A Wildlife Tip Sheet from Jacobi Jayne & Company
by ornithologist Chris Mead with Graham Evans
Squirrels arouse an emotional response from almost all garden bird feeders blessed, or cursed, with their presence. To some people they are engaging and acrobatic little mammals but to others they are vermin - horrid little 'tree rats'.
The first point to make is that you should, whatever your basic instinct, exercise colour prejudice. If you have Red Squirrels coming to your garden they are much more important to Britain's wildlife than any of the birds. Since 1900 the population of Red Squirrels has declined drastically all over the British Isles and today there is a real fear that this native species will become extinct. So spread out the red carpet and buy them prime hazelnut kernels served on the best silver plate with freshly laundered napkins!
Grey Squirrels, on the other hand, are thriving - just as they have been since the day in 1876 when a Mr Brocklehurst released the first pair of North American Grey Squirrels in Henbury Park in Cheshire. Love them or hate them, one has to admire their cleverness and persistence at stealing the food we put out for the birds. Trying to out-think the Grey Squirrel is almost impossible. They can jump across amazingly long gaps, swarm along washing lines and climb the proverbial greasy pole.
This Wildlife Tip Sheet summarises the most proven techniques and products to help you 'defeat' the Grey Squirrels in your garden including, under a Stop Press heading, the latest ingenious and simple idea from America.
Squirrel-Proof BirdfeedersAvailable from Jacobi Jayne. Several designs exist, the best of which are the range of Nuttery Birdfeeders with their elegant 'Victorian birdcage' appearance. The food holder is housed behind bars with dimensions which let the birds pass through to feed while keeping squirrels out. There are different models for peanuts and seeds (mixed or sunflowers). They are all very largely squirrel-proof.
In rare cases young, small squirrels will pass through the bars and feed; in time they will outgrow this ability. Also, it has been known for frustrated squirrels to strip the paint coating from the bars; when this happens the bars will rust but still remain effective.
It is worth noting that the enclosed nature of these feeders may give birds a false sense of security and it has been known for tits and Siskins to be caught through the bars by Sparrowhawks. There have also been reports of slightly bigger birds, like Starlings, being temporarily trapped inside them. Both instances are very rare.
Squirrel Guards for BirdfeedersTwo excellent types are available. For hanging birdfeeders the Squirrel Dome prevents squirrels from climbing down from above and can be used with any type of hanging feeder. For pole-mounted birdfeeders the Giant Seed Tray/Squirrel Guard prevents squirrels climbing the pole and also serves as a birdtable. Both devices are made in polycarbonate plastic (the same as that used for bullet-proof windscreens and safety goggles) since it is tough enough to resist knawing by squirrels.
These guards are highly effective provided they are sited correctly. They need to be 6 to 8 feet away from adjacent branches or buildings; otherwise squirrels will learn to jump sideways onto the feeder, thereby avoiding the guard.
Drastic Measures: Shooting & PoisoningGetting rid of squirrels permanently is not an easy option. They are mobile animals and can travel through the neighbourhood easily so shooting the ones that come to your feeders, even if it can be done safely, would need to be done continuously. Poisoning, whilst legal under very careful circumstances to protect forestry plantations, is not really an option in gardens; without carefully designed hoppers other mammals are likely to take the bait too.
Squirrel AwaySquirrel Away is a new and ingenious idea. It is a powder made from Capsicum peppers containing capsaicin, a naturally occurring substance which makes the peppers hot and spicy. Since mammals and birds have different sensory systems, the powder is hot and distasteful to squirrels but not to birds. A small amount of Squirrel Away is mixed into birdseed before filling your feeders; after just one visit and taste, squirrels will learn to leave well alone. Except for the powerful taste, it is completely harmless to squirrels - and a useful source of vitamin A for birds.
Squirrel Away is available from Jacobi Jayne; prices are detailed under Useful References below.
Chris Mead with Graham Evans
Flippers, Tippers, and DippersThe Americans, being experts on Grey Squirrels, have devised three innovative and proven feeders, all weight activated and available from Jacobi Jayne.
- A fascinating and readable book about Britain's squirrels is Squirrels by Jessica Holm published by Whittett Books.
- Squirrel Away is available from Jacobi Jayne in 4 sizes:
(all plus applicable shipping and handling charges)
8g sachet treats 2.2kgs of birdseed £0.95 42g packet treats 11.3kgs of birdseed £2.75 85g packet treats 22.7kgs of birdseed £4.55 1.36kg tub treats 363kgs of birdseed £49.35