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Doug Lewandowski column: Sneaky squirrels thwart schemes to protect feeders

I have a love–hate relationship with the little gray critters.

Up-close head of brown and gray squirrel
A squirrel has bits of sunflower seeds stuck in its whiskers while hanging from a bird feeder near Central Park in Superior.
Jed Carlson / 2019 file / Superior Telegram
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Squirrels are entertaining. Around here, the ones we notice the most are the gray ones, although the red squirrels make their presence known by their scolding croaks when they don’t like something.

Doug Lewandowski
Doug Lewandowski

It’s been a good summer for these animals. Last year, we had drought conditions that stressed the oaks into producing more acorns. More food, better survival rates in a long winter and more babies. They are everywhere.

I have a love–hate relationship with the little gray critters. I’d like to think I have a liberal view of feeding any creature that roams through our yard, whether I want to do it or not. I like to dangle hummingbird and tube seed-filled feeders for other birds from the eaves around the house. Over time, I’ve used a multitude of places to dangle them in an attempt to keep them high enough so a lanky bear won’t be able to reach them.

Squirrels can be a problem for people who want to feed birds. In 2013, Raymond Payne of Duluth shared this photo of a squirrel stuck inside a squirrel-proof feeder. Payne said he had to rescue the animal from the wire cage. (Submitted photo)
In 2013, Raymond Payne, of Duluth, shared this photo of a squirrel stuck inside a squirrel-proof feeder. Payne said he had to rescue the animal from the wire cage.
Contributed photo

I can put up with hungry bears, knowing that I can take steps to protect against their foraging by bringing in anything they are likely to munch on at night. I haul the big containers on wheels inside the garage to avoid a mess.

I’m not a rookie anymore when it comes to leaving garbage bins out overnight before trash pick up the next morning. Sometimes that works, other times it doesn’t. When it doesn’t work, I clean muddy paw prints off a window or repair a screen.

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But the gray acrobats know how to get around every barrier I’ve used to keep them from gorging. I don’t mind feeding them, but c’mon guys, do I have to refill the feeders every day? I’m not 30 years old anymore, for Pete’s sake!

If they happen to wreck a bird feeder, I fix it. It’s the cost of watching chickadees, redpolls and finches in the morning. I like having the birds hanging around, especially at sunrise when I’m having that first cup of coffee. But the squirrels are relentless.

I have a friend who takes a somewhat perverse approach to squirrel intrusions. I suspect it has its origins from his experience with some of the critters a few decades ago, when they invaded his summer home and pretty much chewed their way through a wall trying to get out.

Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him via Katie Rohman at krohman@duluthnews.com.

He designed an elaborate contraption that counterbalanced corn cobs on the end of several one by two pine boards that were engineered to start rotating in circles when the gray scavengers reached the goodies on the end of the stick. He had the device set up so it would spin in two different ways.

I would often look out from a second-floor living room window and watch the dizzy, bushy-tailed critters stagger across the lawn after giving up trying to scrounge a meal.

Recently, an unemployed Google engineer designed an elaborate maze that his neighborhood squirrels had to navigate to get a free lunch. It has been a YouTube success and well-worth seeing.

So, the squirrels persist. Short of spending a lot of time making devices for my occasional distraction and trying to keep the gray marauders at bay, I am left with watching them hang upside-down stuffing themselves outside the office window and wondering how in the heck they can swallow that way?

Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and psychologist. Write to him at  lewandowskidoug@gmail.com .

Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and psychologist.
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