A few tips on avoiding squirrel-induced insanity

A few days ago, while listening to Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt on ESPN radio, Van Pelt broke out laughing in near hysteria. Tirico asked him to explain himself.

It turned out Van Pelt was broadcasting from his home, and he was watching a bird feeder as he worked.

The distraction was a squirrel that had just jumped on a bird feeder. Only it was no ordinary bird feeder.

Apparently Van Pelt had been complaining for some time about the squirrels eating all the seed he put out for the birds, so he finally bought a “squirrel-proof” feeder, a Flipper by Droll Yankees.

The Flipper

The Flipper is a large tube with a circular perch on the bottom that spins when something as heavy as a squirrel grabs hold. And that’s what Van Pelt saw as he was on the air.

He laughed hysterically for 10 to 15 seconds, before finally explaining.

“When the squirrel grabbed the perch,” he said, “it began to spin, faster and faster, until the squirrel was hanging on for dear life with its front feet.”

He then slid into hyperbole and described how the G forces began to distort the squirrel’s face. Finally, the squirrel let go and flew off into space.

Van Pelt concluded his “Super Duper Flipper” worked. He was particularly pleased because he said the feeder cost about $100.

That may sound steep, but I hear from so many people frustrated by squirrels I think they’d pay almost any price to beat the bushy tailed rodents.

After a break, Van Pelt came back and told listeners if they’d like to see what he saw, they should visit www.drollyankees.com and watch the video of the Flipper. It is truly comical. And it retails for $159.99, so if Van Pelt got his for $100, he got a deal.

You’ll also discover that in addition to the Flipper, Droll Yankees also carries the Tipper, Whipper and Dipper squirrel-proof feeders.

Other methods

For the more budget-minded, I offer two less expensive methods to thwart hungry squirrels. Both suggestions arrived after my recent column on unwanted backyard visitors.

Greg Deal e-mailed me the following note.

“Scott, I finally got my bird feeders to feed birds only, not squirrels. I had tried shields, baffles, screens, etc., but nothing worked. I had squirrels walk along and shimmy down a suspending wire, climb over/around any fixed shield I had, and jump onto the feeders from various branches.

“My solution was to hang the feeders by wire between two trees, with the wire threaded through two-liter plastic soda bottles that rotate freely. It works great. I still see squirrels try, but they always fall off the bottles. I just had to tell someone since I always chuckle when I read about ‘squirrel-proof’ contraptions.”

The second suggestion came from Jud, a caller to my Pittsburgh radio show. He described a substance that turns feeder poles into greased lightning.

Black Magic Titanium Tire Wet Gel gives tires a “smooth, black shine,” but its “combination of polymers and high molecular weight silicones” make any pole insurmountable.

I haven’t tried it because I welcome squirrels at my feeders, but Jud swears no squirrel, or raccoon for that matter, could ever climb a pole greased in Black Magic. Look for it at automotive parts stores for under $10.

Two cents

Now I’ll add my two cents. The simplest way to keep squirrels off feeders is to bait them away.

Squirrels love kernel corn, so simply set up a portion of the yard where you provide corn just for them. Corn is cheap, so this is a cost-effective strategy.

Another option is to fence squirrels out. Most wild bird stores carry cages from which feeders can be suspended.

The mesh size allows smaller birds to pass freely, but keeps bigger birds and squirrels out. Or buy a feeder that comes equipped with such a cage.

Or do it yourself. Using two-by-two lumber and chicken wire, build a 12-inch high, wire-covered frame and place it under the feeders.

Small birds pass easily through the wire mesh, but squirrels, pigeons and doves are excluded.

About the Author

Scott Shalaway, who holds a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from Michigan State University, writes from his home in rural West Virginia. A former faculty member at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma Biological Station, he has been writing a weekly nature column for newspapers and freelancing for magazines since 1986. Send questions and comments to scottshalaway@gmail.com. You can also visit his Web site, http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com. More Stories by Scott Shalaway

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