• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Using Squirrels to Harvest Nuts

 
Franklin Stone
Posts: 152
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Has anyone used squirrels to do their nut harvesting? Bill Mollison mentions this possibility in Permaculture - A Designer's Manual, but doesn't provide many details. (He does include an illustration showing an artificial warren for rats to store wild rice in, built using short sections of pipe.) I am assuming some sort of artificial squirrel dens would need to be constructed, but I wonder about their shape and size and proper placement (on the ground? in the ground? in the tree?). I really like the idea of using the squirrels to collect nuts for me, vs. fighting them for the nuts.
 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So if you did that how would it impact the squirels?

Would you be symbiotic & make sure they had enough to eat?

Too bad you can't train them to go for nuts like a falconer sends his bird to catch game, but I suppose there are downsides to that set up.
 
Franklin Stone
Posts: 152
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The idea is that you would leave the squirrels something like 15 to 20 percent of the harvest, which should be enough to see them through the winter. It's much like using bees to gather nectar - you leave the bees enough honey so they can overwinter. Supposedly, most of the nuts squirrels collect are actually misplaced, and not actually consumed.

As for how it would impact the squirrels, the alternative is my father shooting every last one of them "for stealing his nuts." (Not that they go to waste - he gives the squirrel carcasses to a neighbor who thinks they are delicious.) I personally would prefer to see the squirrels be put to work and not slaughtered, but I have a soft spot for squirrels.
 
                            
Posts: 126
Location: Ava, Mo, USA, Earth
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I read a story years ago about a girl leaving nail kegs out in the woods and then gathering the nuts once a day.  Since nails having come in kegs for half a century or so, it must have been an old story.

Me, I let the squirrels eat the nuts, then I eat the squirrels.

 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I did not know that most of the nuts squirrels collect are actually misplaced, and not actually consumed, why is that?

I have never had squirrel to eat, is it good?
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dianne Keast wrote:
I did not know that most of the nuts squirrels collect are actually misplaced, and not actually consumed, why is that?

I have never had squirrel to eat, is it good?


Squirrels love to store stuff for later, but they forget where.  And they put stuff in some creative places.  A neighbor feeds the peanuts.  I have a nice peanut plant growing in a container that a squirrel planted.  One time I left my car door open for an hour and came out to find a peanut resting on my steering wheel.  Another time my car started producing the smell of roast peanuts when driving - squirrel had placed a nut on the engine block. 

Yes, squirrels are good eating.  I have had them roasted and smoked.  As you can imagine, not a lot of meat on the bones. 

They are highly trainable.  I have trained them to climb on me.  People have trained them for all sorts of stuff.
[flash=200,200]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4Eb1Nt6WIE[/flash]
[flash=200,200]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37fDXX9stJY[/flash]
 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Interesting & amusing. Thanks for sharing.

 
Franklin Stone
Posts: 152
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I had to do a search to find out what a nail-keg was. Seems kind of large, but I'm wondering: what would the optimal size for a squirrel storage den be? Are there any modern day equivalents that I could quickly utilize? Five gallon bucket with a hole cut into it? Or would too much light be transmitted through the plastic? Small boxes constructed out of wood scraps seem like an obvious choice, with some sort of removable or hinged lid for easy harvesting.
 
Dave Miller
Posts: 408
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
15
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have had squirrels turn two of my bird houses into squirrel nests.  The squirrel was really crammed in there but apparently it liked it.  It got in by chewing the entrance hole until it could fit in. 

However he crossed the line when he started chewing through my bird feeder.  For years I had the feeder attached to a tree, and I would see the squirrel in the feeder occasionally, but not enough to be a nuisance.  Recently I had an extra bird house that I needed to put somewhere so I put it in the same tree, about 10 feet higher than the feeder.  Well the squirrel took this as an open invitation - he chewed the hole bigger in the bird house and moved in.  He just had to climb 10 feet down for meals.  I was not too happy about that and tolerated it for a while.  However he then proceeded to chew through the bird feeder and that was enough.  I repaired the bird feeder and put it on a smooth metal pole, and repaired the bird house and put it on another tree.  The squirrel has behaved himself since then.

So for a squirrel house I would just make something like a bird house, maybe 12"x12"x12".  But I don't know if they would use it for nut storage or for sleeping.  A bit more research is required, I believe.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Unless you have a large acreage that you cannot tend to that strikes me as a waste of resources. Firstly if you shoot the squirrels you are more likely to get mature nuts, which are more nutritious, better tasting, and last longer. In competition for the nuts a tragedy of the commons scenario is played out where in it is more important for the tree rat to grab the nut before something else does than it is for them to wait until they are ready. Secondly Squirrels are scatter hoarders, if there are lots and lots of nuts they may be able to sort the good ones from the bad on the forest floor, but you are still only getting a fraction of the nuts in any one place, the squirrel when all is said and done may actually serve to distribute the nuts more than it serves to gather them.

A rake and an air riffle, try not to use them both at the same time.
 
Charlie Michaels
Posts: 124
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A met a nursery man named Steve that said if you put an open pipe, like a piece of plumbing, next to a hazel or butternut tree in the right spot, the squirrels will fill the pipe with the nuts! Then he suggested that you give the squirrels a gift of some grain.
 
solomon martin
Posts: 102
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I live in MT, so not a lot of nut harvesting to do here.  But I have watched pine squirrels drop huge amounts of fir cones in a single day.  They are pretty systematic about it, climbing out on the limbs, biting off the cones, letting them fall to the ground, where they periodically scamper down to pick them off the ground and cache them.  If you see similar behavior where you live, you could pay close attention to when the squirrels are harvesting and lay out sheets to collect the falling goodies.
 
maikeru sumi-e
Posts: 313
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is a really interesting thought... I'd never considered it.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Re: Using *Nuts* to Harvest *Squirrels*


fixed the thread title 
 
ronie dee
Posts: 603
Location: NW MO
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Using nuts to harvest squirrels is something i learned as a boy. (Nut trees work good too.)
 
                  
Posts: 114
Location: South Carolina Zone 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We recently hand raised two baby squirrels a young friend brought us that were in a tree his father-in-law cut down. I never thought about training them to gather nuts for me and had I before we acclimated them to life in the yard (and woods beside it) I might not have been in such a hurry to let them run free. That said most nuts here are acorns and while useful I would prefer to head to my Cousin's place and pick up pecans under her 20 huge trees. Maybe next time I get the chance I will keep them and see if they can be trained. It would be nice to sit on the porch with a glass of tea talking while the squirrels fill my buckets.
 
                      
Posts: 37
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm a bit unsure of the idea of using plastic pipe or pails.

I've not made exhaustive studies of this , but the squirrels I've noticed storing nuts actually go into to hollow, leave the nuts then come out. Assuming they would try to do the same with the pipe, if it is any length at all, how would they climb out, since the the plastic is smooth? If it isn't long, doesn't seem there would be enough room for nuts to make it worthwhile...
 
Diane Emerson
Posts: 28
Location: Vashon Island, Washington, USA
1
bike forest garden toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am really interested in learning if it is possible. I too have heard of the pipe method, but I would love some details. The reason I am so interested is that I am an advocate of planting nut trees in cities, so we will have some good protein and food sources in our cities in the future. When I mention hazelnuts to people, they say that the squirrels get the nuts before they do. If the nail keg idea or the tube idea works, I would so love to know, and try it. Thanks for any leads you can offer on this topic.
 
Jim Lea
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I recently did a construction job where we had many remnants of carpet piled up near several oaks. The were used for protection of product during shipping. Anyhoo... two months later as we were cleaning up the job site, you guessed it. Hundreds if not thousands of acorns stashed throughout the folded carpet pile.


Just thought you would be interested in that,

Jim



 
Diane Emerson
Posts: 28
Location: Vashon Island, Washington, USA
1
bike forest garden toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you for the story, Jim. That makes sense to me! Now we know one method that works for sure! Stacked carpeting. At least for acorns, if not hazelnuts, but I fully expect they would treat hazelnuts the same. And what a wonderful permie thing to do with old carpet. Sweet.
 
Jim Lea
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I thought someone might be able to benefit from the story. I intend to use the method here when we get pigs. I'll of course leave plenty for the workers...

Word of note the carpet was in a dry place whilst the rest of the area was rain soaked. I feel this made the difference in their choice to use the dry carpet. Just a Permie observation.

Best
Jim
 
Josh T-Hansen
Posts: 143
Location: Zone 5 Brimfield, MA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
yukkuri kame wrote:fixed the thread title 

Working with squirrels....
Someone told me Bill Mckently of NY does this and would love to talk about it but I have not been able to reach him for comment. +'s for JIM
 
Matt Smith
Posts: 181
Location: Central Ohio, Zone 6A - High water table, heavy clay.
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Can we back up a bit here and discuss squirrel populations in general?

I might posit that squirrels tend to exist in such great quantities amongst humans because the ways in which we tend to modify our own living environment prove a boon for them. A lot of the natural predators they might have had have either been actively driven out of the area or merely robbed of their necessary habitat. Also, the abundance of their food supply may have been amplified by the choices we make in terms of which trees to plant around us.

We have very few squirrels in my particular area because we have lots of hawks and very few naturalized nut trees. I have been hesitant to plant a lot of oaks (although the swampy ones would flourish here) for fear of encouraging a squirrel population that would have few natural checks.

 
Jim Lea
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Never mind. I'm dropping out of this thread. Never ment to start anything....
You do what you feel is right.
Jim
 
Josh T-Hansen
Posts: 143
Location: Zone 5 Brimfield, MA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Matt Smith wrote:Can we back up a bit here and discuss squirrel populations in general?....I have been hesitant to plant a lot of oaks (although the swampy ones would flourish here) for fear of encouraging a squirrel population that would have few natural checks
I think it's relevant and worth discussing. What do you think is wrong with an increased squirrel population?
 
Devon Olsen
Posts: 1062
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
i say shoot the furry fuckers! they ate my motorcycle seat when my ankle was broken this summer for their damn nests!
all kidding aside though, hell why not make a potential pest become an on-farm employee?
 
Matt Smith
Posts: 181
Location: Central Ohio, Zone 6A - High water table, heavy clay.
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Josh T-Hansen wrote:
Matt Smith wrote:Can we back up a bit here and discuss squirrel populations in general?....I have been hesitant to plant a lot of oaks (although the swampy ones would flourish here) for fear of encouraging a squirrel population that would have few natural checks
I think it's relevant and worth discussing. What do you think is wrong with an increased squirrel population?


At least in my experience, squirrels have a habit of making an absolute mess of efforts to grow certain crops, especially tomatoes.

They don't like to eat them, but they think they might like the next one they try. The end result is every tomato off every vine on the ground, with one squirrel-sized bite out of each one. I wouldn't even mind if they took a few to legitimately eat, but that doesn't appear to be their M.O.
 
Andrew Ray
Posts: 162
Location: Slovakia
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cool idea. They eat walnuts here, and because they aren't very prolific at all in Slovakia (different species than the Eastern Gray Squirrel which is so prolific precisely because it is able to digest acorns whereas other species of squirrel have trouble with them), they are a protected species (or perhaps just need a hunting license to shoot), so I haven't shot any. This would be an excellent way to put them to work for us! Heck, there are people who pay for the walnuts, so the squirrels could even be earning us cash income! So far only our male goat does that for us when he goes on "dates" with neighbors goats.
 
Andrew Ray
Posts: 162
Location: Slovakia
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It seems like making sort of long boxes out of 1x6" boards a foot or two long would be pretty cheap to make the containers for the squirrels to deposit into.
 
richard valley
Posts: 240
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Squirrels are a terrible problem here. They eat everything, crapp in everything, bring fleas, ticks, lice and mites and are looked upon as rats to all except tourists.

According to Lewis and Clark the indians burnt stands of forest to collect the nuts gathered by squirrels.
 
Diane Emerson
Posts: 28
Location: Vashon Island, Washington, USA
1
bike forest garden toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
richard valley wrote:Squirrels are a terrable problem here. They eat everything, crapp in everything, bring fleas, ticks, lice and mites and are looked upon as rats to all except tourists.

When I read that, it feels like frustration and anger, with a great need for order, cleanliness, and peace. And I am reminded of the permaculture principle that everything is of use. Getting the squirrels to harvest nuts for us fits right in with that principle, which is what this particular thread is all about. And when you mention the tourists, I am reminded of the amazing Youtube videos out there of the squirrel acrobatics - which could certainly be done where you are to have the squirrels pay their way - tourists would definitely pay to see trained squirrels go through all kinds of amazing obstacles to get fed. Here is my favorite one so far:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRPr1aC61Gg&feature=related
 
Brian Shepherd
Posts: 9
Location: Lakeland Florida zone 9
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I use a ample supply of rubber snakes on areas I want to keep the squirrels and birds away from. They work well on my fruit trees. I take the snakes off the tree when the fruit is gone so the birds will come back to eat the bugs. You may be able to control where the nuts are stored by putting some snakes where you do not want nuts.
 
Diane Emerson
Posts: 28
Location: Vashon Island, Washington, USA
1
bike forest garden toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Brian Shepherd wrote:I use a ample supply of rubber snakes on areas I want to keep the squirrels and birds away from. They work well on my fruit trees. I take the snakes off the tree when the fruit is gone so the birds will come back to eat the bugs. You may be able to control where the nuts are stored by putting some snakes where you do not want nuts.


Great tip on the fruit trees, Brian. Thanks! And a wonderful idea for encouraging the squirrels to stay away from one area, so they will feel more comfortable in the area we want them. Fun.
 
richard valley
Posts: 240
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Brian I'll try that, I tried plastic owls but the squirrels eat the ears off them.
 
Franklin Stone
Posts: 152
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

munching squirrel by frankenstoen, on Flickr

I think using nuts to harvest squirrels is as good an idea as using squirrels to harvest nuts.

Depends on what kind of protein you are hungry for.

This might be approached from a Zone perspective - use pipes, boxes, nail kegs, carpet, etc. in Zone Five - areas away from the homestead, to gather nuts that one would otherwise miss.
Shoot/harvest the nuisance squirrels in Zones closer to the house, where they cause damage.

In some areas, squirrels are known PLAGUE carriers. It would be wise to control the squirrel population in these regions.


PLAGUE WARNING! by frankenstoen, on Flickr
 
                                        
Posts: 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'd be interested in hearing Paul's input on this topic!
 
Dave Miller
Posts: 408
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here's what you're looking for:



In this case it sounds like it was a woodpecker that collected the acorns. But it sure did a great job - 300+ pounds!

It seems like it would be easy to experiment with similar structures - basically a large box up high with a woodpecker-sized hole in it.
 
Bryan Matthews
Posts: 22
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
ok, just my couple of .2 cts:

Building a big safe storage box for them. Maybe even provide it with active "security". think of heating, area overview through glass or even a chip closing door.
For training them to do what we want(putting lots of nuts in a single or multiple big places). Let them grow up in the secure environment while being around for example working LGD.
The LGD's will see that they are important too you in the beginning, since you provide them with starter food and security. Like you do with the LGD. Eventually they will see the work the squirrels do. And in the best permaculture world, would let them now if there is a far of three to be harvested(dogs could pull small storage bags for them). And they could let the dogs know from their vantage point if there is any mishap on the land the dogs cannot hear, see or smell.

Going to do some more research on this. Which I normally did before, today I just went through this topic from the search(guess permies got me hooked for info). Gave me some more ideas which I will post in a new topic regarding training squirrels. And the intertraining of species. My idea with animals is, as long as you be truth and faithfull to them, they will give you more(love) than any human person.
 
alex Keenan
Posts: 485
12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

at very little cost you can build a simple tire home for squirrels.
Here is a link for simple wood box home and tire home.
Both would provide places to store nuts. I have also seen a PVC home that used a heavy rope over a branch.
I can not find the plans for this one but it was very simple the rope was large enough for the squirrel to climb.
The key was to take a wire brush on a drill and really rough up the PVC so the squirrel could get traction or to rough up and glue weed cloth over the PVC inside and top so squirrel could climb.
I liked the PVC since you could set it up with rope and lower it later. They could also be quickly turned into squirrel traps for moving squirrels around.
With the right amount of housing and feeders you could easily farm your squirrels. You get them to harvest nuts and you feed them cheap corn and other feeds.
People do not realize squirrels can forget where they put their food. So giving them places to store food and then harvesting yourself works so long as you set up winter feeding stations.


http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p0884.pdf

I have also heard of people doing this with mice and wild rice. They put nest box and branches throughout the wild rice. The mice harvest and people take the rice and sterilize it.
The mice get cheaper grains and legumes.

I have also heard this done with pine nuts and rodents. Again the pine nuts are taken and the rodents get cheaper feeds. The pine nuts have to be sterilized also.
 
alex Keenan
Posts: 485
12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One should also consider that in the real wild grizzly and black bear raid squirrel caches.
http://www.bearbiology.com/fileadmin/tpl/Downloads/URSUS/Vol_5/Kendall_Vol_5.pdf

Also wild hogs will also raid such caches.

In some areas squirrels have to keep everything above ground or they get raided and wiped out.
Bears and hogs do not replace what they take, they just take and move on.
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic