The battle is on again. Reconnaissance has become an hourly vigil, elaborate traps are lying in wait and shots have been fired. Unfortunately, the war is only becoming more intense.
One year ago this month, I wrote about my ongoing tribulations with the cutest but arguably most destructive garden pest in Indiana: the ground squirrel, also known as the chipmunk. I hate to “double dip” on column topics in such a short time frame but in the past week there has been no time to enjoy the outdoors because of an agile and exceptionally bold troublemaker.
As previously mentioned, we feed birds’ year-around. In fact, we have multiple feeders going constantly and our small backyard is quite literally a menagerie of songbirds. There are few moments during the day when we don’t see some type of interesting bird flitting about and our finch colony is becoming the talk of the neighborhood.
That is until the damnable ground squirrel shinnies up the fence, scares away the birds, leaps to a sunflower stalk then climbs hand-over-hand to the squirrel-proof feeder. The feeder is surrounded by a wire mesh that excludes larger animals but the ground squirrels fit through nicely.
Every few minutes, I look outside the kitchen window to see him greedily stuffing his cheek pouches until they are almost bursting with our expensive sunflower seeds. He then goes scurrying down the pole like a tiny, furry stripper before running to his burrow near our tool shed.
Apparently this fellow was the sole survivor of my eradication campaign last year. Without getting too specific to avoid running afoul of local ordinances, let’s just say that I used my training and skills to quietly terminate the group one-at-a-time, usually while blithely stuffing their gullet at my buffet.
All were shuffled off this mortal coil within a week except for one individual who thwarted my efforts and was the proverbial sole survivor.
That particular chipmunk proved both exceedingly wary and lucky. Whenever I opened the kitchen door, quietly, slowly and stealthily, he nonetheless instantly departed the premises using the feeder pole like a diminutive fireman headed out on a hot run. This year, he’s gotten even more alert and skittish, to the point that when my petite bride bellows “GROUND SQUIRREL!!” from our living room, his tiny ears somehow pickup the commotion and he flees for his life.
And, make no mistake: those are the odds of the game we are playing.
I really don’t have a problem with chipmunks “doing their thing” but this fellow manages to abscond with almost a pound of seed a day. Unfortunately, he’s not eating them or feeding his tiny rodent family but merely caching the seeds everywhere on our property. It’s becoming common to see tiny patches of sunflowers sprouting in our landscaping mulch and even flower pots.
I’m quickly coming to the end of my rope. So far, rodent poison blocks don’t seem to entice him, a series of rat traps have not drawn blood and he’s even learned to stay on the back side of the feeder while eating where BB’s can’t reach him.
Not that I have any idea how or by whom a BB would be launched in his direction.
Anyway, after several frustrating days of this game, it’s time to get serious. Falling back on my old SWAT sniper days, it’s time to dig some gear out of the storage and develop a mission plan.
At 0600 hours tomorrow, I will move to my area of operations and begin construction of a sniper hide. In this regard there are several field-expedient possibilities: float quietly in the hot tub with weapon stored in a waterproof satchel, lie quietly hidden on the greasy dirt behind the gas grill or possibly remove most of the soil out of my raised strawberry bed. That last option would be the most work but the raised timber sides would offer great concealment and even protection against incoming rounds, that is, assuming the chipmunk has access to small caliber weapons.
Once concealed in my emplacement, I will patiently glass the vicinity until the target appears. .
Actually, I might not need the binoculars since he’ll only be 20 feet away but old habits die hard and I’ve got some really nice binoculars. I will be prepared to endure thirst, hunger, heat and biting insects as this surveillance phase of the operation could take upwards of 15 minutes.
When the target finally enters the area, I hereby authorize myself with a “Green Light” and the encounter will be terminated as quickly as possible.
Then, I will throw my head back and laugh, cackling like somebody who probably needs to quit obsessing so much about a furry three-ounce thief.
But, at least, my precious seeds will finally be safe.
Until next year.