Bob and Rodman – Are You Smarter Than a Squirrel?
Jeff Foxworthy’s popular game show “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” gives everyone plenty of laughs. There are few laughs involved, however, in the game of wits between dedicated bird feeders and Mr. Bushytail. In this longstanding feud, we humans come up on the short side more often than not. And that’s in the face of a well-developed industry that makes its money convincing us that we can indeed keep squirrels out of our birdfeeders. Frankly, no single strategy is likely to be successful. A combination of impediment, unpalatability and alternative temptation is required to even reduce depredation by these Vikings of the treetops.
Impediment is the first line of defense. Today’s sophisticated squirrel-proof birdfeeders use a couple of approaches to reduce squirrel access. Location alone can be an impediment. Hanging feeders require squirrels to negotiate thin cords to achieve their goal, and hanging the feeder from a springy limb at least 8 or 10 feet from the trunk further increases the difficulty. Lightweight armatures attached to deck rails or standards provide a similar level of difficulty.
Post feeders can be located so that aerial access is practically impossible, and cone baffles, theoretically, thwart a ground attack. The cone baffle and the domed feeder cover are supposed to so complicate the issue that squirrels will seek easier pickings. Adding one of the anti-squirrel lubricants to the surface of the dome or baffle multiplies the deterrent. Another option is to enclose the feeder so that only flying birds can enter the feeding area. Until your squirrels figure out that they can gnaw their way through just about any birdfeeder material, your birds can enjoy the feast uninterrupted.
Making the table fare unpalatable to squirrels is another approach. You may limit the bird species when you choose bird feed types that are not particularly attractive to squirrels. Generally, the larger the seeds, the more attractive they are to mammals. Thistle will get you finches but not squirrels, nor doves, nor cardinals, etc. There are also squirrel repellants. Frequently based on predator urine, these preparations make the area seem dangerous to the interloper without having the same effect on the birds. The idea is that birds consider themselves less of a prey item to ground-bound carnivores.
Adding alternative temptation will make the above tactics more effective and provide an opportunity to enjoy squirrel antics without decimation of the birdseed supply. Purpose-built squirrel feeders, located at a distance from the birdfeeders, are an effective bribe. Put in a sacrificial tomato plant. Squirrels really seem to like the feel, the size and the red or green color of this fruit. They never eat the whole thing, so I don’t think they like the taste, but as long as it keeps them occupied, it’s okay by me.
Tune in to The Bob and RodMan Home Show every Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. on 920 AM-WGKA to learn how to improve your house or apartment. RodMan is a certified home inspector, knows residential property appraisal and is a hands-on home renovator. Bob owned a roofing company, has reclaimed distressed properties for years and has Master Licenses as a plumber, electrician and HVAC mechanic. www.bobandrodman.com