I have schizophrenic squirrels. The poor things don’t know who they are, welcome visitors or hated moochers, and it’s probably our fault.
I never started out to feed squirrels. Those things hanging from our shepherd’s hooks and the tree are BIRD feeders, filled with sunflower seeds and shelled peanuts. A couple are platform feeders for birds like cardinals who like those flat spaces. One is a tube feeder for the chickadees and goldfinches. One is a “house feeder,” with a roof and glass sides and perches so the birds can sit and stay awhile. Of course there’s the suet feeder for the nuthatches and woodpeckers. And yes, I do toss out a few peanuts-in-the-shell for the squirrels and the jays and the cute little chipmunks.
So, it all sounds pretty orderly, doesn’t it? They all have their own place settings at the various tables and I’d be oh-so-happy if they’d just sit where they’re supposed to. It didn’t take long, though, for the squirrels to take over.
They dangle from the house feeder, back feet wrapped around the rope, bodies swaying with the breeze. I don’t know how they do it. If I were chewing and swallowing upside down I’d have food in all my sinus cavities. They sit in the platform feeders, all day long, and gorge. They leave only when there’s a pile of hulls. That wouldn’t be so bad if they’d truly leave at that point, start foraging in someone else’s yard. But they don’t. They wrap themselves around the tube feeder that’s supposed to be too small for them, and they dig and gouge at the suet feeder so that by the time the nuthatches show up, there’s only an empty cage.
Sometimes I tolerate it. In fact, I tolerate it so well that they’re not afraid of me. The other day, when I’d about had it with the tube-feeder raider, I went slamming out the door onto the deck, hollering, “That’s enough! Just go find food somewhere else!” The squirrel sat up, little paws folded inward, and looked at me. He didn’t run, he didn’t leave the feeder. He just stared at me, wondering why my mouth was flapping at him.
He was so cute. My voice dropped from a 60-mile-an-hour screech to a slow, soft drawl as I asked him, gently, what he thought he was doing. He went back to eating. You see? I’m creating these little monsters. One minute I’m ready to borrow someone’s .22 and shoot them all dead. The next minute I’m scattering peanuts at the base of the tree and giggling to myself as they start coming, from all directions, nearly running me over in their hurry to be the first at the trough, totally ignoring me although I’m only two feet away.
The other day, though, I’d had enough. The same six squirrels had been squatting over every single food source the entire day. These experts at deboning sunflower seeds had parked their ever-expanding butts in one place and refused to share even with the chipmunks, let alone a pretty bird or two. No wonder I haven’t had the opportunity to take some of the beautiful bird photos I have from years gone by, birds like indigo buntings and rose-breasted grosbeaks.
“Look at that,” I said to George. “I haven’t seen a bird in days. And THERE’S the reason why!”
George accepted the challenge. He didn’t just go out there and holler at them (and he WOULD have hollered. He doesn’t fall in love with them in mid-stride like I do), he grabbed the garden hose and went after them.
One blast and they scattered. And came back, of course. Another blast and they ran a little farther. For a while. Finally, they actually gave up and left altogether. The next morning, back they came. I got my bowl of sunflower seeds and peanuts and went out to fill up the feeders, as I do every morning, and they fled–until they realized it was me, the soft touch. Down from the tree, out from the hedge, across the lawn they came, with me talking softly to them.
Half an hour later, George raised the kitchen window, hollered “get out!” and headed for the hose again. And thus the cycle goes.
If squirrels could just learn to share, I’d be fine with them. If they’d come, stay a while, and then leave, I wouldn’t mind. If they didn’t chase away the tentative advances of birds one minute and then pose cutely the next, I wouldn’t have these ambivalent feelings toward them.
So, until I can make up my mind whether they stay or they go, I’ll be dealing with schizophrenic squirrels.