Backyard squirrels--love 'em or hate 'em


Mar 11, 2001
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Outsmarting squirrels often not easy task

July 5, 2002

By Sandy Quadros Bowles, Worcester Telegram & Gazette Staff

His battle with squirrels brings Bill Adler Jr. to his knees.

    The Washington, D.C., resident sometimes crawls around his back yard on all fours, observing the scene from a squirrel's vantage point.

    He then uses this squirrel's-eye view to help keep them out of his yard.

    “It sounds goofy, but you seriously have to do it,” he said.

    Gregg Bassett, on the other hand, has created something of a mini-Walt Disney World for squirrels in his back yard in Elmhurst, Ill., near Chicago.

    As many as 15 to 20 squirrels at a time visit his yard to sample a veritable buffet, complete with a contraption that looks like a gum-ball machine. Squirrels open it with their paws to grab the treats inside.

    “I fell in love with them,” he said of his backyard buddies. “Each of them has their own personality. You give them half a chance and they hook you. They have a ton of personality.”

    Mr. Adler and Mr. Bassett represent opposite ends of an age-old debate on squirrels: Love them or hate them?

    “It may be the burning question we face in this country,” Mr. Adler said. “But it's probably not.”

    Some people love them because they have a soft and furry appearance, especially with their big, bushy tails, said William J. Davis, information services coordinator for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife.

    But others hate them because they can aggressively raid food left out to attract birds, Mr. Davis said.

    “People want that pretty cardinal,” he said. “When a squirrel makes an 8-foot jump and the cardinal flies off and the squirrel takes the food, people get frustrated.”

    There's enough passion on both sides of the issue to keep Mr. Adler and Mr. Bassett in business.

    Mr. Adler has sold more than 300,000 copies of his book, “Outwitting Squirrels,” (Chicago Review Press, second edition, 1996), which offers a range of suggestions on how to keep squirrels away.

    Mr. Bassett is the president of the Squirrel Lovers Club, which has about 2,100 members from all 50 states. The club sells a variety of squirrel-related items, including “I Brake for Squirrels” bumper stickers and a poster of a squirrel standing at attention, a paw over its chest, in front of an American flag.

    Bill Cormier, owner of Wild Bird Crossing in Sturbridge, estimates that about 20 percent of his business is squirrel-related. He sells items ranging from ears of corn that hang from trees on Bungee-like cords, to shirts that feature a squirrel's image with the wording, “Wanted in five neighborhoods on 17 counts of larceny.”

    Mr. Bassett enjoys watching squirrels because of their physical ability and agility. For the price of feed, people can have hours of entertainment watching the squirrels -- something birds don't provide, he said.

    “If all you're interested in is a variety of colors and nothing more, attract birds,” he said. “If you're interested in being entertained, feed squirrels. Squirrels put on a show for you. Feed them both, and you'll get pretty colors and free entertainment.”

    He especially admires squirrels' perseverance. People may give up, but squirrels never do, he said.

    “Squirrels don't know the meaning of throwing in the towel,” he said. “A squirrel is definitely not an adversary you want to have. I'm glad I'm on their side.”

    Mr. Adler sees that persistence a little differently. “They don't have anything to do all day but figure out how to break into your feeder,” he said.

    This is natural behavior for squirrels, Mr. Davis said. “That's their job,” Mr. Davis said. “During daylight hours, when they're not breeding, they're feeding.”

    To squirrels, neatness doesn't count. At all.

    They “don't just eat the bird feed, they make a mess out of it,” Mr. Adler said. “They spill food. They break feeders.”

    People can outwit squirrels, he said, “but it has to be a constant battle. They can jump, climb, squeeze into small places”

    “You can't simply put up a feeder and baffles and other protective measures and figure that's the end of the story,” he said. “It's not, not by a long shot.”

    Squirrels can be especially annoying, he said, because they are often
an “unexpected problem. You put out a feeder and expect to get birds, and you get squirrels.”

    As the number of squirrel visitors grows, “your mission becomes not to feed the birds but to thwart the squirrels.”

    Mr. Bassett believes birds and squirrels can peacefully co-exist. “I've watched birds and squirrels eat right alongside each other,” he said.

    He suspects the root of some people's frustration with squirrels lies in their embarrassment at being unable to outwit a small, furry rodent.

    “They're intimidated by an animal outsmarting them,” he theorized.

    Mr. Adler, not surprisingly, sees the issue differently.

    “If we can't outwit squirrels, which have brains the size of a walnut, how can we expect to get a man or woman to Mars?”


Oct 5, 2001
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For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Rather than trying to outsmart them I just enacted the squirrel eradication project in my yard. I had eleven pecan trees in the yard and the squirrels could go from the woods to my house without touching the ground. Thisled them to believe that they could eat my fascia boards and get into my attick without me protesting. Wrong. 70+ dead squirrels later they declared my yard off limits. It got kinda boring without the squirrel to occupy my time so I moved.

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