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Squirrels: Friend or Foe?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 27
Location: Zone 6a, near Stoystown, Pennsylvania
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Squirrels are a common garden "pest". Or are they?
-They are an important food source for foxes, owls, hawks and snakes.
-They help disperse seeds new locations more info

Also, the problems that squirrels cause in the garden often times comes down to user error. They aren't eating your stuff because they are mean, but because they are hungry. So what can you do to help them and save your garden from their wrath?

-Hang up squirrel feeders. Just some sort of platform feeder is fine, but you can go a little more advanced too. (easy access, make your birdfeeders harder to access. They will take the path of least resistance.)
-Don't grow all of the same plant in the same place; spreading them out makes them much more difficult to sniff out and consume all of them. Not to mention the benefits of less competition among plants as well as more diverse insect attraction and less chance for disease. I personally recommend square foot gardening, but with each square having a different species of plant.

Generally the heather the ecology, the less problems there will be = more abundance for all species. I'll conduct my own observations with squirrels too.

 
pollinator
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Got to say, if they are so hungry why do they only take one bite out of every piece of fruit. Picky little buggers, aren't they.
 
master pollinator
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My dad, now deceased, progressed over his life from hunting squirrels in his youth to feeding them and watching them in his golden years.

He would grow corn for them and put feeders at the edge of the woods for them. Those squirrels got organic popcorn! And consequently, their population slowly increased. It got to where the squirrels would cross the field from the woods to the house, and then they began to CHEW ON THE HOUSE.

My parents had a wooden house and the little tree rats chewed through and started nesting in the attic.

Finally we (the kids) intervened and got a guy to trap the rodents and another guy to replace the siding and insulation destroyed by rodent chewing.

I cannot say it was SOLELY the feeding that was the problem. Part of it was that my folks did not get another dog after their old beagle died. The beagle was a good rodent predator and kept the area around the house vermin free as long as he lived.

But feeding cute tree rats can have unintended consequences. 😺
 
master steward
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This year I'm going to finally try to get the squirrels to harvest hazelnuts for me.  I've heard that if you give them a piece of pipe (4-6" diameter) on the ground or possibly partially buried, they'll fill it with nuts.  I'll try a few different "nut traps" and see which ones work the best.  Then I can just "run the trapline" to collect the nuts
 
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I believe that they are double agents.
 
pollinator
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SQUIRREL!

Oh, sorry that was just a picture.

You can't trust them, and unfortunately in the city, there isn't much you're permitted to do to them.

Otherwise, my ideal setup is a squirrel-a-pult into a wood chipper that empties onto a pile of woodchips. Just "rinse" the chipper with some wood after each rodent and it should be fine.

Fewer garden pests for me, plus some fresh bone and blood meal for my woodchips.

-CK
 
gardener
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give them a piece of pipe (4-6" diameter) on the ground  



That might actually work. This past year I had some extra cinder blocks double stacked behind a bee hive. Discovered the bottom ones were full of nuts when moving them before winter.



 
Mike Jay
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Now we're talking!  Ok, so cinder blocks are now on the trial list.  Muhaaaaahaaaaaaaaa

Thanks Mike
 
garden master
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I am planning to enslave the squirrels to harvest my nuts. I had a cardboard tube about 14 foot long, carpet roll core, that they packed solid with pecans. The way I have seen is you put it so they have a drop off that the nuts go down, that makes it so most of them are hard for them to get back to, and easy for you to steal. Also I believe it's well mannered to not steal them until spring, in case it's a bad winter and they need more. They get first dibs, that's their wages. Got to pay your hired help well.  :D
So I guess my answer to Friend or foe is C: employees.
 
Mike Jay
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True, I don't want to take ALL their nuts.  But in the case of the 25 hazelnuts I planted that weren't there before, I should be able to take all of them without feeling too guilty.  If I actually run a trap line in the wild I'd just put a trap every 100 yards or so.
 
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We have plentiful squirrels in our area. Some years we have trapped/shot them, and in others we haven't. Not trapping them is more to do with our time/energy than anything else, as I now have two kids and an 80+ hour per week job.

The year that I was most successful in squirrel culling I think I killed 16 in one spring/summer period. That year we had a bumper crop of strawberries, fruit and nuts. In years where I have not been trapping we don't get ANY strawberries or nuts, and lots of our fruit is damaged. Not to mention that they also damage the trees themselves. I have watched them coming to the strawberry patch and taking - over a period of a week - every single unripe strawberry and carrying them off. They do the same with the nuts, way before they are ready for us to pick.

 
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For Zone 1, outdoor cats are helpful deterrent to protect fruit and nuts.
 
Chris Kott
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Unless I am storing large quantities of rodent-ready chow, I hesitate to consider cats at all acceptable, and certainly not as free-range exterminators.

I would keep a barn cat or two, but I think I would restrict them to it. I need the lowest levels of my local biosphere intact, and cats will just shred it.

-CK
 
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Friend, foe ... OR FOOD?
 
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give them a piece of pipe (4-6" diameter) on the ground



I've known folks who took all the nuts, but replaced them with dried corn.  Seems a pretty fair trade.
 
pollinator
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Like most things considered "pests" it is not really the animals fault when we move in and provide them the temptations they take advantage of.

The majority of why we consider squirrels pests is simply they are smart and adaptive critters. So when presented with temptations of our gardens they find ways around most any of our countermeasures. Plus lets not forget the squirrel is likely using us humans as a defense against predators. They likely learn where humans are predators aren't.

The best ways I have found to deal with squirrels is by allowing them a certain amount of food and a thinning of the population via hunting/trapping.

Giving a certain amount of easy to obtain food away from the garden helps keep them out of the garden itself. Most animals, squirrels included, will opt for the easy meal over the hard one.

Thinning the population with hunting and trapping helps take the place of the predators that would do the job but tend to be discouraged from raiding in our areas. Thus squirrels learn that there is safety around humans. By hunting and trapping I can thin the populations, and make the survivors wary of being around humans.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Devin Lavign wrote:Like most things considered "pests" it is not really the animals fault when we move in and provide them the temptations they take advantage of.

The majority of why we consider squirrels pests is simply they are smart and adaptive critters. So when presented with temptations of our gardens they find ways around most any of our countermeasures. Plus lets not forget the squirrel is likely using us humans as a defense against predators. They likely learn where humans are predators aren't.



That's like the definition of a weed: a plant that isn't where you want it. There isn't bad or good, only not where you want. We move in, put in yummy stuff, then get annoyed at the squirrels for being happy about it. Not fair to the squirrels at all. Permaculture teaches to turn problems into assets, that's why I'll be getting mine to harvest for me. They are specialists, and do it better than me, I'm sure!

 
pollinator
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gathering pecans, great to know,  first I've heard about that. Bill talked about using rats to harvest wild rice, then when the harvest was done he emptied the wild rice and replaced it with corn, he got the expensive crop, they got paid for their trouble
 
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I am grateful for those remembering, "The problem is the solution.".

Mike and Pearl - Could you please be more specific about the placement of the cinder blocks and cardboard tubing when squirrels filled them with nuts? Were the holes in the blocks horizontal or vertical and how were they positioned in relation to the hives? What is the location of the hives? What was the diameter of the tubing? Where was the tubing placed? How close or far from trees, structures? Thank you.

Someone's signature file, I think it is an Einstein quote, and I paraphrase, is questioning if your functional view of the universe is basically friendly or hostile. I don't think the squirrels are out to get me, they just 'are'. And it is great to use their gathering propensity to my (our) advantage and to repay them with something of value (to them) for their efforts. I have a hard time with the thought that I would have contributed to a death of starvation in winter by taking what they had gathered and leaving them unprepared with no recourse.

I used to think of ticks and mosquitoes as worthless, and now understand they are food for bats, guinea hens, fish and a whole host of others in the web of life.

Everything is doing the best that it can in that moment. When we learn or know better, we do better. Applies to squirrels, humans, all life forms.

 
gardener
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My sister and I consider ourselves to be at war with the House of Squirrel, but we do not actively prosecute it; we just keep outside dogs to keep them at bay.  And though we consider ourselves fond of animals in general, we don't brake or swerve for squirrels in the road.  We're not giving the little bastards any more chances.

The history is dark.

We grew up in the sub-arctic boreal forest, along the banks of the Yukon river.  Red squirrels infested that terrain.  Living in a cramped log cabin, we had outbuildings for all of our storage, including food storage.  We didn't have rats in that environment, but squirrels filled the niche, and they destroyed everything that wasn't kept in glass or metal containers.  I was issued my first BB gun at the age of 5 and my first firearm at the age of 7 (single shot bolt action .22, one round of .22 short ammo at a time) for the express purpose of helping keep the squirrel population under control (and feeding the dogs).  

All went swimmingly until 1993, after I -- the last of the children -- had left home.  My mother -- never the most safety conscious member of the family -- had a cute little short-barreled .22 carbine she liked to use for shooting squirrels.  But it was 100 years old if it was a day.  Mom was found dead with a round in her brain, apparently from an accidental discharge after dropping the rifle on its butt at her feet while chasing squirrels. It's the only fatal accidental-discharge case involving a .22 short the district coroner (or anybody I know) had ever heard of at the time.  And it's been long enough now -- a quarter century! -- that my family can say the phrase "freak squirrel hunting accident" with more laughter than tears, because really, what four more ludicrous words exist in the English language?

This Far Side cartoon has special significance for us:

squirrel-guns.jpg
[Thumbnail for squirrel-guns.jpg]
 
Mike Barkley
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The four cinder blocks were stacked two high with the holes aligned vertically. So, two stacks of two blocks. About 3 feet behind a hive. On the edge of a large wooded area with many nut trees. Have been thinking about this more since yesterday. Probably going to try it near a pecan tree this year.  





 
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If I had to worry about the birds, squirls, voles, rock chucks and rabbits eating my garden I’d go crazy. I did come back from a few days camping to find my lettuce mowed flat. I was a little pissed and blamed the rock chucks. Two days later I found a two foot square cow turd next to the lettuce. I have no idea where a damn cow got through my fence or where he went...I guess I need a cowapult!
 
Pearl Sutton
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bob day wrote:gathering pecans, great to know,  first I've heard about that. Bill talked about using rats to harvest wild rice, then when the harvest was done he emptied the wild rice and replaced it with corn, he got the expensive crop, they got paid for their trouble


I was looking up stuff  this morning and came up with a similar idea. What I was looking up was how to crack hickory and black walnuts, as they are endemic to this area, and some are already on my property. (If anyone cares, best I came up with for hickory was Easy open hickory nuts  )  The thought occurs to me that squirrels love them, I like easy open nuts like hazels and chestnuts. Perhaps if I make squirrel gather points, and sort out a lot of the nuts I like and leave them all the others, that would be fair.

Lee Gee: The cardboard tube stuffed with pecans was in a shed laying horizontally on the floor, it was about 5 inches in diameter, and about 12 feet long. They will stuff anything they like the looks of. I don't know where the video is, couldn't find it last time I looked for it, linemen opening a case of some sort way up a power pole, (transformer?) and it was packed solid with nuts. Elsewhere (Bill Mollison perhaps? I don't track where I get ideas from) was burying 4 inch PVC pipe in the ground, with a 2 inch pipe coming up off of it and an access point on the pipe for humans (Stub out with a sewer clean out cap, iirc) The squirrels were filling the 2 inch pipe, the nuts fell down into the 4 inch, where they could be removed out of the cap. I can draw this if you want, no clue if there's pics on the net of it. Basically, squirrels stuff anything that looks like a good hidey-hole, and will add nuts until it's full. If you choose a hole you can access too, they might fill it. Make a bunch, here and there, see which they like.
 
pioneer
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squirrels live here...we live here...they don't feed me and i don't feed them...i like them...they are neither a pest or a particularly good friend to me...marty calls them tree rats...i like to watch them jump from tree to tree...never really thought about an up side or down side...we all just exist here...sharing the hours of the day :) LOL...
 
Mike Barkley
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I have no idea where a damn cow got through my fence or where he went...I guess I need a cowapult!



You too? A couple months ago I woke up & noticed two cows on the wrong side of the fence. Momma & her calf. Went inside to put on some boots. During that brief time they somehow got back into the pasture. No open gate. No broken fence. Nothing but hoof prints on the wrong side of the fence. Still a mystery.

I like squirrels & their antics. Never understood why some people don't. Until I experienced first hand the damage they can cause. I spent many hours & plenty of $$$ last year replacing an entire ceiling & insulation because of them. Don't mind if they take most of the nuts. Don't mind if they eat from the garden either but have never seen them do that. They have plenty of nut trees. I consider them a secondary meat & fur source should that become necessary. If they start trying to live in buildings again that process will be implemented immediately. Until then ... we're still friends.
 
gardener
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As a kid I would say friend. But now I must cry Foe!

They declared war on me, when they picked my apples. A few would have been fine. A lot would have been okay. If they ate ate them. After all the tree produced quite a lot, before it fell down. But they would take a bite, then throw the apple at me!

My new tree just may produce this year. I'll be spending my nights stalking the perimeter!
 
Myrth Gardener
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:As a kid I would say friend. But now I must cry Foe!

They declared war on me, when they picked my apples. A few would have been fine. A lot would have been okay. If they ate ate them. After all the tree produced quite a lot, before it fell down. But they would take a bite, then throw the apple at me!

My new tree just may produce this year. I'll be spending my nights stalking the perimeter!



LOL! My sympathies! Our apples are a big part of our annual production and that would probably start a war here too. Maybe squirrel stews!

We have German Shepherds that are free to roam most of zone 1, which is surrounded by dog-tight (and livestock-tight) fencing. Zone 1 is where our primary fruit trees grow. We have found that the dogs keep Zone 1 vermin-free. We want to expand their area of patrol to outer zones, but that will require fencing upgrades. It's on the big ToDo list.

At any rate, dogs with a high prey drive can help with multiple problems, including vermin.
 
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