The Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is a well-known – and sometimes quite annoying! – visitor to our yards in North Carolina. One way in which they earn themselves a reputation as a pest is when they get into attics, where they could end up chewing on wires. This happened to me, so I had to have a pest control agent come to trap them humanely (rather than poison them). Unfortunately, I found out later that when they are released outside their home territory, it’s tough going for them as other squirrels see them as invaders. I hope they made it.
The second way in which they can be a nuisance is when they go to extreme lengths to get at the food in bird feeders. My yard squirrels and I have had an ongoing game of wits over the years, with them doing all they can to get to the feeders and me taking new measures to prevent them from doing so.
The gray squirrels mainly eat plants and seeds, including acorns and pine cones, but they also like a variety of other foods, including fruit, seeds and suet. Fortunately, I haven’t had the same experience as my neighbors, who had squirrels chew through the screen on their back porch to get to a bag of seed left there. These agile little mammals have posed a challenge to me, however, in situating my feeders in places that they can’t get to them.
If the feeder is within a few feet of something they can use as a launching pad (a bush, pole, etc.), they will manage to jump the distance in their ever-present quest for food. Various attempts to prevent this, by moving feeder poles and using combinations of squirrel and raccoon baffles have – sometimes! – proved useful.
However, if the baffles are too low or near a tree, they jump over the baffle to land on top so they can enjoy a meal at their leisure (or until I see them and chase them away).
I must admit, though, that they are a source of entertainment, too; watching their antics and persistence in thinking about how to overcome the barriers can be very amusing. And it’s not like I don’t give them a treat now and then!
Next blog: how ticks get around