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Must they kill the squirrels?

Mountain View residents and city officials are all in a dither about how to deal with aggressive fox squirrels.

Since the middle of last year, some visitors at the city’s Cuesta Park have supposedly been “attacked” and scratched or bitten by squirrels trying to get food. I’ve put “attacked” in quotes because “attacked” is a matter of interpretation when it comes to small rodents trying to get food that you may be holding.

When people go to a city park and start feeding squirrels, it doesn’t take long for the squirrels to start thinking that when they see anyone holding food, it must be for them. If anyone, especially small children, tries to keep food from the squirrels (cookies, candy, etc.), the squirrels may try to take it.

People can get scratched or occasionally nipped if this happens. They’re not necessarily being attacked. They just got in the way.

Initially, according to the newspaper stories, radio program transcripts and blogs I’ve read, the city planned to trap and kill the aggressive squirrels. But when the smoke had cleared, hundreds of Mountain View residents had signed petitions demanding that the city forget that plan.

As of Monday, as near as I can find out, the city still hadn’t made any official plans to kill the squirrels and was looking for a long-term and less violent way to deal with them. Meanwhile they’re asking people to stop feeding the squirrels.

Good solution: Stop feeding squirrels. Keep the garbage cans emptied. Be patient. Things gradually return to normal as squirrels revert to natural food.

Bad solution: Killing the squirrels. First of all, it’s not fair. They’ve just been doing what humans have taught them to do (take food from hands). Second, if you kill off those few resident squirrels who have been keeping other squirrels from moving in on their turf, the park is going to gradually be filled when lots more transient squirrels move in to take their place.

Will they be more aggressive than the present squirrel population? Maybe. Maybe not. Is it really worth having to find all that out by starting all over with a brand new squirrel population? Fox squirrels live in the Bay Area and they’re not going to go away.

Killing is a short-term solution and usually not a good one.

The city of Mountain View needs to come up with a long-term solution to this problem that works for everyone — squirrel lovers who don’t want the squirrels killed, people who don’t like being scratched or bitten, and of course, the squirrels.

(The above information is also being published in my daily newspaper column on Jan. 24.)

Posted on Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007
Under: fox squirrel | No Comments »

Go suck an orange

If you read my daily newspaper column in Contra Costa Newspapers, you know my readers and I have been having a little discussion about the merits of oranges and orange peel, and of course the smell of same, for keeping cats and squirrels (and other animals?) out of your yard. I got several e-mails suggesting grated orange peel was a good cat repellent. A lady tried sprinkling some around her Christmas tree last December to keep her cat from messing with the tree, and it worked. After I put that in my column, I got 10-12 more e-mails from people who had tried the stuff and thought it worked very well.

Then I got an e-mail from Lisa Windflower from somewhere.

Gary: Regarding the hint to repel squirrels using citrus peel — this is what the squirrels in my yard think of that. ("This" was a photograph of a fox squirrel sitting in a tree eating an orange. Unfortunately I had trouble downloading the photo or you’d be looking at it here. I’ll try to get Lisa to send me another. /Gary)

What you don’t see (in the photo) is the pile of empty orange peels below the oak tree where they eat their oranges. The squirrels eat the oranges, leaving half the peel intact. The rats hollow out the entire peel. /Lisa

So much for squirrels being repelled by oranges and peels. At least, Lisa Windflower’s squirrels.There are always exceptions to everything. Especially when animals are concerned.

OK, I’m hiding under my desk, now. You can start responding to this (click on "comments" below).

Posted on Monday, February 6th, 2006
Under: Animals, Cats, fox squirrel, Pets, Wildlife | 2 Comments »

A Fox Squirrel Moves Into the Neighborhood

After living in our formerly squirrel-free neighborhood for the last 10 years, a fox squirrel finally moved into our backyard about three months ago. He spent the first two months poking his nose into all the different backyards on our block, checking them out for nice trees to sleep in, non-aggressive dogs and cats, and good things to eat. Checking out the neighborhood, you might say. Since we all have wooden fences around our yards, the 2×4 fence tops provided easy pathways for those nimble feet to hop from yard, to yard, to yard, to yard, and back again.

At the end of the first two months, Squirrel finally picked out a yard to call his home. Our yard.

My wife, Lois, thinks it has something to do with the fact that she had grown a row of 14-foot tall sunflowers down the middle of her garden box. (A little bit taller and we could climb up and look for the giant!) I guess I couldn’t argue with that. Not after I looked out the window one morning, just in time to see Squirrel making a suicidal leap from the fence (a distance of about 5-feet) to the nearest giant sunflower blossom (16-inches in diameter!), so he could hang upside down from his back feet and munch fat, juicy sunflower seeds for an hour.

Now it’s winter. I cut down all the sunflowers since they were pretty much ravaged by Squirrel and the scrub jays. Squirrel now spies on the scrub jays to find out where they bury the peanuts my neighbor feeds them from a big blue bowl on her back deck. Then he digs them back up and buries "his" peanuts in a new spot. His spot. The scrub jays, of course, have also been spying on Squirrel, and dig their peanuts right back up and bury them again in another new spot. Their spot.

I going to have to wait and see how this all plays out. These peanuts may turn out to be the most-buried peanuts of all time. I’ll have to check and see if the Guinness Book of World Records has a "Most Buried Peanuts" category.

In the meantime, the scrub jays are sitting on top of the giant black metal ant on the picnic table on our back deck and glaring at me through the window. My cats, Tut and Newman, turn around and glare at me every time they look out the back window and see the squirrel hopping around the lawn. Nikki, our little green parrot, had an hysterical fit when she spotted Squirrel on the back deck railing the other day and then picked herself up off her cage bottom and glared at me when she finished.

The coming of Squirrel is obviously my fault. Go figure. Maybe I’ll get a can of peanuts and go sit out on the back deck in the rain and we can turn the finger pointing up another notch. On second thought, maybe I won’t. With my luck, Tut would probably run over and lock the back door so I can’t get back in and then sit in the window laughing and lashing his tail as he watches the water dripping off my beard.

You know, that gives me an idea.

Posted on Monday, December 19th, 2005
Under: Animals, fox squirrel, Wildlife, Yard | 1 Comment »