Magazine article The Spectator

Squirrels - the Ultimate Pest

Magazine article The Spectator

Squirrels - the Ultimate Pest

Article excerpt

Squirrels have much to teach us - once they've finished eating our nuts

Gardeners are up against it. There are thousands of garden pests, exciting new ones discovered every day, and few remedies left with which to fight them. The wonderful cure-all chemicals we once depended on have long been banned -- they 'cured' a little more than was intended.

And how do you repel that king of garden pests, the alien grey squirrel? Squirrels destroy baby birds, bulbs, fruit, young trees just as they begin to look like real trees, and bird feeders too. Not (yet) the human variety of bird feeders, but the peanut and seed containing varieties. At this time of year they are frantic for food and liable to chew up your beloved buds; the females become aggressive in spring and can attack. If you ever attempt a close encounter with a grey squirrel you will discover that they have a vicious bite.

The solution looks simple at first. You find a squirrel chewing the feeder and the nuts which you extravagantly left there for the birds, so you buy a 'squirrel-proof' feeder. I have an attractive one, a kind of cage with the column of peanuts safely enclosed. I also have a photograph of a feeder with a squirrel cosily curled up inside it, having a scoff.

Some people swear by a half-spherical plastic baffle placed above or below the nuts. If placed above, the baffle gets repeatedly dive-bombed until it disintegrates. Place it below, and the squirrels shin up the post and chew away the plastic nut which secures the baffle to the post. It has to be admitted that hours of fun may be had watching squirrel ingenuity, especially, perhaps, watching them attempting to climb a well-greased pole (try auto grease or Vaseline) -- before they find a handy tree to leap off in order to approach from above.

Some people build a series of obstacles on a tightrope leading to peanut heaven in order to save the squirrels a trip to the gym. A better idea might be to buy one of those wireless doorbells, cover the receiver part in plastic wrap and bury it in your peanuts. A satisfying effect can be produced by pressing the ringer mid-feed. You can try a variety of ringtones. If you have a gun, a bird feeder does persuade a squirrel into offering itself as a perfect target.

You may trap a squirrel -- but beware imposing 'unnecessary suffering'. Gunless, you are stuck with the problem of disposal. …

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