Smarter than a squirrel?

I think I’ve outsmarted a squirrel. How? But maybe first …..why?

If you’ve visited here before, you know I’m a birder. On winter days, a sunflower seed feeder hangs by my deck. In summer, there’s a hummingbird feeder within easy view. We live in bear (and raccoon) country, so the seed feeder is taken indoors at night. And then there are the squirrels. After several years of squirrel absence, one red squirrel has turned up in the back garden….lots of trees out there, plenty of habitat and food.

But, of course, a seed feeder is a tempting target for a meal. Easy too: all you have to do is climb up on the deck rail, take a short leap….bingo, food! But my feeder is for the birds. Squirrels are on their own. They don’t hibernate, just nap the colder days away. When the temperature rises and the sun is out, they emerge to forage. Our ‘resident’ squirrel is energetic, plump, healthy looking. It doesn’t need my seed.

So how to keep this one at bay? There are all kinds of ‘squirrel proof’ feeders out there if you have the right place to hang them. The inventors recognized that the squirrel is a highly intelligent, determined. rodent, able to problem-solve. But I found a hopper-style feeder without a tray (where the seed gets mucky and encourages diseases to spread) but with a slim perch rail from which birds can reach the slits to pick out a seed.

American Goldfinches

I hung it above a shrub so birds could also perch on the branches….until the squirrel showed up, climbed up, hung on it and munched away. So we moved the feeder to hang under the house eaves a short distance away. That’s when squirrel figured out it could leap from the deck rail, no problem.

I watched this manoeuvre and decided it wouldn’t do. I needed something to block its path. So I hung up an elastic cord (bungee style) and dangled an inch-wide lanyard ribbon with a bit of weight on it between its take-off spot and the feeder. Theory: a visual distraction might work. Squirrel took the leap, grabbed the ribbon, and rode up and down as the elastic stretched. So funny to watch! It didn’t move on to the feeder….hmmm. But once it had taken a couple of bungee rides, it realized the ‘distraction’ wasn’t harmful. It could leap right past…and it did.

Over to me: obviously, I needed a wider distraction. So I added a foam tray, slits cut in it to thread the lanyard through. It swung in the breeze…would it bother the birds? I added a metal key ring for a weight to calm it down, and removed a bit of the bulk by cutting zigzags along the edges.

Now the chickadees and song sparrow were happy, but the squirrel not so much. It has jumped onto my free, homemade-with-recycled-material distracter, taken some bungee rides up and down but is unable to reach the feeder…so far. Can’t go over it, can’t go under it… Around it? Not so far. The distracter is too wide so it can’t angle its leap around it. Nor can it give a firm enough push off it to jump the rest of the way to the feeder.

So we are at a stalemate…either my solution continues to work, or ‘smarty squirrel’ will outsmart me again! Meantime, I’m happily watching and counting the birds. Spring is coming, so maybe a sweetheart squirrel will turn up and the two of them will be too busy racing through the trees to bother me anymore.

2 responses to “Smarter than a squirrel?

  1. Love the new website, Jill! And is it wrong of me to cheer for the squirrel? 🙂

    • Thanks for visiting, Dianne. Squirrel gets cuteness points, but I know he stashed lots of maple seeds last fall. And the faithful song sparrow has sheltered under the bbq all winter, guarding ‘his’ seed feeder. I’ll go with the ‘under-bird’.

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