Thursday, March 20, 2008

Look what they've done to our crocus! Scourge of the Gray Squirrels

Squirrel #2. This was a very nasty squirrel. Big, strong and vocal. Grunting, growling and really determined to break out of the trap. Even pooped in the car trunk in a show of contempt?

Squirrel #3. This was a big one. It was heavy and was very strong like #2 but did not vocalize at all. Note the Godzilla like stance.

Ok this is the last straw! Those dangnabit squirrels got on my last nerve by devastating a huge bed newly planted with hundreds of crocus bulbs and even digging and destroying well established beds everywhere in our yard. I didn't mind them eating almost 2/3 or more of the sunflower seeds we put out for the birds or burying acorns everywhere so I had to spend a lot of time clearing beds of newly sprouted oak trees but this wholesale destruction was too much.

We relished the idea of shooting them with an air gun or poisoning the tree rats but came to our senses and sought help on the web. Salvation came in the form of a trap. We immediately went out and purchased a Havahart squirrel trap at the local Ace Hardware store.

I set the trap under two sunflower feeders with peanut butter as bait. The squirrels totally ignored the trap and played on and around it. I even saw one run through the trap. I thought we might have bought too large a trap and the squirrels were too light to spring the trigger. And they stole the peanut butter cup to boot!

Despondent I was going to return the trap the next morning and exchange it for a smaller one. As I was going to pick up the trap I heard a scuttling sound and voila there was a squirrel caught in the trap! The trap wasn't baited because they had stolen the peanut butter cup the previous day but this squirrel must have run through the trap and somehow tripped the triggering mechanism. So this is squirrel number 1!

After taking the squirrel to the neighborhood park I set it again, this time taping the bait cup securely to the trigger plate. In about 15 minutes after I set the trap I was on my way back to the park with another squirrel. This time a much bigger one who was not happy being caught. It was hissing, growling, and flying around the cage. Even pooped in the car trunk to show its displeasure. But no other squirrels were caught the rest of the day. So we are now 2 down out of perhaps a dozen squirrels?'s our first catch. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, Squirrel #1

Note the picture of a squirrel prominently displayed on the label.

Here's the evidence of the destruction.


Blogger Carol said...

That's a crime what those squirrels did, an absolute crime.

I have a Havahart trap for rabbits but I have a terrible time actually getting them to go into the trap. Sometimes I think it is like trying to get rid of fruit flies. There are so many it is hard to make a difference by trapping a few.

Good luck with your continuing battle.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

3:45 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Carol thanks for the encouragement. We had either a raccoon or skunk visiting the trap last evening. The peanut butter cup was torn to bits even if the trap was closed. I was afraid another nocturnal critter might get caught so I purposely tripped it. Set the trap again this morning and caught #3. Only 9 more to go!

Squirrels seem to be so much more curious and active and seem to explore things much more than rabbits. I've noticed rabbits use trails so I wonder if you observe the rabbits' habits and placed the trap in the game trail you would be able to catch more? You have such a great vegetable garden it's a shame to have it decimated by the rabbits. I had the same trouble when I planted beans, peas and some greens. Because there were so many things that ate the vegetables, I don't plant a garden anymore. The deer, rabbits and groundhog were too much to try to keep out :( Thanks for your comment.

5:24 AM  
Blogger Entangled said...

Oh, that is so sad about the crocuses! Supposedly, the C. tommasinianus varieties are more squirrel-resistant than some of the others, but given the scope of the destruction I wonder if that would make much difference.

I hope you're successful in relocating the critters.

6:32 AM  
Blogger joey said...

Whoops ... sorry Ki, I know the feeling. I stopped planting crocus years ago since as soon as I walked in the house, the critters raced down from their viewing station atop towering trees and dug in. I've tried everything ... cayenne pepper works for awhile. Bird feeding encourages more visitors and I've stopped (enough natural garden goodies to dine on) since my yard harbored huge herds of fat raccoons, possum, skunks and colossal rabbits (still an issue). Destructive chipmunks and red squirrels drive my husband crazy ... Oh well, we do live in their house, don't we? Happy Spring ;)

7:19 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

I Entangled,
We've had crocuses ever since we moved here almost 7 years ago and were left some legacy ones too. This is the first year we've had trouble with the squirrels digging up the bulbs. I wonder what got into them? I let them go in a township park that has stands of beech, maples, locust and oak trees. The park is fairly large about 25 acres with a conservation area of many acres bordering the north section. I hope I'm not disturbing the eco-system by introducing these extra squirrels. There's an abundant supply of food along the nearby townhouse complex lined road lined with pin oaks so I don't think they'll be competing with the resident population for food. At least I hope so. Thanks for the comment.


Hi Joey,
Boy you have aggressive squirrels. At least ours waited until spring to dig up the crocuses. Your mention of living in their house reminds me of an incident many, many years ago. We rented a home which wasn't in the best of shape. A squirrel got in the attic through a broken ventilation slat. Every night we could hear a scratch, scratch, scratch right over our heads in the bedroom. Well finally the squirrel scratched so much I could see the ceiling moving where it was paper thin. I had to do something so I waited until morning when the squirrels left the attic to forage for food then I nailed a piece of hardware cloth over the ventilator. Unbeknownst to me the squirrel was a female and had kits in the attic. So it was either remove the wire mesh and have the whole family fall into our bedroom and house or leave it up and bear the mewling kits and mother frantically scratching to get in. We were quite poor and couldn't afford an exterminator who could rescue the kits, didn't have a tall enough ladder to get up there myself and the vent was rather small so I don't know if I would have even fit the opening. So we endured the scratching and mewing for several days. I guess my squirrel problem now is karma. Probably paying for my past sins :0

6:21 PM  
Blogger kate said...

This must be one of the few advantages to living here. There are only two neighbourhood squirrels - one operates across the front street while the other has free run on my side of the street. I think it's been chased by my dog a few too many times so it tends to leave my garden alone. It runs up one of the neighbour's trees and hops onto another tree and into my other neighbour's garden.

I hope your squirrel trap eventually acts as a deterrence to keep other squirrels out of your garden (but then, squirrels are pretty persistent creatures!)

10:00 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Kate,
When we first moved here there may have been a squirrel or two but I don't remember seeing any. We started feeding birds about 2 years after we moved in and now have about a dozen squirrels minus the three we've managed to capture. Be careful the two squirrels you see may turn into many in short order.

Our cat seems indifferent to the squirrels or maybe he's afraid of the mob. Our neighbors are afraid of our sharpei terrier mixed breed dog so we can't let her off the leash. So the squirrels have the run of the yard. Someone suggested a model owl from the sporting goods store but that would keep away the birds so we nixed that idea quickly. Just relocating the three we've managed to catch has had a calming effect already. So far the newest sprouting crocus have remained unmolested. Maybe we caught the rogue squirrels?

4:32 PM  
Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

Oh, ouch. Those pictures of the destruction were hard to look at. :(

2:51 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

And Ooo my aching back planting all those hundreds of crocus bulbs all for naught. I can't believe they dug up almost every single one. The ones pictured are from established beds and as you can see the damage was extensive. There are patches where crocus used to be that are barren now. As I mentioned we never had this problem before so I don't know what triggered the destruction. Our friend said the mild winter we had didn't freeze the ground to protect the bulbs. Could be?

5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't tried planting crocus yet, but I was planning to do so. I live on a busy street, but just behind the house is a park with 22 acres of oak trees. I have the only oak tree on the front street in my front yard. I've had lots of trouble with the squirrels eating my sunflowers, and tomatoes, apples, digging up new plants etc. I decided to collar the tree out front with a 24" wide piece of brown aluminum flashing so they won't be able to use the tree and power lines to travel from the park to my yard. So now every time I see a squirrel in the front yard, I chase him up the tree. He can't go any higher than six feet high because of the collar so he scoots round the back of the tree trunk. I pick up a stick and whack around the back a few times while we play ring around the rosie. This so terrorizes the squirrels that they finally break with their overwhelming instinct to escape upward, and run down under the fence and out into the street. I have not seen any more squirrels in my yard for a while, and haven't noticed any evidence of their damage. I'm also planning to put collars on the three telephone poles that border my lot to further reduce their aerial highway access and I hope this will do the trick.

12:25 PM  

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