Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

May 14, 2013

Is it squirrel season already?

By Mike Redmond
CNHI

— The action at the bird feeder has been spectacular lately: Cardinals, finches, songbirds in impressive variety crowding around all day long in search of sustenance. It is truly gratifying …

For my neighbor.

That’s what it’s like at his feeder.

At mine? Different story. Sparrows and grackles, bird-wise. But the ones really doing the feasting are the squirrels… squirrels who are, I believe, noticeably fatter than when I started filling the feeder a month or so ago.

Did I mention that this is supposed to be a squirrel-proof feeder? There, my friends, are the three little words that make up the biggest lie in lawn and garden advertising: Squirrel-proof feeder. Simply put, there is no such thing. I don’t care if the feeder is topped with concertina wire and equipped with combination locks, the squirrels will figure out how to get into it. On mine, they actually figured out how to twist the knob that opens the top so they could dive into the seed bin head-first.

It would be amusing if it weren’t so maddening.

I thought about buying a nice, quiet pellet gun and using it to dispatch the greedy little twerps to squirrel heaven. This idea hit the floor with a thud, however, when it was pointed out that I was the one attracting them in the first place by filling the bird feeder. It would be unethical to lure them with peanut pieces and sunflower seeds and then pop them in the head when they weren’t looking. Besides, there are a lot of windows on that side of the house and my eyesight isn’t what it used to be.

I like squirrels, I really do. When I was a kid, we had a pet squirrel named Filbert who used to come to the back door every day for his treat, a peanut, an arrangement that was the talk of the neighborhood until Dad got the bright idea that he could hand-feed Filbert. Filbert took “hand feed” literally and bit Dad on the finger. Adios, Filbert.

Finger-biting bird-seed thieves they might be, but squirrels do have their good points. They’re especially good fried, although my grandmother used to brown them and then finish them in a dutch oven, and that was awfully good, too. Oh, yes.

Squirrel was not a regular feature on the table when I was a kid, but it came around often enough during squirrel season that I developed a real fondness for it. However, the “if you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em” solution does not seem available to me here.

For one thing, you can’t hunt in the city. For another, I’m on a restricted diet and sad to say squirrel is not on the list of approved proteins. And finally, these are urban squirrels, and heaven knows what they were eating before they started gorging on my bird seed. You are what you eat and all that.

Although, if you are what you eat, a diet of fried Sciurus could go a long way toward explaining my behavior, which has at times been described as squirrelly.

I guess the only thing for me to do is put up more feeders in hopes that the squirrels will at least leave enough for a few birds to get some seeds. Failing that, I’ll just have to watch the birds at my neighbor’s feeder. Or draw the squirrels a map to it.

© 2013 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.