An Adorable Nemesis: Squirrels In The Garden

By Caroline Bloomfield | June 10, 2020
by Caroline Bloomfield
June 10, 2020

It’s late summer. Out of my home office window I see a large, yellow apple traveling across the top of my back fence. Behind it, a small fluffy squirrel with a deep-toothed grip on this enormous orb is trying desperately to navigate the fence top freeway without being able to see a thing in front of him. This route is familiar, but it’s treacherous. He eventually slips, drops the apple, scampers down the fence, picks up his cumbersome treasure and disappears to some obscure spot that no human can see.

Squirrels are pests, and they can definitely cause a bit of damage. But in spite of the damage from squirrels, sometimes one will approach the dining room window, balancing on the deck railing. He’ll stand up straight holding a nut or bread crust, and nibble away at the treat between his nimble paws, oblivious as we scramble to snap yet another photo of him. We love to catch a shot of those soft little bellies.

Occasionally, I’ll watch one of these little clowns hang completely upside down on a bird feeder, tail floating in the breeze while he delightfully steals breakfast from the birds. How can such an endearing creature be a pest? Let me count the ways.

Why Squirrels are Pests

Squirrels in the garden isn’t always a good thing. They can cause quite a bit of damage to plants, steal treats from our feathered friends and dig holes, be it for “planting” acorns that eventually become unwanted weeds (along with many others) or unearthing these nuts later. And they find our garden bulbs tasty too.

Eating is their thing”¦

Plump lemon cucumbers appear on the vine with one bite missing – just large enough to know who did it. Why do they even like cucumbers? And, how do they know when the strawberries are on the exact verge of being ripe?

Sometimes, I wonder if squirrels watch me plant bulbs and plan ahead for the ones they’ll be digging up later. It’s clear that, however much squirrels enjoy scampering and entertaining us, their primary goal and intention every day involves finding food, and my yard offers an irresistible feast.

A rodent so cute is still a rodent

Our flower beds are lined with hazelnut shells, a commodity in the Northwest obtained from the huge nut drying facilities. Squirrels avoid those areas because the broken shells are distinctly sharp and “poke-y,” as my grandson would say. But the rest of the garden is fair game. We cover our bulb-infested raised beds with chicken wire for the winter, and the birds always have to settle for sharing their seed and suet.

I don’t want to attract unwanted rodents, but I’m always conscious of the squirrels’ need for sustenance – so attracting squirrels seems irresistible. Dried bread, old nuts and crackers go into their feeder regularly, and some giant sunflowers in the summer help take their minds off our vegetables, although not entirely.

Unlike most rodents, I figure these guys pay their way in the form of entertainment, so it’s a pleasure to watch them find what they love, even if it’s a just an overripe apple from a neighboring tree.

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