Squirrel apocolypse

alan haighJune 25, 2013

The squirrel population suffered severe die-out this winter as I posted earlier. On my own property I'm only getting a rare siting of a single squirrel when by now there are usually couples visible in the trees every morning.

Going about my rounds the situation seems to be the same in at least a 50 mile radius. I'm guessing this is a very good thing but am putting up my usual deterrents anyway. There are no acorns after two years of crop failure so I figure even a single squirrel may do a lot of damage, but this is new territory so I'm not sure what to expect.

Right now I'm very optimistic- great fruit set and no squirrels. What could go wrong?

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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

That's good news for us in MI too, as our squirrels have someplace to expand to. I have never seen so many....

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 7:35AM
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Squirrels used to pretty much forest the landscape. Its too bad most people think of them as tree rats.....

I have read lots of times on here people working hard to get rid of them. I thought I would be water concsious, and use rain barrels. Well I killed 3 of them at once, without even trying, and 2 at once a week later. Deep buckets of water seem to draw them like a forest of chestnuts....

To be fair, having 10 fruit trees that are young, I may be with you guys in a few years!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 8:23AM
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Don't speak too fast. That's usually the kiss of death. LOL

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 9:22AM
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They're breeding like flies here.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 10:19AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Yup, every year I publicly breathe a sigh of relief the herd shows up the next day. I was bragging about my great deer sprinkler system here, but a combination of malfunctions and misplacement of sprinklers gave me a mini-invasion of deer a month or so ago. I would say its all back under control, but I know that would jinx it :-)

The strongest sign here that the squirrels are down is the wild mulberry across the street is in full ripeness mode and I have thus far not seen a single squirrel in the tree. The problem I usually have is my first peaches ripen right after that mulberry stops, and the squirrels just hop on over.


    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 10:23AM
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Best squirrl medicine is lead...

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 10:41AM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

I had an apple just this morning that a squirrel was chewing on. The traps go out today. The gun needs to be cleaned. Squirrel kabobs anyone?

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 10:51AM
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I've had, so far, more problems with birds than with squirrels. They're pecking at my bagged apples now.

Isn't it odd that no one exults about catching the damn winged rats in the nets, as we do about nabbing squirrels.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 11:20AM
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Well, at least the birds do a service in insect control. But I've had a lot of bird damage to my apples this year; it seems like every apple has peck marks.

Squirrels make it next to impossible to grow apricots here. The fox squirrels are the issue, an imported species that lacks significant in-town predation and have supporters that feed them.

Sigh ...

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 12:30PM
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alan haigh

Early last fall a robust squirrel population was stripping every piece of fruit from forest trees, including dogwood berries before the birds could get there share. Fruit eating birds like catbirds are also scarce this year.

Chipmunks and coons are also way down.

Of course everything will rebound, but it will be interesting to see how long it takes.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 5:42PM
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Alas, what's down around here is the coyotes. They had our squirrel and rabbit population low a couple of years ago.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 8:49PM
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Mark - arent fox squirrels native to north america? (assuming thats where you are of course)

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 10:47PM
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Fox squirrels stay in wooded areas that border cropland type country. In my area, there is some cropland, but not much. More pastureland, and then miles and miles of lakes and forest.

I've been here 30 years and have never seen a fox squirrel within 50 miles of our place. Lots of grey squirrels and their black color variation. Also lots of the little red squirrels.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 7:30AM
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Canadianplant, they are native to North America, but not on this side of the continent (I'm in Montana) or so I understand.

Our native squirrel is the little red squirrel, which I've never seen in town. I had never seen the fox squirrel on this side of the Mississippi before about 1980; now they're everywhere. Used to hunt them in Arkansas as a kid.

My understanding is that the "fox" squirrel includes both gray and reddish colorings.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 8:32AM
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Well, at least you don't have a cow problem. One of my neighbors cows kept getting through the fence. She ate blackberry and raspberry plants, pear, plum and apple trees. Luckily, she didn't kill anything - just stripped the lower leaves from the trees and ate off the tops of the brambles. Still, I wasn't very happy.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 1:57PM
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Used to be, you could impound the cow until the owner paid the damages.

Can't do that with deer.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 3:41PM
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alan haigh

My brothers problem in Alaska is moose.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 5:51PM
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austransplant(MD 7)

Plenty of squirrels here in suburban Maryland outside Washington DC. I usually see two or three every morning. I've started netting my trees against the onslaught to come. Of course, in the suburbs people actually feed the squirrels!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 6:19PM
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megamav(5a - NY)

When you said "Squirrel apocolypse" I thought you were talking about my yard. My neighbor feeds the rats by hanging bird feeders next to their fence for them to swing and eat.

I have found something the lures them away from bird feeders onto my property to shoot. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds. They cannot resist these seeds. You can buy them in different sized bags at Lowes in the garden area. I store a 35 lbs bag in a 25 gallon steel garbage can in my shed to keep the mice out.

She lures them in, from afar and I continue to drop them like the fleshbags they are. .22 caliber Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100. The thud of the pellet is louder than the gun.

I dont call them squirrels anymore, I call them rodents.
Flithy, arrogant, mean, destructive, rodents.

Tallies since May 1st:

Gray: 20
Red: 2
Chipmunk: 27
Rabbit: 1

I wont be shooting anymore rabbits, I've enclosed all of my fruit tree trunks in hardware cloth.

Black Oil Sunflower Seeds and Lead is the answer, IMO.
I didnt believe it, but the first day following putting the seeds out, they were giving up bird feed for my platform feeder with these seeds. They cant eat it fast enough.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 12:13AM
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alan haigh

I'm curious if the squirrels will ever stop falling for it and adjust their behavior. If you could, drop me an e-mail at the end of the season to let me know if the squirrels kept coming until there were no squirrels in your neighborhood.

One year I eliminated squirrels on my property with lethal traps but the next year they mostly avoided them. Also the squirrels on my property used to let me shoot them with my shotgun- usually heading up trees when I came out with it where they were easy targets. They never run up trees anymore and are generally gone before I get outside with my rifle if they see any movement through a window.

However, when they are involved with eating, such as on a fruit-laden mulberry tree, I can catch them unawares.

Sometimes I think country squirrels are smarter than suburban squirrels.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 4:43AM
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I am sure that squirrels learn.. When I started last year I could walk up to 20' and shoot them. Now they can hear the door open. I don't shoot in my front yard because of the houses across the street and have several squirrels that hang around in front. None of them will go in the back yard.
I don't know if they learn, or if I just shot all of the stupid ones and all that are left are the smart ones.

Oh, yeah, my fathers day present from my family. RWS 350 "Diana". .22

This post was edited by daemon2525 on Thu, Jun 27, 13 at 9:06

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 9:05AM
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megamav(5a - NY)

I will keep you up to date.
As you can see in the picture, I am virtually rural.
A community within a forest.

The population has been thinned already, thats for certain.
Last year before my seasonal winter neighbor teamed up against them, there used to be 6-8 squirrels swarming around the immediate vicinity, now there is a 2-3 average. My neighbor shucks black walnuts all winter and "feeds the birds" with the left over hulls, while we snipe rodents all winter/spring. He has a .177, so while hes in town he handles the reds and I handle the grays. Before he left, during the winter he had 38 reds. I was around 45 grays. I reset my tally when he left first week in May.

Hes gone now, and so are the black walnut shells.
I tried hulled corn, and the birds love it, but the squirrels still stick to bird feed. I tried sweet feed for horses with molasses, that didnt work either.
I had to figure out a way to lure them over again, and I did some reading online on a hunting forum on "tried and true" methods to attract, and someone swore by Black Oil Sunflower seeds. I was skeptical, so I bought a 10 pound bag to start, after 5 days I was convinced. I dont know what it is about this particular seed, but its a magnet. They keep coming over. I went for the gusto and bought the big bag and a bin.

No lie, she has 7 feeders over the fence line, and they keep shuffling over to my side for my platform feeder.

Disclaimer: We both shoot them because we've had squirrels chew thru our siding and bunk up in our attic areas. We cant allow this to happen again, its a nightmare. Protecting the fruit trees is secondary, but also necessary IMO.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 9:13AM
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Noogy(6 sw mi)

Your dad could take out deer with that thing. I have a model 36 and it hammers anything with the hollow pt pellets. I'm surprised Mrs. G hasn't offered up her count for the year as she outguns us all! She could prolly take out 6 squirrels on the run in under 2 seconds with her Benelli autoloader! And harvestman, you need to step up in the firepower as you're having too much fun chasing their demise! hahaha

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 10:45AM
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What you really need is a way to increase and attract the hawk population. There a pair of red-tails that soar over my area regularly and a Cooper's hawk (at least one) in the small woodlot adjoining my orchard. We have a few squirrels that survive them but there are not a lot. I find tufts of remnant squirrel fur about my orchard area and along the woods edge regularly.

What I need now are some eagle-sized predators for the very large, fat groundhogs...

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 12:26PM
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alan haigh

Once you get the method down, woodchucks usually trap easy. If they won't go into the live trap you can always use the cruel foot clamp trap- but check it daily at least. If you find a burrow just get the trap as close as possible. They have trouble seeing, apparently, right when they get out of the hole.

As far as squirrels, I generally do a good enough job thinning the herd with my 20 gauge. Last year was the first time in many that they've much affected my over all harvest, but I was starting with slim pickings because of hard frost.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 4:52PM
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I have a "Southern Living Garden Problem Solver" book that says to put netting over the peach trees to keep squirrels from gettin the fruit. Now, that doesen't sound to me like it would work. I would think they would gnaw right through the netting, if they thought they could. Does anyone have any experence using netting? If so, I would like to hear if it works.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 8:23PM
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alan haigh

Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Probably depends how much they need to get in- they are certainly capable of gnawing though monofilament or woven netting. I've heard that texas squirrels can gnaw through chicken wire.

At the most difficult sites I've kept squirrels away with combining roofing coil cylinders stapled around the trunk combined with woven netting over the trees and tied tightly closed just above the coil..

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 9:09PM
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Every year I try to eliminate the population, every year I get down to two, within a few weeks of spring the population explodes. The count so far this year 14.
I have on one side two Black Walnuts and the other a Norway Maple that sets thousands of whirling seeds, talk about squirrel magnets. It's fun shooting them out of both trees with my 177, would like something bigger, but our Canadian regs won't allow it. Not without a bout of schooling and a license. Bummer.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 9:20PM
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I netted individual branches on an apricot and that did work, but it was clumsy to do and look at. Squirrels sure hated it, though- didn't figure out a way to shred it, which surprised me.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 7:42AM
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danzeb(7a long island)

Unfortunately when I netted an individual branch on my peach tree a squirrel chewed the branch until it fell to the ground and then bit into the peaches.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 9:06AM
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alan haigh

At major problem sites I've had them chew through nets even as some were strangled by the netting and hanging there. Surprised they didn't eat them if they were so hungry. Guess they don't eat larger stuff- only tiny birds.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 9:58AM
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My dog controls them. She despises any four footed small mammal that enters our yard. Considers it an insult.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 7:47PM
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