Monday, April 6, 2009

Squirrel Wars May Just be Just Wars

What would lead a far-left-of-center person to declare and to justify a war on squirrels? It is actually a war of selfishness, laziness, and greed by all involved parties.

It is a War of economics justified by the cost of feeding birds under my “sphere of influence”. A War of “exceptional ism” justified by changing the world to suit myself. A War of “Manifest Destiny” justified by my right to interfere in nature. All justified by feeding birds where I want them fed to suit my selfish needs without any “injurious competition” from squirrels.

The squirrels are invading my territory and taking what is rightfully mine. They have no work ethic. They should hunt and eat in their own territory.

As you may note by the blog photo my husband took, I am an amateur photographer of “deck” birds. I try to take what I call “birds with attitude” photos. Then, I do pencil drawings from them.

It all started with just trying to get as many types of birds as possible to come to the deck to eat “Up close and personal” so to speak. It was an investigation into common birds on the hill and their feeding habits while taking into account laziness of the watchers-me and the cat, Boo Kitty. I call it Boo Kitty television. We added some camouflage in the forms of bark and pieces of firewood for better bird-portrait backgrounds.

Of course we got critters too: snakes, coons, possums, and squirrels. (Yes, we take pictures of these critters along with the bird photos.) The possums, the coons, and the snakes that come aren't much trouble to keep under control but the squirrels are another tale. They eat and eat and eat. Bird seed is expensive. So far I have not seen the beggars eating the suet we put out.

I tried "corncob and stick" diplomacy. I bought a squirrel feeder and some corn (on the cob) to put on it. My husband put it out on a tree far enough from the deck so they wouldn't come eat the seeds. That didn't work. They inhaled the corn and then came in for sunflower seed dessert. So back to watching and scaring them off the deck.

It is a daily on-going chore to run off the squirrels. We even have many of them named though they don't know it. We actually encouraged one unusually light colored squirrel last year. By encouraged, I mean we didn't run her off. But now we have a few unwanted “left-overs” from last year and a bevy young “hooligans”.

According to what I remember from my psychology classes I need to extinguish the learning of sunflower-seed-is-available by removing all reinforcement. If all reinforcement is not removed the learned behavior, sneaking to the feeders and finding those sunflower seeds to munch, will not be extinguished it will actually be reinforced. Some squirrels will learn how to wait me out. Oh wait they did! So, in order to stop the squirrels I would have to totally remove the positive of food. Note I said totally.

Watching for squirrels all daylight hours is required. When they appear I must appear before they get one bite of food. In the meantime am I keeping some birds away? Of course I am. Or just don't feed the birds this way and get a feeder with a baffle. But wait again! I trained the birds to eat in front of the windows and where I camouflaged the deck rail. Now I can take the pictures from very close up and in the winter I sit right inside the kitchen window with the camera without spooking the birds.

So Scruffy Squirrel sits there right now and eats because I have run him off several times already this morning and I'm sick of it. H mm. Who is training Whom here. If only he could find a way to extinguish completely my “startle” behavior, he and his followers would be victors, the greater power, the ones to claim exceptional Manifest Destiny.


  1. Ohhh, we got major squirrel wars going here too. I haven't seen this many of the little critters in 11 years--and we don't have any bird feeders either. We do have oak, hickory and walnut trees full of acorns and nuts. They are fun to watch and the sound of their little feet on the roof is what I wake to every morning. Your bird sketches are excellent! I've really enjoyed being able to see them.

  2. Thanks Pat.
    Ours are spoiled and yes, lazy. They have lots to eat in the woods yet they want the easy way.
    If I can find them on the other computer, I will add some different drawings.