Arm Yourself Against Squirrels
by John Harmon
July 9, 2000

The big rain last week came as a surprise. It surprised me because I don’t think I’ve ever seen it rain that hard for that long in the last ten years. It surprised a few folks in town too with flooded basements. There was just too much water coming down too quickly to soak in. The good news is that there’s nothing better for your garden if it didn’t get washed away. Unfortunately it also kicked the lawn into high gear which will now require cutting.

The rain also brought out a bumper crop of mosquitoes much to the delight of my resident swallows. They won’t have to worry about food for a while. It won’t help the seed eating birds quite yet and I’m still feeding them while fighting the annual battle with the local squirrels that consider my birdfeeder a great place for a quick meal.

There are various methods used to keep the squirrels off your birdfeeder. Every seed catalog has gizmos and birdfeeders that are supposed to be squirrel proof. There’s the ones that tip from the weight of the squirrel and metal coverings for the pole or overhead plastic cones that are supposed to stop them. Anyone who has tried these gizmos knows that squirrels are very clever and persistent. If there’s the slightest chance to get around the counter measures they will find it. Short of having the offending squirrel for supper here’s a few other ways to convince the local squirrels to leave your birdfeeder alone.

My father-in-law has one of the slickest squirrel deterrents I’ve ever seen. He rigged a piece of one inch square wood about a foot long with a hinge and a return spring. It swings across the feeder platform just a couple of inches above the seed. He has a string from the sweeper stick in to the house and when a squirrel gets up on the birdfeeder he pulls the string and the wood swings and swats the squirrel. The spring returns the stick to the right position so it’s ready for the next intruder. He tells me it only takes a few lessons and the squirrels learn to look for food elsewhere. The disadvantage is that you have to be there for this one to work but a swift swat to the rear end launches a squirrel straight up in the air with a surprised and indignant look on his face!

Another way to discourage squirrels from eating the seed you put out for the birds is to liberally coat the seed with something hot like cayenne pepper. Turns out that birds don’t have the proper receptors to enable them to taste hot pepper while the squirrels do. The birds will eat the seed and not even notice the hot coating and the squirrels will only taste it once! I haven’t tried the cayenne pepper but I have a friend who tried it and told me it works great. I can picture the poor squirrel spitting out the coated seed and frantically searching for a piece of bread. You can put a liberal coating of cayenne anyplace you want to discourage a squirrel from visiting. I’ve been told that coating places where squirrels chew with hot pepper paste will also work.

I went for a more personal and fun approach. Since I’m here all day anyway and the dogs give me immediate warning of any squirrel foolish enough to come into the yard I decided to try a little aversion therapy. I went into town and got me one of those super soaker squirt guns. Other than the fact that they look like something out of a Star Wars movie, squirt gun technology has come a long way since I was 10. These squirt guns have a built in pump for building up pressure and send out a stream of water that will reach to the very tops of the trees.

The first squirrel I tried it out on after getting it sighted in on the dogs and the wife proved to me that squirrels don’t like getting wet. A direct hit will send a squirrel to the top of the nearest tree and a second blast will convince him to run wildly for the woods! It works great and I have a feeling that after a few lessons the squirrels will leave the bird feeder alone. You might look a little funny running around blasting water into the trees but it will keep the squirrels away and you will get more respect from your friends when you’re carrying it.

John Harmon owns and operates Tropicals North. Write to John at The Real Dirt, c\o 211 Wood St., Whitehorse, YT., Y1A 2E4 or e-mail Website:

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