For those of you who have been following my blog, you may remember me mentioning something about the squirrel challenges we’ve been having on our property. Especially in and around our fruit orchard. Yeah… squirrels like fruit. They like fruit, a lot.
I discovered their insatiable taste for fruit last year while sitting in my office . It was by pure chance that I happened to glance out the window at the exact same moment a squirrel decided to pluck a juicy sweet prize from my fig tree. I sat there in disbelief as I watched the nimble little desert squirrel meander up the trunk, hop over to a branch, then skirt along the top of the branch toward the tip where the fruit was. All this just outside my window. In a matter of seconds the sneaky critter plucked a nice big fat fig off my tree and with the fruit tightly clutched in its squirrelly little teeth, it scurried back down the tree to begin its nibbling feast. At that very moment I realized that we now two orchard nuisances on our hands. Birds and squirrels.
I created this graphic for an earlier post I did and
thought it was very appropriate to use again for this squirrelly little guy!
Early this harvest season, things were very quiet. A couple of small birds pecked at a few of our Flavor Delight Apriums, but no squirrels were in sight. Until mid-way through our Nectarine harvest when we noticed the tell-tale sign of squirrel activity… half eaten fruit on the ground. As the days went on, the number of half eaten fruit kept increasing so Hubby and I decided it was time to reenact our squirrel relocation program. So we pulled out the traps and readied the yummy bait for the squirrels arrival the next morning.
As you probably know, there are a couple of basic ways to eradicate a squirrel problem. One way is the kill method by the use of poisons and trigger traps. The other way is the catch and release method by use of live animal traps. Sure, you can avoid both methods and try to divert their attention by offering them yummy snacks somewhere else on your property, but there is no guarantee they’ll prefer your “offered” treats over your yummy delish fruit. I prefer the catch and release method myself. It’s more kind to the animal and lets them thrive… somewhere else :D Just because their fruit dining is unwelcome in my orchard, I see no reason to kill the little guys. Now, it would be a completely different story if I had an infestation of squirrels on my property of epic proportions, then there may be a real need for the kill method, especially if it threatens harm to my animals or to my family and myself. These cute little doe eyed critters can be carriers of some pretty nasty stuff such as plague bacteria (Yersinia pestis). They can also pass on lice :P
No matter what method is used, always take care to treat the animal in a gentle and respectful way. Planting delicious fruits and veggies will attract unwanted guests of the furry and winged kind, and as caretakers of our own little slice of Eden, it is our responsibility to watch over and care for all of God’s creation.
When setting up our live traps, we always like to use something tantalizing and delicious for the squirrels. Something that can fill their belly before the trip to their new home. Almond slices is our preferred bait food. Gets them every time.
Once a squirrel is captured, I like to give it a couple of pieces of cut-up fruit (whatever’s in season in our orchard) by slipping it between the holes in the cage. After I leave, the squirrel takes the fruit and eats it every time :) The fruit helps to give them moisture just in case they have to sit in the cage for a while before we can release them. We never let them sit in the cage more than a couple of hours.
One important thing I want to point out is that we always set up the traps underneath the shade of our fruit trees, usually the tree they are feasting on at the time. This helps to protect the captured squirrel from roasting in the sun which would lead to overheating and dehydration and ultimately, certain death.
After their capture and final meal from our orchard, we pack up the cage(s) and head out to their new home site… a large open space far from houses, buildings, and traffic. Somewhere with some vegetation so they can quickly find cover and start making a new home for themselves.Once we arrive at the selected site, we’ll carefully take the cage(s) out of the car and position the trap so that the door is facing toward their new destination. Then, with a quick pull of the lever and the trap door opened, it’s usually only seconds before the captured squirrel realizes its route to freedom and shoots out of the cage like a rocket happily hopping away to take cover. Now their fate will be decided upon by the natural processes of nature. Who knows, they may flourish and have a family of their own or succumb to the deadly talons of a hawk or owl. All I know is that I treated the squirrel as kindly as I could before sending it on its way and that there will be one less set of teeth to gnaw on my sweet and delicious fruit :DWe started putting out traps in early June and lost count as to how many little squirrels we’ve caught and released to date. Last count was about 19 squirrels. We even caught this guy in our trap one day…
What? You’re not a squirrel! When I went out to check on the traps to make certain they were in shade, I heard an unfamiliar sound coming from the trap underneath our fig tree. It was a small bird. This was definitely a first. It obviously had been hopping along the ground underneath the fig when it unexpectedly hopped into the trap. Ooops!
So where’s Pinny, our garden and orchard protector, during all this fun activity?
Well… she’s always the first to alert us that a squirrel has been captured. Upon letting her outside, the first order of business is to chase away any birds on her property (even birds flying over) then, she immediately checks each trap to see if a squirrel is inside. She’s such a good girl. She refrains from harassing the little guys too much and will usually stand pointing her nose at the trap for me to see, then she’ll lay down beside the trap to make sure the squirrel is behaving itself.
If no squirrels are in the traps, she’ll run over to the pile of rocks where she knows they like to hide in and will proceed to sniff around. When she’s finally certain no threat is present, she’ll grab her ball and lay underneath the shade of our Weeping Santa Rosa Plum (her favorite tree) and play quietly… waiting patiently for the furry and winged intruders to present themselves.
What’s pestering your garden or fruit trees this summer? I’d love to hear all about it. Just leave a comment below :)
Hope you have something awesome planned for this weekend!