Being a hunter I like squirrels, especially in mid-august when the hunting season opens and I take to the woods with my grandfather’s beloved .22 rifle. That is one of my favorite ways to spend a late-summer day and pretty normal behavior from my vantage point.
What isn’t normal is spending hours using the kitchen window like a hunting blind, waiting for that flicker of movement that will bring a quick snap shot from the barely-open back door. Even worse is the wholly involuntary cackling that shatters the morning silence when projectile finds its mark.
But I can’t help it. You see, we have been invaded by squirrels and they are eating us out of house and home.
Both Honeybunches and I love to feed birds in our backyard. We have multiple feeders and enjoy the antics of the chickadees, cardinals, finches, woodpeckers and other birds that stop by on a regular basis to eat, exchange gossip among themselves and conduct all the other usual bird business.
Aside from keeping things clean and well-stocked, we use an expensive, high-quality feed. Experience has shown that a more expensive seed mix attracts “nicer” birds rather than just filthy starlings and dull sparrows. However, this presents a problem because I simply can’t afford to feed a growing pack of tree-dwelling rodents.
A few years ago in our little patch of suburban crabgrass, one squirrel arrived and somehow took up residence among the neighborhood cats and dogs. Occasionally he raided the bird feeders but it was tolerable.
Then his friend showed up and then another. Now we have three of the pesky critters making regular forays to our all-you-can-eat seed buffet and, adding insult to injury, also knock the feeders over and spill any remaining food.
The last straw came in September. I saw a squirrel sitting on the feeder as I got my morning coffee so I walked outside and expected him to run away. To my chagrin the red rat ignored me completely and sat quietly jamming MY expensive seeds into his mouth from our “squirrel-proof” feeder until I was within five steps. Finally, he looked up and then slowly sauntered off as if to say “Fine. I’ll come be back later.” With a snarky flip of his tail he climbed over the privacy fence and into a neighbor’s tree. I’d swear he was sneering.
I can understand squirrels being hungry but I can’t take insolence from a mammal so far down on the food chain. This was war.
Determined to teach the squirrels “a little discipline,” I borrowed a pump BB gun from a friend. I have a high-powered precision air rifle but Honey forbade any lethal enforcement of our property rights.
The next day one of the rodent raiders was back. Giving the rifle two pumps I eased the back door open and shot him squarely in the furry rump. The effect was highly enjoyable: he jumped straight into the air, executed a series of rolling twists and, with legs scrabbling madly, tried to gain traction in mid-flight until finally landing back on the ground. With a spray of discarded seed hulls, the squirrel disappeared.
Even my kind, sensitive bride laughed out loud
This was the morning routine for two months until the squirrels, probably due to the cold weather, grew surly and aggressive. One morning, after my usual “sunrise surprise,” the animal barely flinched. Shocked, I added another pump to the gun and smacked it again. This time he grudgingly climbed over the fence and clung to the other side of the protective boards, mocking me. It was the start of a new, darker phase of the conflict.
The attacks now come in waves and the squirrels have grown indifferent to even five pumps of the gun. After an audible “THWACK!” to the backside, the squirrels stroll away merely annoyed and return to feed often before I’ve even stirred my coffee. A few days ago I ran through an entire magazine full of BB’s and had to reload the gun, hands quivering in rage as tiny silver balls cascaded all over my office floor like steel tears.
Today I should be in the Christmas spirit, pushing my credit card to the limit and wassailing, whatever that is. Instead I am restless and brooding, eyes constantly darting outside as I watch relentlessly, hoping for a moment of carelessness on the part of my enemy.
At any opportunity I immediately jump up and grab my gun like a Minuteman defending Lexington from the Redcoats. I’d actually rather have a bunch of professional English soldiers stomping around my flower bed than those damnable rodent redcoats.
Sure, the British might try to reclaim our patio for the crown but at least they wouldn’t do it with their cheeks stuffed full of safflower seeds.