Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Squirrels and Racoons and Groundhogs, Oh My!

HALLIE: I like to think of myself as green. I recycle, conserve energy and water, and try to share my space with critters like spiders and worms and pill bugs that have as much right to be here as I do. But every spring, squirrels do me in.

One year they moved into my attic. Just climbed right up the chimney and squeezed behind the bricks. Every morning we could hear them--it sounded like they were playing field hockey with acorns overhead. Every spring they behead my tulips. They don't even eat the blossoms, they just nip the stem and I come out to find the stem snapped the petals on the ground.

We used to have a peach tree by our front porch, and every year a particularly fearless squirrel would come down and take the peaches before they were ripe. Me screeching and throwing shoes at it barely gave this squirrel pause.

That same year a friend left a bag of groceries for me on my front steps, and when I got home to bring it inside, a french bread was missing. A few hours later, we had friends to dinner and as I was explaining why there wasn't any bread, I looked out the window and there was that damned squirrel that was stealing our peaches, racing up the trunk of a maple tree across the street with half loaf of french bread in his mouth.

Do you get along with your critters, or is it a constant battle?

HANK: Are you kidding me? GRRR. I am filled with rage. Our back yard is full of tulips, and they're gorgeous. Mostly white, but also some icy pink and apricot.

So I go outside to admire them--and some stupid squirrel has bitten off the flowers! You have to see it. Or not, because it's too awful. They apparently are looking for some tiny bit of nectar that's between the flower and the stem, so they bite off the flower with their little razor teeth, and then just LEAVE the flower on the ground next to the decapitated stem. Oh, it's terrible.

I had a big Facebook discussion about it, and someone suggested scattering hair clippings and eggshells around the plants before the flowers bloom, and that would keep the squirrels away. Gosh, that would keep anyone away!But next year, I'm doing it.

(Eddie Izzard does a hilarious squirrel imitation, though! Have you seen it?)

JAN: We have squirrels in the attic, too. Last year we hired the special "Squirrel" guy, who traps them and brings them somewhere and releases them. So humane. So kind to animals. The squirrels were back in about twenty minutes.

I don't think its a "green" issue, I think its a ASPCA issue. I can tell you for sure, I'm not signing up or donating funds to the ASPCA on behalf of squirrels, but I don't hold it against the squirrels in the yard. Especially since its the deer who are destroying my Rhodies.

RHYS: Until this year we had no squirrels in the neighborhood, but I've started to see them so I guess we're part of the invasion. However I live in deer country--I mean DEER country. I'm up on a hill, backing onto open space and all summer long my garden is full of deer. They are rather cute, as they bring their babies but they are so destructive.Our compromise has been to fence in a patio with high trellises and leave the rest of the property to them--junipers oleanders pyrocantha etc.

And we also have raccoons--their snarling at each other kept me awake last night. Oh, and coyotes. They "sing" so loudly, especially on moonlit nights, that I'm sure they're under my windows. Oh, and mountain lions, snakes, foxes, bobcats.... when my mother stayed once she complained, "It's like living in a bloody zoo!"

ROBERTA: This is very timely as we seem to have an entire squirrel neighborhood that has moved into our chimney. They wake up the dog and the cat in the morning by pounding across the roof so none of us can sleep in. We've had three guys come out to look the situation over so far: the carpenter, the roofer, and the ultra-expensive special duty wildlife man who charged us $125 just to tell us he couldn't handle the problem. Now we're trying to get a chimney sweep to call us back--the flue is apparently jammed with forsythia branches and squirrel babies.

This is our first squirrel invasion though. Our nemesis has been Mr. Groundhog. He barrels over our garden fence and mows down anything that's up. Twice he ate our new raspberry bush to the ground--can you imagine chewing all those brambles?

RO: In a national park, I love them. In my garden it's war. Squirrels, raccoons, deer and their smaller brethren - moles, voles and chipmunks. Walt Disney and Chuck Jones have done us a great disservice by making these critters appear cute. They're MONSTERS. I actually bought a slingshot a few years back - not that I ever connected with anything other than a tree trunk - but it made me feel good to be able to fight back in a non-chemical way.

I love the snakes though. They're cool and they eat or discourage some of the others. I keep an inflatable one in my garden for those days when the real ones don't show up.

HALLIE: So is your garden a peaceable kingdom or a war zone? Any great ideas on getting rid of squirrels, moles, and groundhogs? Recipes perhaps??


  1. We just moved to the Colorado mountains. We've always had squirrels (I think they're also required to be part of any college campus) where we lived in Florida, but here, they're black and BIG.

    Our little plot of land is all hills (and still frozen) but hubster has already started garden plans with an upside down tomato growing thingie, and yesterday he added potting soil and tomato plants to our 'vital necessities' purchases.

  2. Terry, isn't a garden the best thing? But what a change in climate from Florida to Colorado!

    Ro, I love the picture of you with the slingshot:). The critters would be gone before I even got the thing stretched out and aimed!

  3. When we lived on an island in Casco Bay (Maine) there were no squirrels. They couldn't swim that far and didn't figure out how to stow away on the ferry. Bliss!

    We moved to the mainland a couple of years ago and now have a yard full of squirrels so athletic they could qualify for the Olympic gymnastic team. Their primary work out involves climbing the poles from which we hang our bird feeders. And like yours, Hallie, they snack on the tulip blooms in the spring (and dig up and chew on newly-planted bulbs in the fall.)

    Those of you who have 'em in the attic have my sympathy.

    Brenda B.

  4. The squirrels I don't mind, but don't get my sister started on them--we had to warn her about the squirrel scene in Johnny Depp's Charlie & the Chocolate Factory!

    For me, it's the raccoons. They haven't been bad lately (knock on wood), but I've lived in two houses where they came in through the cat door, opened cupboards, made a mess, and stared at me like..."WHAT??!" when I dared stamp a foot & yell at them to get out. The day I came home & found a house guest going outside with a bag of stale bread to feed them, wasn't pretty.

  5. Living in CT, we have squirrels, raccoons, deer, fox, and coyotes to contend with. But my favourite was the skunk who must have followed my Golden in through the doggie door and decided to take up residence in the drawer of my stove.

    In case you ever need the info, I left a trail of mayonnaise smeared bread from the oven to an open door. Three hours later, the bread was licked clean and the skunk was gone. And thankfully without spraying anything. They also, apparently, like Twinkies and egg salad if you have either of those handy. LOL

  6. Squirrels in the attic? Now I'm worried. I do hear strange noises sometimes... and we do have lots of squirrels (headless tulips too).

  7. Oh, Shela, I hope not! Brenda... which Island? We love Peaks.

    Becky - we had a rabies epidemic here that decimated our raccoon population... but they're comin' back

    CT - Mayo on bread...Ha ha!! I wonder if it works w/squirrels.

  8. Oh ladies, I haven't been here in a few weeks and your conversations always have me in stitches.

    Here in Florida there are armadillos, stray cats and racoons in the backyard, not to mention the turtles that come out of the canal to dig holes for their eggs.

    My partner is a pantheist and won't let me hurt anything but I go nuts because we spend all day Sundays planting all these marvelous things to eat; spinach, collards, kale, onions, peppers, tomatos and now all these sweet animals are having a field day.

    I've been told moth balls will do the trick (until the first rain that is!)

  9. I'd like to see a vole, though. It reminds me of mysteries... WHy is that?

    OH,I just burst out laughing. Isn't the name of a character in Witness for the Prosecution: Leonard Vole?

  10. Great topic! Those attic squirrels can be bad. Where I live now (near the 'downtown' of a small town north of Boston), we have squirrels, but we also have four cats that go out during the day, and I think they keep the critters away from the tulips. At least so far! They also do a good job of keeping the vole population down, and usually the birds manage to escape, so we're all happy.

    And also happy to have NO woodchucks. What a scourge. When I was farming in a previous life, the heartbreak on market morning was huge when those perfect heads of lettuce had been razored down during the night. The heads I was going to cut and sell for a lot of money.