HAVE ALL THE SQUIRRELS GONE?
need not travel to tropical jungles, river swamps or old-growth hardwood
forests to have memorable wildlife experiences. Backyards, vacant lots
and city parks often provide suitable adventures. Among the more accommodating
animals in terms of giving us something to talk about are gray squirrels.
the first person decided to put seeds out to attract birds, squirrels
became a topic of conversation. The first question was "how do
I keep squirrels from eating the birdseed?"
of squirrel-proof bird feeders that have been invented is almost exactly
the same as the number of squirrel-proof bird feeders that squirrels
have learned how to raid.
hint of possessing a brain bigger than a peanut, gray squirrels have
the agility and dexterity to assure that they will eventually outsmart
any bird feeder no matter how cleverly designed.
solution I have heard for keeping squirrels away from a bird feeder
is to "hire a man with a shotgun to sit nearby in a chair."
Another approach is to accept that you are attracting "wildlife,"
not just birds, and plan to enjoy whatever shows up.
about squirrels in the backyard lately have taken on a different tenor
and been fairly limited. One question is "where have all the squirrels
gone?" Another is "have you seen the squirrel today?"
because we apparently only have one left.
I once counted 19 gray squirrels on our back deck railings that I had
lined with sunflower seeds for the birds. I had been doing this seed
spreading ritual for weeks. Squirrels had gradually begun to encroach
on the scene.
squirrel horde arrived in the morning, the area soon looked like they
had brought vacuum cleaners. We never again had 19 squirrels at a time
on the porch, but a dozen or more were often visible here and there
in the yard and in the trees, and of course, dangling from bird feeders.
day we became aware that several cardinals, doves, titmice and other
seed-eating birds were at the bird feeders. But squirrels were absent.
The same thing happened the next day and the next. No squirrels. Finally
we noticed a single squirrel in a large maple tree, but it did not come
to the feeder.
time a neighbor asked me where the squirrels had gone. She likewise
fed squirrels, had had high numbers and then suddenly realized that
only a couple were left. I had no idea at first. I now think I have
discovered the answer.
I was sitting
on my back porch listening to birds calling and checking out the well-attended
bird feeders. I was vaguely aware of thrashers, towhees and catbirds
flitting here and there on the ground where I had pitched some meal
I saw the
squirrel on a limb of the maple tree. Then I sensed a change. Birds
unobtrusively disappeared and the woods became quiet. The mystery was
solved moments later as an enormous red-tailed hawk (they are always
enormous when only 20 feet away) glided across the backyard from our
neighbor's at eye level and skied upward to perch in a tall hickory
tree. The squirrel had joined the birds in the disappearing act. Nothing
moved in the yard or trees.
scenario is that I had fed the squirrels so well for months that their
numbers increased to an overabundance in a relatively small area.
the early fall migration of raptors, including red-tailed hawks, at
least one had stopped over in our backyard and been favorably impressed
by the smorgasbord of gray squirrels. Why leave while the pickings were
good? You can figure out the rest of the story that led to a dwindling
number of squirrels.
a simple solution is available for anyone who is fed up with squirrels
raiding their bird feeders. Attract a red-tailed hawk to your backyard.
It won't need a shotgun.
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