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Top 9 Squirrel Intervention Suggestions

Gray squirrel at a feeder. Photo by Becky Washburn.
Gray squirrel at a feeder. Photo by Becky Washburn.

When we put the question of squirrel deterrence to our Facebook fans, your ideas ran the gamut:

1. Obstruction
The most common tactic we heard was to put up some kind of baffle along the squirrel’s access route. Paint can lids, plastic funnels, stovepipe sections, and old LPs and CDs are hard to navigate around. But alas, not impossible.

2. Elevation
Feeders installed up high are harder to get to—and there’s always a chance your squirrels are afraid of heights. Unfortunately, stratospheric feeders can be hard to fill. One commenter ingeniously puts her feeder on a retractable clothesline.

3. Isolation
If you have the right yard layout, hanging your feeder well away from trees and other high points may keep away squirrel paratroop squads.

4. Lubrication
A once-popular method to thwart squirrels is to grease your feeder poles. Though effective in the short term, this is one solution we recommend against. If birds get into the grease, it can seriously impair their feathers’ waterproofing and insulation.

5. Combination
Perhaps the most telling sign of the resourcefulness of squirrels is the number of commenters who resort to a combination of tactics, realizing that there is no single method of squirrelproofing.

A Gray squirrel enjoys some birdseed at a feeder.
A gray squirrel manages to get into a feeder and enjoy some birdseed.

6. Altercation
Some of the most satisfied responses came from people with large dogs or neighborhood predators such as coyotes or hawks. (Though cats may also scare away squirrels, it’s a better idea to keep them inside, since cats are also a major threat to birds.)

7. Innovation
Feeders with built-in baffles; wire squirrel guards; counterweighted tray doors that slam shut under a squirrel’s weight; battery-operated feeders intended to fling mammalian invaders aside—anti-squirrel feeders are testament to the human imagination. Unfortunately, shortly after they go up, they’re often testament to squirrelish imagination as well.

8. Separation
Some frustrated bird watchers accept détente, setting aside an entire, easy-access feeder for squirrels, and another set of feeders for their birds.

9. Capitulation
“Squirrels are birds, too.” “Feed them both.” “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” These were some of the happiest responses we heard. Perhaps the surest route to peace of mind lies in making peace. Just don’t call it surrender.

Originally published in the Winter 2011 issue of BirdScope.

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American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library