My dad loved to feed the birds. He even made a special pole-mounted feeder to discourage the tree squirrels from eating all the bird seed. He also fed his squirrels to keep them away from the feeder. At least, that was the excuse he used. I suspect he really just had a soft spot for them.
When I lived on a farm, he would come down every year after the field corn was harvested and glean the missed ears from the field. He put them in boxes, and used the dried corn to feed His Squirrels all winter. Dad really knew how to glean corn, since he had grown up on a farm back in the days when corn harvesting wasn’t as efficient as it is today (think horses and mules). Gleaning every last bit of corn was important to maximize the harvest.
In this case, it meant food for his furry little friends. Dad had one squirrel who would even come up to the storm door and scratch on it, begging for food. I swear I am not making this up. I saw it with my own two eyes! He named it Scratchy.
I have a confession to make – I don’t share my dad’s love of squirrels, at least not the ones that raid our feeders and gardens. Our county extension educator refers to them as “rats with good PR”. In MG classes we heard horror stories of the damage squirrels can inflict on homes. And I have friends who finally gave up their urban vegetable gardens because they got tired of fighting the squirrels. They are particularly hard on tomatoes, often taking one bite out of an almost-ripe fruit and then leaving the rest of it to rot. One time I watched a squirrel with a big tomato in its mouth doing a balancing act on overhead utility wires. It wound up losing its grip and the tomato fell to the street below with a bit SPLAT.
So far I have not had problems with the squirrels eating veggies or fruit. They mostly help themselves to the bird feeders, though I did have one who kept digging up succulents I had planted in a shallow bowl. I have no idea what the attraction was there, since they didn’t eat the plants.
I doubt we’ll see the squirrels leave anytime soon. There’s no real shortage of them, for one thing. Plus we have one neighbor with a large pecan tree in the yard and another that feeds them corn. So at best I am fighting a battle of containment. I don’t want them to be complacent when they visit Happy Acres. They might decide to go after our tomatoes some day if they get too comfy here.
So every time I see them I do my best to shoo them off. I want them to think of me as a wild-eyed Mr McGregor, waving my arms and yelling at them. I don’t want to get on a first name basis with them. And yes, I know they do perform some valuable ecological services like dispersing seeds and nuts and such. Tell that to my pals with the missing tomatoes!