Squirrels spend a lot of time and energy
eating. They eat more than their body weight in food each week.
Two pairs of sharp incisors enable
squirrels to gnaw through nuts. These incisors also allow them to gnaw through
Squirrels have been known to gnaw on
electrical wires and have caused financial damage and power outages in some
Squirrels can jump up to 5 to 6 feet
vertically, and they can leap 8 to 10 feet between objects.
They have the ability to scale trees,
houses and many other surfaces.
They have the ability to cling from
objects with their back foot toes (with support from their tail) which allows
them to hang upside down and use their front paws to stuff their faces.
Squirrels have a highly elevated
olfactory sense; they can smell food from great distances. This, of course,
makes it easy for squirrels to detect the food we put out for the birds. You
may see squirrels "running" away with food from the feeders. Squirrel
frequently hoard food for a later time. Finding the food they hoard is mostly
dependent on squirrels smelling where it has been hidden.
Not Feeding Squirrels
People either seem to love squirrels, put
up with them, or hate them. Many people complain that the squirrels
are eating the birds' food and destroying
the bird feeders. We can suggest squirrel "proof" feeders (feeders that
eliminate the squirrels), creating a squirrel "proof" set up (setups that baffle
the feeders) or making existing feeders squirrel "proof." In all situations we
can help people deal with squirrels and better enjoy the hobby of birdfeeding.
The methods used in squirrel resistant set
ups can be applied to existing feeders. Existing feeders can be fitted with the
On Guard™ wire mesh protector available at Wild Birds Unlimited. It is designed
to keep squirrels from reaching the seed in tube feeders.
Safflower can also be used in feeders to
discourage squirrels (and blackbirds) from eating from the feeders. Safflower is
only effective if used exclusively in the feeder.
For some people, providing squirrel food
may deter squirrels from bothering the bird feeders. For other people feeding
squirrels is actually fun.
It is recommended that people who feed the
squirrels place food away from window sills or door steps so as to discourage
squirrels coming through screens or doors into houses. Feeding stations for
squirrels should also be placed away from the regular bird feeding stations.
There are many good feeders for feeding squirrels. Birds attracted to nuts and
corn may also visit these feeders.
Squirrels will live in many backyards. In
the wild, they have no trouble finding appropriate homes in which to live, but,
in urban areas where there may be a lack of trees, it is more of a challenge for
the squirrels and the humans, if squirrels choose to nest in human dwellings.
Squirrels nesting in human structures can cause damage to wires and insulation,
and can increase unwanted noise, smells and parasites.
Placing squirrel houses in urban areas can
help reduce the possibility of squirrels nesting in unwanted locations. Squirrel
houses should be placed away from human dwellings at least 15'above the ground.
They should face south and away from prevailing winds. Boxes can be cleaned in
mid to late summer if there are no babies present.
Many people decide that they just can't
live with the squirrels. The squirrels may be doing too much damage to
electrical wiring, in the garden, or to human structures. Squirrels can be live
trapped. Be sure to check with your state agencies for any regulations that may
apply to trapping animals.
Squirrels have to be transported at least a few miles (five
is considered safe) away, or they may find their way back home. One problem with
relocating is that if the squirrel is relocated to an already populated area,
the newcomer may create a disruption. The disruption could cause the relocated
squirrel to be driven out of the area by more aggressive squirrels or be the
cause of existing squirrels being driven out. This can result in either one
being homeless and without adequate food source. Some squirrels have been known
to be traumatized to the point of death during transportation. If squirrels are
removed from an area, it usually creates a vacuum that is filled eventually by
more squirrels. So look at relocation as
only a temporary solution. Careful feeder placement is usually a
better management tool.