Encyclopaedia of Birdcare
SquirrelsThe Grey Squirrel was introduced into Britain from North America during the late 19th century and is a common sight in gardens, in contrast to the endangered native Red Squirrel. Many foods for birds also attract squirrels, which are capable of gnawing their way into many feeders and may even succeed in carrying them away. They can climb almost anything, jump tremendous distances, and walk along wires or slide down them. Finally, they attack nest boxes, eating eggs and young birds and often taking over the boxes for their own use. A great deal of effort has been put into attempts to make feeding devices squirrel-proof, and there are now some successful designs on the market. Products for preventing the animals reaching the feeders in the first place are also available, and more recently the idea of actually feeding the squirrels has emerged, thus distracting them from the foods intended for the birds. The chief methods of tackling squirrels can be summed up as follows.
- Squirrel-proof feeders. The material of which hanging feeders are constructed should be tough enough to withstand squirrels' teeth, with feeding points made of aluminium alloy, as with the tubular feeders manufactured by Droll Yankees Inc.., and stainless steel mesh used on mesh-type feeders, such as in the New Generation J-Range marketed by Jacobi Jayne & Company. Another solution is to enclose the whole feeder in a cage made of nylon-coated steel, as employed in the attractive Nuttery selection of both mesh-type and tubular models.
- Squirrel Guards. To stop squirrels actually reaching the feeders, barriers must be fitted either above or below them. The Giant seed tray produced by Droll Yankees Inc. acts as a squirrel guard by preventing access from below when mounted on a garden pole, while the same manufacturer's Squirrel Dome fits over the tops of hanging feeders to prevent approach from above. Some feeders, such as the Big Top and Jagunda types, also made by Droll Yankees, are supplied with squirrel guards as standard.
- Careful siting of feeding stations. Although the position of a feeding place is unlikely in itself to stop attacks by squirrels, there is no point in making things easy for them, and siting well away from trees, fences, posts, wires, lines and buildings ought to help the situation.
- Feeding squirrels. If feeders are provided which squirrels can easily reach and use, filled with food that they like, then they should leave alone the feeding devices and foods meant for the birds, especially if the bird feeding station is well protected against squirrels. Wooden and metal feeders specially designed for squirrels are available for fixing to trees, fences or walls, and suitable foods include peanuts, black sunflower seed, wheat and nuts.
- Killing squirrels. It is legal to shoot Grey Squirrels provided that there is no danger to people and the action takes place at not less than 5Oft (about 15m) from the middle of any kind of road, track or path which is a public right of way. Trapping is also possible and suitable poisons are available. Needless to say such measures will be offensive to many people and could only be justified in exceptional circumstances.
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