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The squirrel watch was cute, but now it's war

Page 2 of 3 -- At this point, the so-called "suicide squirrels" whose bodies now line every Bay State roadway are simply youngsters who haven't lived long enough to acquire the squirrel wisdom of their elders, who have a healthy suspicion of streets and cross over them on telephone wires when possible. Most of the young'uns won't live long enough to catch on.

So maybe the squirrel population will thin out and we can plant tomatoes next year. But what about this year?

This is probably not the best year for planting the rodents' favorite bulbs, tulips and crocus, though there are precautions you can take. These include buying hardware cloth, chicken wire, or treated rocks to layer under and above bulbs when planting. Some gardeners soak bulbs in Deter or Ropel before planting, while others sprinkle the topsoil with cayenne pepper. Planting bulbs deeply will also help. Large tulip bulbs actually perform better when planted down to 18 inches deep. Rodents generally find snowdrops, daffodils, leucojum, fall-blooming crocuses (colchicums and sternbergias), squills, chinodoxias, camassia, fritillaria, hyacinths, grape hyacinths, and alliums unappetizing.

Population pressure promises to spur squirrels to new heights of ingenuity at the backyard bird-feeding station. So this may be the year to invest in one of the many squirrel-resistant feeders. The shop at the Massachusetts Audubon Society headquarters at Drumlin Farm, 208 South Great Road (Route 117), Lincoln, sells several kinds, though none are guaranteed. The motorized $115.50 Droll Yankee Flipper spins when a squirrel gets on board. The Droll Yankee Tipper, Whipper, and Dipper ($84-$114) are all designed with collapsible perches or trays. Baffles come in several models, starting at $15.95 (781-259-2210, audubonshop@massaudubon.org). The secret to these, says "Hand-feeding Backyard Birds" author Hugh Wiburg of Wilmington, is to place one immediately above a hanging feeder and a second baffle at least 15 inches above that. The feeder should be at least 4 1/2 feet above the ground and 10 feet from tree trunks and other jumping-off points.

Live trapping makes sense if you are trying to move squirrels or chipmunks who have taken up residence in your house. But first you have to find and block their entryways. When squirrels invaded her eaves, Benjamin found that stuffing the openings with rags soaked with ammonia or bleach worked. "They definitely went away and we were able to patch the holes." Many frustrated gardeners capture outdoor squirrels in live traps, stick them in the trunk of their car and take them for a one-way ride, either to the local pond for a last swim, which is legal, or, more often, to another neighborhood, which is not. Since this seems to make no dent in the squirrel population, scofflaw gardeners often spray a burst of paint on their captive's bushy tail to reassure themselves that the same squirrels aren't finding their way back home. They don't have to. Others move in immediately.   Continued...

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