As ordained in the rituals of life, I passed part of the early spring doing futile battle with the encroaching squirrels. Most of them trespass into this area and my yard without even obtaining tourist visas, as all the trees here are quite young. The bird feeders are stationed up front, where we can stare out the windows, amused by our offended cat firing himself at the glass like an artillery shell as he notes invaders there. I’m waiting to see what our cat Güino will do if and when he breaks through the glass and finds himself face to face with a tree rodent. My guess is that he’ll shriek and hurl himself back inside the safety of the house.
As the hummingbirds and wild birds diminished, I removed the feeders. Given the jungle-like state of the properties behind me, I can feed and enjoy the wild birds as they amass along the dense brush there. One day it occurred to me that I might tempt the squirrels on their own turf. I started by dumping cereal, popcorn, bread, and any other food item I thought the squirrels might enjoy.
When I bought this house, the builders foolishly tried to avoid clearing the trees along the property line. I insisted and they begrudgingly removed them, leaving one wide stump jutting from the fence line. That stump serves as an accessible table for the wildlife. The cardinals and finches sometimes swarm from the brush by the dozens. It always delights me. Instead of using a feeder, I sometimes scatter an entire bag of bird seed in the area.
In the 3 years, I’ve lived here, I’ve used the narrow sliver of the backyard by the fenceline to throw any food that could potentially be eaten. Whether for the birds, squirrels, or Sasquatch, the consumer wasn’t my concern. We have a couple of cats of undetermined ownership who visit us and say “Hello,” too.
One larger squirrel, one mistrustful of even his own bushy tail, began jumping down in huge leaps to observe me as I hurled food at the fence. I put out a mess of popcorn and an entire stick of butter as an offering of peace. After a few minutes, I peered through the slats in the kitchen door and noted that the reluctant squirrel had propped the entire stick of butter at an angle – and was busy chewing it with gusto. I could almost hear him smack his lips. The squirrel’s name is now Splat Albert due to the fact of his size and in the event of a fall, it’s going to be a quick demonstration in mass and gravity as he plummets to the ground. While I can’t testify that Splat Albert single-handedly consumed the entire stick of butter, I believe he did.
Over the next few weeks, I began to leave more sticks of butter, followed by entire jars of nuts. The place on the stump seemed to be our DMZ. I learned that Splat loves grapes, watermelon pieces, broccoli and a huge variety of other foods. I think I found an equal opportunity eater.
It seems that Splat Albert has forgotten our previous Feeder Wars. One possibility is that the butter has clogged his tiny arteries already. Another is that he is enjoying his adventure as he does the “Before vs. After” conversion in reverse; instead of becoming sleeker and healthy, he has surrendered himself to the diet I’ve prescribed. If he continues to eat entire jars of nuts and butter at this rate, I may need to climb up the tree and place him on the upper perches where his nest resides.
For now, Splat Albert is once again happy, as I poured another jar of nuts for him today, followed by a stick of butter. If I open the door, he’ll excitedly chirp at me to come no closer.
There are those who will say, “You can’t feed squirrels THAT!” To be clear, I’m not feeding them anything, nor setting the table for them as they choose their own menu. I’ll admit I’ve had many laughs, watching the squirrels (and Splat in particular) slowly grow in girth. I’ve put away my pink Daisy BB gun, the one previously used to frighten the squirrels as they slithered up and down my bird feeders. Splat fails to see the butter as a weapon. Perhaps he knows that a domestic food supply and absence of a road will lengthen his lifespan considerably, even if he becomes too fat to enjoy it. Regardless, I’m letting Splat choose his own diet, one free of BBs.
The picture is of one of Splat’s neighborhood encroachers, a squirrel which squeals in terror if Splat jumps from the trees above. It’s a “Before” picture.
This is one of our feline visitors. You’ll note that Splat made a hasty exit from the stump. He’s hiding in the top of the bush, although it’s impossible to see him perched there, watching the cat.