The Great Outdoors


Squirrel in TreeI’ve been out-foxed by squirrels. I’ve tried to keep those bushy tailed bird feeder marauders off the bird feeder outside my study window and the feeder outside the dining room window. Squirrels have found a way to circumvent my efforts.

I know people who have purchased bird feeders that tipped with the weight of a squirrel, dumping the little scavenger. I haven’t tried that. But I did try a barricade of wires, stiff wires that I stuck in holes in the posts the feeders were on. That stopped them only briefly. In a very short time squirrels were going through my wires as if they weren’t there. I considered putting a metal cone around each feeder post. Those I’ve been told are effective, usually, but not always.

I have two kinds of squirrels, two species, raiding my bird feeders, fox squirrels and red squirrels. Fox squirrels are the common orange and gray squirrels. They’re about the size of cottontail rabbits and have big bushy tails. Red squirrels are smaller, about half the size of gray squirrels. They’re reddish gray.

Other furry critters also come to my bird feeders. Chipmunks visit them daily. When I’ve gone to my desk in the evening occasionally I’ve seen a raccoon or an opossum. I’ve seen skunks on the ground beneath the feeders, most often the feeder outside the dining room window.

I like squirrels. I like all wildlife. I enjoy watching squirrels almost as much as I enjoy watching birds. But I don’t like squirrels on my bird feeders. They eat too much. A squirrel can clean out a bird feeder in a short time and they will. Additionally, when there’s a squirrel on a feeder there are rarely any birds. Chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches, cardinals and blue jays will fly in to a feeder, snatch a seed and fly away when a squirrel is there but they won’t stay with a squirrel.

Last year I learned of a new way to keep squirrels off a feeder mounted on a wooden post and tried it, a smooth metal sheath around the feeder post. Being smooth the metal is slick. Squirrels can’t grasp metal as they do tree bark, or so I was told.

It didn’t take a day for squirrels, both gray and red, to get to the feeder outside the dining room window. They climbed the wooden corner post to the roof of the nearby porch, then jumped the few feet to the feeder. To leave the feeder they jumped to the porch corner post. Chipmunks too climbed the porch post and jumped to the feeder.

The metal sheath kept the squirrels off the feeder outside the window in front of my desk for a few days. But one morning when I went to my desk there was a gray squirrel on the feeder. It fed until it must have been stuffed, then jumped to the ground and bounded off across the lawn. An hour later it returned (I assume it was the same squirrel) and climbed the metal covered post forepaw over forepaw, like a man climbing a rope hand over hand.

There are other things I could do to keep squirrels and other furry critters off my bird feeders. Metal cones on the posts, for example. I could shoot them during squirrel hunting season. I live in the country and hunting on my land is legal. I’m not a hunter. I won’t hunt on my property, or any place else, and I don’t want anybody else hunting on my property.

I like squirrels, as I already said. My only option it seems, as long as I don’t put metal cones on my feeder posts or buy tippy feeders or take up squirrel hunting is to continue to buy and put out lots of bird seed, and tell people who ask me how to keep squirrels off their bird feeder I don’t know how.

Neil A. Case

Neil A. Case

I have always liked the outdoors and birds and am a conservationist and an environmentalist. I don't write specifically about conservation but mix my opinion in with stories about a bird, a mammal, a plant or other outdoor subject. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer