University City

War with the squirrels rages

Some people are squirrel lovers. Some are not. Count me among those who most definitely do not like the little critters.

I enjoy watching and feeding birds. Sometimes the natural area in my yard looks like an aviary because of the different types of birds enjoying the food I buy for them. The squirrels invade that enjoyment.

My relationship with squirrels is like a game of chess. We seem to constantly strategize and contemplate the opponent's next move. I'm ashamed to admit that they have outsmarted me a few times. There are also times when I bask in the glory of making a move to prevent them from enjoying the bird food or deny them the pleasure of playing on my deck.

Again, for squirrel lovers, I have no issues with squirrels who mind their business and stay out in the open areas gathering nuts or whatever items they enjoy. When squirrels came on my deck and knocked down a fake dog meant to scare them ... the war was on.

A fake owl set out in the natural area worked for a short time. But, the relief for me did not last long. The squirrels are smart enough to know that if the predator does not move, they are safe. Another concern is that the fake predators can also scare away the birds.

I have tried a wide variety of methods to prevent squirrels from enjoying the bird food ... and my deck.

Once I set out a cage trap. The squirrels enjoyed the peanut butter treat inside, but escaped being caught in the cage. I envisioned them laughing as they licked their paws on the way out of the cage.

Another time, I ordered a gadget I saw on television. It is a device that you plant in the ground. It feeds off of solar energy. The gadget emits a sound that is supposed to annoy squirrels (and other small animals). It worked for a while. But, again, the tactic did not last.

I have bought a large, round cage to make it difficult for the squirrels to attack the cylinder made of bird food, fruit and nuts. Somehow, they figured a way to tilt the cage and still get the food. They have even shaken the food to the ground and sometimes bury the bird food to enjoy at a later time.

Another purchase I made was a product that looked like Crisco shortening. I lathered it on the bird-feeder pole. Then, I watched the nimble squirrels just make one straight jump from the ground up to the food (bypassing the greasy pole). Outsmarted again. Now, I just keep the pole laced with Crisco anyway. I refuse to ever make it easy for squirrels to eat the bird food. I also have a bird feeder that shuts down as soon as it feels the weight of a squirrel. I even buy safflowers seeds (which they supposedly do not enjoy). They enjoy it at my house, anyway.

Next, I plan to try spraying some of the bird food with a flaming squirrel seed sauce. The bottle says, "It's a nutritional birdseed supplement that is all natural and super hot. Birds love the taste of the liquid chili pepper formula, while squirrels and other animals hate the hot Cajun flavor." We'll see. With my luck, the squirrels in my yard will bring a margarita and lap that up, too. You can also use the flaming seed sauce in flower beds to prevent them from being dug up. Years ago, I tried the hot pepper flake idea ... that did not work, either.

My friends at Wild Birds Unlimited hear lots of squirrel stories from bird lovers. There is no single answer to this ongoing problem. My husband thinks I have lost my mind. I see the situation as an ongoing mental and physical challenge. I refuse to stop feeding the birds because the squirrels are a nuisance.

I welcome any safe, natural ways to let the squirrels know that they are not welcome to the bird food (purchased for the birds) in my natural area. If you have any tried-and-true ideas to prevent squirrels from eating bird food, please share them with me. Please.

One day, I hope to declare, "Checkmate! Squirrels retreat permanently."