It’s painful to admit, but I owe an apology to flea-bitten little tree rats everywhere.
Oh, they dig tiny holes all over the freshly tilled backyard. They dine on hickory nuts on our front porch and don’t sweep up after themselves. (Try walking on hickory shell shards barefooted, when you’re stepping out for the paper in the morning. That will make you spill your coffee!)
Squirrels fling the potting soil out of baskets on the deck – and even gnaw on the deck itself.
But they didn’t clean out our bird feeder the last time it was emptied.
It was their long-legged pals from the pine thicket behind the shed: the deer.
We have a feeder on a pole outside the kitchen window. I filled it with sunflower seeds at dusk, then noticed that it had been emptied by early the next morning. Blasted squirrels!
Later I realized squirrels don’t stay up late or get up early.
The culprits must have been deer.
I checked. Deer, indeed, and there was plenty of evidence: They had chewed the nearby daylily – and dropped their calling cards.
Linda’s late mom had this same problem years ago.
She bought a squirrel-proof bird feeder that provided hours of entertainment. Squirrels would climb the pole, but the feeder would close when they put their weight on the perch. It’s lots of fun to drive a squirrel to distraction.
Deer don’t need to climb the pole or sit on the perch. They just reach in with their prehensile tongues and snag all the seeds.
So, we got to enjoy the doe that came around periodically to empty the seed pantry. Linda’s mom got a picture of it.
I searched online for potential ways to keep deer from eating bird seed. Found lots of answers, too. Mostly they were solutions that even those who suggested them admitted wouldn’t really work. I could almost hear some of the posters laughing out loud as they shared their tips.
Ah, no, I’m not going to sprinkle my own urine amid the lilies and lantana.
If I get desperate, I might try adding some hot pepper or pepper seeds to the mix in the feeder. I found some homemade recipes online.
Some online sites say that our favorite songbirds will eat safflower seed, while squirrels and deer won’t. But I’m not sure the squirrels and deer read those same sites – which, I noticed, also sell safflower seed.
Hanging tin pie plates and scattering dryer sheets? The Wild Bird Center site are correct: Lots of things that work initially don’t in the long run.
Wildlife experts say that the best way to keep deer from gobbling bird seed from feeders is to raise the feeders. Feeders should be at least 6 feet off the ground. Higher is better.
I’m going to need another bag of sunflower seeds, a longer pole – and a much taller ladder.