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Green Thumb

Gardening has been a lifelong passion for Wende and she’d like to share her passion with her readers. Follow her as she writes about her gardening adventures, lists tasks to do depending on the season, and gives easy to understand gardening advice.

Squirrel War

bird, bulb, education, garden, lawn, pest, pets, plants, seeds, yard, squirrel

Move over bunnies, my next enemy is the squirrel.  These tree rats cause a lot of havoc in our yards, eating bird seed, digging up lawns, shorting out transformers, snipping off buds on trees and shrubs, and when populations are large they can also eat the bark on trees like rabbits do.

What bugs me the most about them are the saucer type digs they create all over my yard. And they are bold!  I would move the earth back when I found one and a few hours later they would be back with a new one!  These pint-sized archeologists are looking for history, which in their case is only last year’s history – nuts that they thought they buried.  I wonder how many they actually find?  I’ll bet the percentage is very low. If they could remember, there would be fewer holes in my yard.

I thought squirrels ate seeds, buds, bulbs, nuts and fruits, but I did a little research and found out that they also eat nestling birds!  Horrible!  One more reason to hate them.  They will also eat the drippings from your grill, forage in garbage cans, and eat pet food left attended.

We all know how crafty they are at getting up into bird feeders, crawling along power lines, getting into attics, and clogging our gutters.  So how do we deter them?  You gotta get into their little furry heads and think “squirrel”.  If they won’t stay off your feeders, give them their own place to eat – by nailing a corn cob feeder to a tree that is far away from the feeders and keep it stocked. Squirrels can jump 6 feet up from the ground, 8 feet to the side and 10 feet to trees above.  To keep them from getting onto your roof or feeders, make sure all branches, fences, posts, or power lines are at least 8 feet away from them.  To prevent them from climbing trees and poles or jumping up from the ground, encircle them with a 2-foot-wide collar of metal 6 feet off the ground.  For power lines, cut plastic piping lengthwise and lay it over the wiring so that when they try to walk across it they will tumble off as it rotates.  To keep them out of gardens you could get extreme and use electric fencing and wire mesh surrounding the plants (bury fencing a few inches under the ground so they don’t dig under it).  I’ve see articles recommending planting bulbs with a little wire mesh surrounding each one, but that seems like a lot of work. If you like gravel as a “mulch” that would also deter their digging or placing wire mesh around the stems of plants in containers and weigh that down with a few small stones. Old pruned rose canes laid down on the ground around plants could help too. A dog or a cat in your yard is probably the most natural deterrent.

There are several taste and smell deterrents.  Capsaicin (red pepper) works in feeders (birds can’t taste it but squirrels can).  Moth balls put in places you think they are coming into garages or barns deters many pests, not just squirrels.  I wouldn’t use them in your attic if you can smell them inside the house though. Squirrels are smart, so they will move them or get used to the smell.  Sprinkling blood meal on the ground by prized plants helps.  A homemade version of a repellent can be made by mixing 4 tbsp. of ground cayenne, 4 tbsp. hot pepper sauce and 4 tbsp. water-soluble glue with 1 gallon of water. Spray this mixture on plants to repel rodents. Apply another application of any repellent after any rains.

Of course, trapping and shooting them gets rid of them, but there are always plenty of them waiting to take their place. Remember, anything you do is temporary until the squirrels get used to it and find a way around it.  So change it up, use more than one deterrent, and stay vigilant! 

http://icwdm.org/handbook/rodents/TreeSquirrels.asp http://www.squirrels.org/control.html  http://learningstore.uwex.edu/assets/pdfs/G3522.pdf

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