Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Ohhh, those squirrels!

I have a love/hate relationship with the squirrels in my garden. I should perhaps say ‘squirrel’, because I have only ever seen ONE squirrel at the time, and I don’t know if it is the same squirrel that I see every time, or if there is a whole colony of squirrels queuing up to come into my garden and make havoc, but squirrels can live for 20 years so you never know, might be just the same one that visits me.

I always had this image of squirrels just eating nuts. Well, ‘my’ squirrel eats just about anything! The latest craze on the menu is the new shoots on my rosebushes, he breaks off the shoots, eats the inner parts and throw the shoot on the ground. If he continues like this I won’t have any roses this year. In a desperate bid to save my roses I have resorted to do something I never thought I would do, I have given the squirrel a peace offering, to try to make him leave my roses so they can grow up to produce beautiful flowers. I have offered him one of the bird feeding stations, complete with a mix of first class bird food and sunflower seeds – daily topped up.

The station is shaped like a bird house and I moved it down right in front of the roses so he would come to the bird feed BEFORE getting to the roses, hoping it would work. Below is a short movie of day 2 of the experiment. Halfway in the movie you will see me jump closer, much closer, that’s when the squirrel is heading for my roses because it is too complicated to get into the bird feeder. Despite standing just feet away from the squirrel he isn’t scared of me at all.

My videos are filmed in HD, if you have a good download speed you can watch these in 720p and if you click the ‘Full Screen' button in the bottom right corner you will see the details much better (but only do so in HD).





It is amazing how the squirrel can manage to do intricate acrobatics to get what they want, but today I have secured the feeding station so it will be a bit easier to climb in to for the squirrel. Hopefully that will make it less interesting to go for my roses!

And after a day of lots of climbing and jumping around it is great to go for a lovely swim in new, fresh compost. Watch those poor, just planted fuchsia cuttings of mine getting a real beating – amazingly they survived all that!





I do enjoy watching the squirrels in my garden but boy do they make a lot of damage! And my cat is of no use, he can’t be bothered to chase them anymore and is more than happy to let them jump around in the garden while he has a snooze on the bench. Not much of a help! Apart from laying a glass roof on the whole of my garden, does anyone have any good tips for keeping them out of the garden – without alienating my cat in the process ?
Until next time, take care.

42 comments:

  1. I always want them to visit my garden. They always look so cute. But now I think different. Your garden must be a paradise to them.
    Have a wonderful day Helene.

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    1. Squirrels eat just about anything so this winter they have helped themselves to most of my crocus bulbs. Now that the new shoots are sprouting everywhere I guess it is like a paradise for them yes. I would have preferred it if they kept out of my garden!
      Hope you have a great day too :-)

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  2. Loved that second video - what on earth was he up to? Loved the music that accompanied it too - made me chuckle. I have no tips for you as we don't have a problem with them - you have to admit thought they are fun to watch. Shame about the roses though - have you thought about a shot gun! Only joking.

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    1. I don’t really know what he was up to in the second video, but it looks like he enjoyed it! I have considered a shotgun, yes – but only for a few seconds. I live in East London, if I fire a shotgun in my back garden I would have the firearms unit out before I could count to ten, and London's Metropolitan Police Air Support Unit has their base just a few miles from my house and would probably be here in minutes, hovering over my house. That could be rather embarrassing - over a squirrel!

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  3. Sorry Helene, I know I shouldn't but I did have a giggle at his antics.. especially 'swimming' in the compost...and then looking straight at you and the camera with his face all dirty..lol.. sorry I'll stop now, I do hope your fuchsia cuttings survive and he continues to eat out of his little house and not eat your plants.

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    1. I have secured the house a bit better so I hope he will prefer the lovely bird food rather than my roses! He often looks straight at me, he is not afraid of me at all – I often wonder if he understands that I won’t harm him?

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  4. Sometime I find squirell plays on the banana tree then jump on to other fruit trees in my next door garden. I have never find it on my garden, but they throw their food remains in to my garden.

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    1. Squirrels feed on nuts, acorns, bark, shoots and leaves, seeds, roots, bulbs and cereals. They can also eat variety of fruits and vegetables including broccoli, carrots, apples, grapes, dried fruit and bananas. They have also been known to eat insects at the very last resort. They tend to eat very protein and carbohydrate rich foods. I often find peanut shells in my garden, as the squirrels have been fed by other people and come to my garden to store them.

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  5. Lovely videos. I'm amazed the fuchsias survived. I wonder if he/she had buried nuts in that container in the past and was searching for them. Or he/she could be looking for tasty bulbs.

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    1. There has been numerous nuts and other things buried in the containers in my front garden in the past, but not for a long time. I have used white gravel and liner to prevent the squirrels to dig in the containers the last 3-4 years, but decided to not continue doing it. The result was quick, seems this squirrel was happy with my decision!

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  6. Haha... love those videos. You are really an animal friend... like me :o). You know, there are special feeding stations for squirrels available. I've got such a thing. Last winter it was visited frequently but this year we saw the squirrels only on a few days. Hope they will return soon.
    Have a great day
    Alex

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    1. I don’t think I will get a feeding station for the squirrel, that would be going too far, ideally I would like the squirrels to keep to my neighbour’s gardens and not be in mine! They do too much damage in my garden but I suppose my neighbours’ gardens are not as interesting to them.
      Hope you have a great day too.

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  7. I have a squirrel that does the same in a large pot housing a rose. They have been doing quite a bit of fur scratching too... I wonder if it is a dust bath to try and get rid of fleas? Whatever, it's a bloomin' pain!

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    1. You might be right, I can see the squirrel scratching a lot so it might have flees, although I can’t see swimming in compost having any positive effect on flees but maybe the squirrel don’t know that?

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  8. Could you use plant swap to get hold of a load of nut trees and generously offer them as presents to your neighbours?

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    1. I possibly could - but thinking of that, where would the squirrels go to bury the lovely nuts they would find in my neighbours’ trees? Yep, I would suspect they would choose a garden like mine!

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  9. Fortunately we have no them in our garden at all, only in the woods and some parks. They are quite naughty, I understand you Helene. Might you use the net in your garden, not glass roof The net that is used against the birds eating strawberries.

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    1. Hi Nadezda, I know what you mean by nets, I don’t think it will work, as I would have to wrap almost everything in my garden then! At the moment the squirrels are not happy with just eating the shoots of my roses, they are also on my camellia and hydrangea and many other plants – I think it would be impossible to wrap up everything. Besides, squirrels are very clever! Much more clever than birds, I am sure they would find a way to just reach in and pick out the shoots.

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  10. How I sympathise Helene, introduced from America by the Victorians they have not only overrun the far cuter native red squirrel they also carry a virus which kills it. They are vermin but some people trap them and then unfortunately, thinking they are being kind, release them elsewhere which is illegal. A friend of mine trapped and disposed of over 60 one year just in his back garden the problem being that the population is so great that as soon as a territory is freed up, another animal will move in. I am surrounded by trees and have a female and three youngsters at present but do not have much of a problem. I went to war a few years ago, my bird feeders I either bought as squirrel proof or adapted, and it would seem that once they realised there was no easy food to be had the level of activity in the garden fell away. A well aimed pint pot full of water has also played its part in the early stages of the hostilities, but remember to keep hold of the pot! I also know of someone who has a high pressure toy water gun with which she keeps both squirrels and wayward cats at bay.

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    1. I am aware of the history behind the decline of the red squirrel, and that’s partly why I don’t exactly jump up and down in joy about having them here. Mind you, before I moved to London 15 years ago I had never seen a grey squirrel, we don’t have them in Norway!
      The problem with patrolling the garden with my garden hose or something similar is that I need to be there from dawn to dusk – not very likely….

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  11. Squirrels! They are the bane of my life. They are incredibly destructive and quite fearless. I have one who comes and curses me through the window when the bird feeder is empty. I don't know why I call it a bird feeder; the birds don't really get a look in. I had no idea that they live for 20 years what an awful thought.

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    1. I am also surprised by how fearless they are, even standing very close they don’t seem that scared. Squirrels can live to up to 20 years in captivity, but apparently the average life in the wild is closer to 12 years – still, rather old compared to many other wild animals.

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  12. Oh I have to laugh at those / that pesky squirrel /s. I shouldn't I know, but you can't help but admire their cheek!
    My mother-in-law is almost 90 & has resorted to a catapault after chilli powder everywhere failed. I think your only hope will be to hire a permanent guard. :-)

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    1. I do laugh too – at times, except when I come out and find another plant uprooted or chewed to pieces! A permanent guard sounds great, I had hoped my cat would fill that post but he has never taken any interest in guarding anything. And now, at the age of 12 he much rather have a snooze in the sunshine or inside in front of the radiator.

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  13. Oh no! I do love squirrels but this one is a very brave monkey! We have them in our garden, but as soon as we step outside the house, they escape. Although I would be getting very frustrated if they were eating what they not supposed to.

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    1. They seem to eat just about anything and I can’t tell you how many crocus bulbs I have lost the last 2-3 winters, not to mention all the seedlings they have uprooted and thrown out in their quest for digging in my flowerbeds and containers.

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  14. Yup - I feel exactly the same way, Helene: Love/Hate. I don't mind seeing squirrels around but they do eat everything and damage potted plants. I loved the music had going with each video, though!

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    1. Thanks Astrid, the music was kindly ‘donated’ by a couple of websites :-)

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  15. Hi Helene, squirrels are a bit of a problem in my garden as well (and I definitely have more than one!), although they haven't gone so far as to eat my roses yet (they let the bunnies do that). The problem I have is that they dig holes everywhere, burying their nuts, and they do especially seem to like digging holes in pots. They often disturb plantings and can dig up or harm young plants and bulbs. I have not had the energy to fight them yet, but I have heard that you can lay some chicken wire just under the soil of a key spot. The wire makes it uncomfortable for them to dig there, but should allow the plants to grow through unharmed.

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    1. As far as wildlife goes, bunnies haven’t entered inner London yet! I say yet, as I don’t think anyone thought 50 years ago that foxes would be such a problem as it is today in London – perhaps we get rabbits here too in the future, challenging us every time we move outside the front door!
      Yes, the squirrels here also come with their food and bury it, just to dig it up again a few days later. In my garden it is impossible to use chicken wire as I am planting rather densely, put I have used gravel and liner in the pots in my front garden and that has helped. It is a pain every time I am changing the plants though!

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  16. Oh, my, what a naughty squirrel! I usually have problems with my squirrels and bird feeders, but they don't usually bother my plants. Have you tried spraying the roses with something with spicy pepper in it? I usually spray my beds with a rotten egg/spicy pepper mixture after I plant bulbs so that the squirrels don't dig them up, and that usually works. Maybe if you just sprayed the roses, it wouldn't bother the cat?

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    1. I haven’t tried spraying the roses, since it has rained just about every day since the roses started sprouting my thought has been that whatever I spray with would probably have to be applied daily to work….I am also reluctant to spray with something I know will irritate my cat’s nose, as my garden is tiny and he will of course smell any pepper or chilli I put on top of the fence if he is right under it. Not sure how much it will bother him though.

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  17. I so enjoyed your video, Helene! Squirrels seem set on uprooting whatever is in their path, and the video shows how destructive they can be. I think I mentioned the chicken wire fencing. Another thing that has worked for me and that I'll use again this summer is lava rocks. The only problem with them is that you have to scoop them out if you want to re-pot or change things around. But they do discourage the little diggers. Great video!

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    1. Thanks Beth, I must admit I have never seen the behaviour of the squirrel swimming around in my front garden, that was a first for me! But usually they come to dig, uproot, eat and mess about. I have tried gravel and liner on my front garden window boxes, and it helps, it is just such a pain twice a year when I change the plants there!

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  18. Helene, I'm sorry to hear about your love/hate relationship with the squirrels! I think they may have won this round ... LOL. Mine do come to the feeder and eat the seed on the ground, but they are not able to climb up it. I tend to blame the bunnies for eating some of my plants, but now I must rethink that. Hmmm ... maybe my squirrels aren't too friendly either!

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    1. I can’t blame any bunnies in my garden, as I haven’t got any – and I have never seen any badgers either so I have rats, mice, squirrels and foxes plus the local cat population, including my own – and a variety of birds. The foxes are by far the most destructive ones when they start digging tunnels, but I haven’t had any foxes in my garden for a few years now so I am left with squirrels as number two on the list of destructive visitors!

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  19. Your squirrel is quite the entertainer! I've never seen one roll around in soil like yours did. It reminds me of my dogs who as soon as they are clean go rolling around in something stinky. How often are you having to fill your feeder for Mr. Squirrel? I have one that I allow squirrels to feed from and they have even managed to chew the metal to make the access hole bigger! One year, they ate all the rhizomes off my rabbits foot fern and left the fronds on the ground. They are crazy! I hope you have managed to save your roses!

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    1. I have never seen that behaviour in any squirrel either! I have been checking the ‘Squirrel feeder’ daily and topping it up almost every day since I discovered it had started eating on my roses, but I have a suspicion there is more than one squirrel, I doubt one squirrel can eat all the feed I put there almost every day. I will continue until the roses are properly out and then move the bird feeder a bit further back and reduce the feeding. Not sure what the squirrels will put on their menu next!

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  20. I feel the same as you...love/hate relationship. I smile watching their intelligent antics, but frown when I see them raiding the bird food. This winter I actually fed them by throwing some seeds and peanuts in the woods....to keep them away from the bird feeders. It helped, but it did not keep them entirely away. :)

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    1. The squirrels around here seem to invent new behaviours and put new things on the menu all the time – it’s hard to keep up! I have even seen them on my roof, chasing the wood pigeons living there, and they bring all sorts of food to my garden to store for later, not just nuts and seeds. I have found half-eaten sandwiches, hardboiled eggs and pieces of vegetables obviously coming from a salad bowl. I must admit I have mixed feelings when I find half eaten, hardboiled eggs in my flower pots and large pieces of cucumber in my window baskets, in January – but usually it makes me smile as long as none of my plants are harmed :-)

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  21. We have a lot of squirrels and they rarely damage the garden. I have a big platform feeder and they stick their big furry butts right in the feeder and chomp away. It doesn't bother me. By letting them eat chunky peanut and sunflower seeds, they leave my garden alone. I don't mind feeding them and several other feeders available for the birds.

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    1. I wish the squirrels in my garden was just as easy with their diet, seems they want as varied as they can get! And even if the bird seeds are readily available, they still munch on my roses. This is the first year I have had this problem so I hope they move on to something new soon – the new growth closest to the edge of the fence has completely vanished!

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