? what i mean is; is it possible that there is really enough for all?
in our yard the squirrels use the flat feeder for 56.8% of the day. birds that prefer the flat feeder, jays & finches, account for 31.2% of the remaining use .. with misc. species @12 %. the song sparrows and juncos want seed that is spread upon the ground (not the hot-subject-sunflower-seeds.) scatter the food all over the place and let them eat!!!!!!
if you supply enough food, in enough niches, you will have a diversity of folks to 'watch' without having to decide if the allocation favors the population of 'worth'.
i wonder if the competition for resources is necessary. why not just feed more seed and stop sweating the small stuff?
My squirrel knowledge is nil, but maybe this is an advantage to propose a suggestion. Most 'solutions' so far proposed, focus on a way to prevent squirrels to reach/consume the food (which was meant to be for birds). Why not turn the problem around? And give the food exclusively to the squirrels. Dig a small hole, put food in it; birds are afraid to go into the small pit, but squirrels are not. So if there is enough food in the pit, squirrels eat their nice bellies round and don't go to the other , more difficult to reach, place where the bird food is put. The squirrels might go to the bird's place, but it is easier for them to go to the pit and no hungry feelings will be the result.
Bad minded people might mix the pit/squirrel food with poison or infertilisers.
Ed has some ideas. Among them: >3. Feeders that will shut if a squirrel's weight pushes on the perch bar.
I own one of these and they *really* work. (Alan, if you want, I can dig up the manufacturer's name. Unfortunately, they put you back about fifty bucks each.) You can also set the tension to keep out heavy undesirables, in my case, the literally sh*tty Grackles. Who also attack the other birds.
So I've kept the gourmet bird seed in the hopper feeder and make sure to leave squirrel food around too.
Re: the PBS program on squirrels getting to food. I've seen it and it is truly amazing what the little guys can do! I have also seen them watching me while I fill the hopper feeder, and as soon as I go in the house, they're there trying to open the hatch as I did. Lucky for me their hands are too small.
Dogs? My squirrels just sit in the branches cussing at my dogs and teasing them. They know dogs can't climb trees.
You want to get rid of the squirrels, but still feed the birds. Ever thought of taking up feeding owls, hawks, kestrels, etc?
Ed writes: >The pole >is about 0.75 inches diameter, which is tough for a squirrel to climb. The >tray on the bottom level is about 22 inches diameter, in a rather upside-down >bowl form. It's too far for any but a monster squirrel to hold on to the pole >and successfully climb around.
This sounds really good is just about where I was going, but how about a moat of water around the pole base too. Do squirrels swim for food?
An extract from an E-Zine I recieved this week...
The number one cause of power outages in the United States is the weather. The number two cause? SQUIRRELS!
It turns out that squirrels aren't just self-propelled short circuits. They are also the bane of everyone who has a birdfeeder. Fortunately, Bill Adler, Jr., has written a book that just might help you turn your "squirrelfeeder" back into a "birdfeeder." The book is titled "Outwitting Squirrels: 101 cunning stratagems to reduce dramatically the egregious misappropriation of seed from your birdfeeder by squirrels" (ISBN 1-55652-302-5, US$11.95 -- you can find it for US$9.56 at http://www.amazon.com/).
Adler's book is both informative and hysterical. He reviews several commercial birdfeeders for their "squirrelproofness," and even offers "101 Cunning Stratagems" for keeping your birdfeeder squirrel-free (my favorite is "dig a moat around your feeder; fill it with piranha"). Of all the squirrel strategy books I have read, Alder's is the best ... and is also the most entertaining. And I am not just saying this because Rosie O'Donnell said, "Bill Adler, Jr. is my hero. I love this book. Go buy this book." :)
Mary Nell Lott thou waxes poetically alot
for squirrels I might care if only they would share
they may not oink or wallow in the mud but as pigs of bird seed each is not a dud
I did hang duct work and looked like a jerk
from my structure I hung chicken wire this Athens neighborhood squire
I peppered seed did scatter yet it did not seem to matter
place I did peanuts on the lawn the squirrels avoided them since dawn.
Poem by Mary
© 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006 Robert Alan Black, Ph.D. CSP