This just in…Craigslist founder will donate $1 to the National Wildlife Federation for every tweet about squirrels or on his Facebook page. Squirrels? I love squirrels (out in nature), too, so I can understand why he’d do such a thing. It makes me happy that others have an affinity for squirrels as much as I do (and someone who actually has money enough to donate it).
So this got me thinking about squirrels more. They come up often in my English classes. When I think the kids aren’t paying attention I’ll somehow insert the word “squirrel” into my lecture. ”The Victorian Era is known for serialized novels, celebration of childhood, imperialism, and squirrels.” This helps me figure out who’s listening or not. I’ve been doing it so often that now the students bring up squirrels before I get the chance. One of them even bought me a plush squirrel. We named it Chippy. Chippy is now the class mascot and is sometimes blamed when assignments are not turned in or corrected in time.
Squirrels in the Garden
But there’s more to squirrels than the absurdity that I like to bring to my classroom. I enjoy seeing squirrels out in nature doing their squirrelly thing in the forests, but they’re not so cute when they’re wreaking havoc in your garden. They may eat your fruits, vegetables, plastic irrigation lines, plant and tree roots, or they chew the bark off of trees. Ground squirrels will burrow in lawns, under houses, patios, etc., destroying lawns, creating uneven ground, and possibly causing expensive structural damage to buildings. Tree squirrels won’t burrow underground, but will cause damage in tree canopies and even eat the eggs out of birds’ nests.
Managing Squirrels in Your Yard
But aren’t squirrels cute? They’re so adorable when they’ve girdled your cedar tree or destroyed your drip lines. Yeah … so, uh, you’re probably wondering … how do you get rid of them? Mechanical methods are best, but not always fool proof. Exclusion and trapping can work. If the fruit tree is small enough, building a screen around it will keep the squirrels (and birds) out, but that’s not always a viable option. Screening over a vegetable garden can keep them out, too. I’ve also seen people hang CDs or mylar strips in trees as a means of scaring them away. I’m not sure how successful they are, though. Live trapping always sounds nice because of the romantic ideas of releasing the urban squirrel into the great rural fields where we think they all would rather be anyway, but that’s a bit too idealistic. In California, live trapping is very unsuccessful because it’s illegal to release trapped animals in a new area, so you’ll just have to release a trapped animal back into your yard (or the neighbor’s?) or euthanize them. If that’s the case then you might as well use death traps, or better yet, learn to live with a little squirrel damage (if it’s not too intense).
From my own experience, the most effective method of keeping squirrels out of your yard is by keeping your dog in your yard. Not only are the squirrels too scared to jump into your yard from the fence, but chasing them also gives your dog (or dogs) exercise.
And now off to tweet about squirrels to make some money for NWF…. (I better learn how to use Twitter stat!