House and garden, with squirrels

    When I started this blog two months ago, there were a few topics I was secretly hoping no one would want me to write about. These are topics related to my field at which I have epically failed to succeed.

    As you already guessed, I’ve been getting a number of questions on these very topics I was hoping to skirt. I’m not ready to stand before you with my shortcomings completely exposed, but I’m going to come clean about my lack of helpful advice on one of the most common issues people have asked about lately, which is what to do about squirrels in the house and in the garden.

    In the gardening season, squirrels are notorious for their ruination of crops and ornamental plants. The day before you’re ready to pick a gorgeous, perfect Brandywine tomato that you’ve been dreaming about for a month, it has squirrel bites. Or the 100 hyacinth bulbs you plant in a friend’s yard get dug up and gnawed to bits. Or the camellia bush, which is just about to burst into bloom, when wait – what? Oh, every bud is chewed off.

    Then there’s the damage they make building their homes inside of yours. The nights you lie awake listening to one run under the floorboards. The tail thumping, the nut rolling, the cries of squirrels in childbirth coming from the crawl space as they bring more of their species into the world. The last part I’m making up, but just barely.

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    Both professionally and in my own garden I have tried all the anti-squirrel measures that are out there, from fox pee to plastic netting, but the only thing that has ever resulted in even partial success for me are the humane live traps.

    I have a friend who is a trapper, and has been for many years. He’s turned squirrel trapping into part of his morning ritual. Wake up, go outside and bait the traps, go in for a cup of coffee, and then back out to load the squirrel-filled traps in the car for relocation. He always crosses a river on this trip, just to make sure.

    He’s developed an ingenious strategy for making the wire traps completely irresistible. He ties a walnut on a short string and dangles it from the rear of the cage. Walnuts are squirrel crack, apparently, and although they may try to find the inner strength to resist the nut, they never can.

    I had another friend visiting from Thailand years ago, and she could not stop taking pictures of the squirrels in my yard. She loved to talk at length about their cuteness and describe the adorable behaviors she observed. I try to remember this, and to see the charm. I really do, but it’s not always so easy.

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