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Open Features: Getting The Better Of The Grey Menace

...There is something altogether wrong about being out-smarted by a furry creature not much larger than a rat, whose only claim to being cute is to stand on its back legs and put its paws together, as if in prayer....

Mary Pilfold-Allan is at war with squirrels - and she is in need of reinforcements, or a secret weapon.

Does anyone know how to stop squirrels raiding the bird feeder because I am at desperation point?

Having invested in a heavy wire effort that most hardened burglars would find difficult to crack and hung it from a fine wire, strung between two trees, I was feeling smug. And just to make certain the nuts were safe from the greys, I took the advice of an expert on the television that suggested dusting the contents of the feeder with chilli pepper. Apparently birds can’t taste it but squirrels can.

Nothing has worked. My squirrel has the agility of Houdini, arms long enough to stretch through the wire without straining a single muscle and obviously a palate that enjoys a touch of spice.

Years ago it was the red squirrel, a cute foxy furred creature that inhabited our lowland forests and mostly stayed there. Then along came the greys from North America, bigger, stronger and obviously with a far heightened sense of survival than their more colourful cousins. These immigrants move in, muscled in and made life difficult for our native specie. Where are the reds now? Reduced to living on the Isle of Wight so I am told, with other colonies clinging on to life in the Cumbrian area and in Scotland. Official figures put the number of reds at 140,000 and the greys at 2.5 million, See what I mean about the greys heightened sense of survival?

In the late 1990s, the Forestry Commission in East Anglia had a plan to reintroduce reds to Thetford Forest. It was my job to hold a media call that would lure enough camera crews and journalists to create national and regional coverage. It just so happened that the Prime Minister, he who could not be denied a massive press entourage, was out and about nearby on the same day. What happened? Squirrel Nutkin, all bushy tailed and bright eyed, held far more attraction for the media than yet another encounter with the PM, however many babies he kissed or reassuring his speeches.

So what is it about the squirrel that leaves us feeling helpless, and in the case of the reds, protective of their needs? Would I have less antagonism towards the titian terrors than I do towards the grey menaces? I doubt it somehow. There is something altogether wrong about being out-smarted by a furry creature not much larger than a rat, whose only claim to being cute is to stand on its back legs and put its paws together, as if in prayer.

Perhaps part of my own problem is that our house is opposite a small wood in which there are a number of large trees. These trees are obviously highly suitable as des res for squirrels and once the leaves have fallen, dreys can be spotted securely anchored in the forks of branches well out of the way of inquisitive humans. Now I was always under the impression that squirrels hibernated, curling their tails over their sleeping forms, safe and warm. Ahhhh!

I don’t think so any longer. On a sharp winter’s day, even with frost on the ground, there he is, raiding the bird feeder yet again, cheeks puffed out, full of delicious peanuts. He has already eaten all the cobnuts on the hazel, so no chance of gathering them for cracking at Christmas. I almost feel like leaving a bowl of Brazil nuts out, just in case he fancies a change.

Do I have to continue being out-witted by this creature? Is there a simple answer to my plea……….can someone please tell me how to stop the squirrel getting the better of me?


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