Backyard friends and foes

Posted 4/20/22

It’s amazing what we do to attract and repel animals.

Rats are on the top of the “get rid of them anyway you can” list, with skunks and raccoons not far behind. Squirrels are …

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Backyard friends and foes


It’s amazing what we do to attract and repel animals.

Rats are on the top of the “get rid of them anyway you can” list, with skunks and raccoons not far behind. Squirrels are also on the list although their reputation is a couple of notches up from rats and a step down from rabbits that fall into that yellow band between red as being detestable and green for being cute and basically harmless for nibbling on the lawn. But wait. Rabbits would be acceptable as long as they were content with grass. We won’t have any tulips this year. The rabbits chewed the shoots down to the ground, or at least we assume rabbits are the culprits. Carol blames the squirrels for beheading our daffodils. One wonders what may possess a squirrel to lop off a bud and leave it lying beside the plant. Maybe squirrels are not to blame, but such wanton destruction hardly seems to be a wild animal trait.

We humans assign causes to such behaviors. Carol figures the beheaded flowers are payback for giving the squirrels a tough time at the bird feeder. Perhaps the squirrels know Carol loves her flowers and that she would be upset to find them mowed down.

No question if the squirrels were smart, and when it comes to food I believe they are, they would know cardinals are on the top of the pecking order when it comes to wild birds. The persistent click-click of a cardinal’s call has Carol checking the feeder to ensure it has a stash of sunflower seeds. More often, she’ll take a handful of seeds and cast them off the back porch. The squirrels have learned the cardinal call – not that they have mastered it – but know if the cardinals are going to get something, they better show up, too. 

My son Jack decided to put an end to Carol’s torment of either denying food to a bird she loves or feeding a critter she would be happy never to see again.

When we adopted Ollie, a spotted coonhound, I imagined he’d be the guardian and give chase to rabbits and squirrels. But no, Ollie only kicks into hunter hound mode when he picks up the scent of a coon. Rabbits and squirrels pay no deed of Ollie and, in fact, Carol has even caught Ollie chewing sunflower seeds. Carol’s answer: Ollie is jealous of the cardinals.

Who’s to say that he’s not?

Jack’s solution arrived in a three-foot-long box from Amazon. It’s the latest in birdfeeders that honestly doesn’t look much different than the one we have, only longer. This one, however, is designed to spin off squirrels that venture to jump or climb on it. YouTube videos of it in action are hilarious says my daughter Diana who is ready to have me install it and send her footage. I have images of squirrels wobbling like drunks after being spun on the feed. Apparently the birds don’t get the carnival ride.

I doubt there’s such a mechanical devise to deter rabbits or deer from cleaning out the garden.

Ted, who lives on North Kingstown, has been waging his battles to save his garden. He’s tried chunks of Irish Spring soap and mothballs with little luck and turned to a foul smelling spray that he believes is a concoction using coyote urine. I leave to your imagination how you would get a coyote to piss in a bottle.

Ted said the odor is invasive and if he’s not careful he can track it into the house.

Yet one member of the family is excited when Ted takes up his battle with the deer. It’s Nash, his cuddly Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that loves people and spending time in their laps.

With the scent of the spray, Nash is like a cat with catnip. This is the equivalent of a canine Chanel V. Nash goes apoplectic, rolling on the ground as it he couldn’t get enough of it.

This brings me to the conclusion that Ted has found a way to bridge needs and desires between animals and humans. With the spray Ted has saved the tulips, Nash has found nirvana; deer have been reminded of the coyotes and the coyotes have found a new form of employment if, in fact, that’s how it works. 



Side up, editorial column


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