NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

April 30, 2014

Squirrel strategies

Tips, serious and not, for protecting birdfeeders

(Continued)

You also can try filling your feeder with safflower seeds, which are high in fat and protein.

“Many favorite backyard birds favor safflower seeds, but squirrels typically do not,” says John Schaust, chief naturalist for Wild Birds Unlimited.

The technical

These days, there are motion-activated outdoor cameras if you want to monitor your feeder, and even motion-activated sprinklers to douse offending squirrels.

“Squirrel-proof” birdfeeders abound. The best, according to Adler and other experts, are those that sit on a 5-foot pole and are covered with a plastic dome or “baffle” that’s hard for squirrels to cling to.

If you want to get even more high-tech, there are weight-activated feeders that actually cover up the feeding ports when a squirrel latches on.

“Squirrels are foiled, but not harmed in any way,” Schaust says.

While some particularly wily squirrels have been known to scratch up the pole and baffle enough to gain access, bird enthusiast Barbara Bergin of Austin, Texas, has a slippery solution: petroleum jelly.

She actually greases the pole her feeder hangs from with Vasoline every now and then, and says it works like a charm.

“As a bonus, it’s also fun to watch the squirrels slip off the hanger,” the 60-year-old orthopedic surgeon quipped.

The crazy

Adler devotes a chapter of his book to his own misadventures with squirrels, dating back to his bachelor days, when he first moved to Washington from New York. Wanting a pet in an apartment building that didn’t allow them, Adler invested in a birdfeeder.

“The next day, I got a squirrel, which was not part of the instructions,” he says.

He tried yelling, coated the bricks of his building with Teflon, squirted the squirrel with water, even rolled out some stainless-steel spikes.

Nothing worked.

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