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Squirrel Resistance

Dear Diane: I want to feed BIRDS, not squirrels! How can I get the squirrels to stop raiding my feeders?
                  — Sandy Joseph, Corona, California.

SquirrelSquirrels like to eat the same things that birds eat, and they'll do almost anything to get the food.

They can walk on wire, jump four feet straight up, leap 10 feet laterally, and climb anything.

Here are some ways to keep the squirrels from emptying your bird feeders. Any one or better yet any combination of these strategies might reserve the feeders for your birds.

1. Keep your feeders high — at least four feet off the ground and ten feet away from any house, tree trunk, car, scarecrow, feeder, or anything else that squirrels can take a flying leap from.

2. Use baffles on any poles that you hang your feeders from. This will sometimes, if not always, prevent squirrels from climbing up to the food. You can also hang feeders from a wire strung between trees or buildings. But be sure that feeders are at least 5 feet up and 10 feet from the ends, and put baffles on the wires to keep the squirrels from using them as roads. But do think about how you're going to reach them yourself to refill them.

The most successful baffle we've ever used is the Squirrel Stopper Pole, shown in the right column. This amazing piece of feeder equipment is the main reason that squirrels are not a problem at our feeders any more at Birdwatching Dot Com. I (Diane) LOVE my Squirrel Stopper!

3. Use squirrel-proof feeders. Not plastic. Not wood. Those are like carmel candies to squirrels. A squirrel-proof feeder is made of metal and has a device that shuts away the food when a squirrel tries to get at it. Some feeders that have weight-activated ports do a good job, including the Squirrel Buster Plus (our favorite).

EZ Fill Suet Feeder4. Caged feeders are often effective, such as the EZ Fill Suet Basket feeder. Such feeders will keep full-sized squirrels from reaching in and getting the food. However, chipmunks will go through the openings and feast happily inside.

FeederSome tubular feeders now come enclosed in a green wire mesh cage, like the Duncraft Squirrel-Blocker Selective feeder. Other feeders are metal boxes with a spring-weighted platform. When a heavy squirrel lands on the platform, a door closes over the feeding holes. Lighter birds can land and feed without the door closing.

5. Offer foods that squirrels don't like:

  • safflower - squirrels seldom eat it.
  • nyger - squirrels aren't interested
  • pure suet - with no seeds in it.

Squirrel6. We don't recommend capsaicin (hot peppers). A squirrel (or bird) who gets the burning substance in its eyes is in for some real suffering. If we go out of our way to attract wildlife, it seems a breach of hospitality to then inflict pain or injury on them them when they accept the invitation.

If all else fails, maybe we can learn to love squirrels too. They like the same things that birds do. So if squirrels are visiting your feeders, it must mean you have provided some good habitat. And that's a good thing in this human-centered world.

Squirrels are part of nature too. I think they're pretty interesting in their own right. But I do employ the measures above to give the birds a bigger share of the bounty.

© 2007-2009 Diane Porter

— Squirrels pictures © 1999-2007 Michael and Diane Porter


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