Squirrels Bring New Challenges

Squirrel WAT Oct 3012The weather signs indicate autumn is in the air as well as being on the calendar.  The mornings have cooled noticeably even though there are still some warm days to come.

The plants, animals and bugs know it, too. The oaks and hickories are full of nuts, the wildflowers are setting seed, and migratory birds are packing on the calories in preparation for the trip south.

Unfortunately, the change of seasons means new challenges for the homeowner and gardener.  The pests which operate 12 months of the year in Wakulla County are changing their tactics to meet the demands of their environment.

The grey squirrel is one of those potential pests. They have cutesy cartoonish public image, but the inclination and ability to commit costly destructive acts.

First it is important to understand squirrels are opportunist and will react to anything they view as a likely source of food.  It the wild squirrels survive primarily on nuts, seeds and berries.

Human inhabitation will offer squirrels a much wider menu from which to select and make it easier for these rodents prosper and reproduce. Bird feeders, pet food, fruit and vegetable are all easy picking.

Pecan trees are particularly attractive to a squirrel, and its extended family.  Hybrid trees with high yields and excellent quality nuts may be stripped clean when infested with hungry squirrels.

It can be especially frustrating for the homeowner or gardener when a squirrel samples a piece of fruit or cut a vegetable plant and leave it lying on the ground, wasted and unusable. They will also chew through tree and shrub barks which open the plants to the possibility of disease and, ultimately, death.

Squirrels have also been known to chew garden hoses and pvc irrigations pipes to satisfy their thirst. The results are again wasted and unusable resources.

Control can be attained, but planning and persistence are required.  Eradication is not possible, so the efforts must be continues and ongoing.

The least expensive and most effective strategy will be to remove the squirrel’s food sources.

Birdfeeders should be placed on poles away from roofs and with a squirrel shield.  If possible, use a pvc pole as squirrels cannot get a grip or climb more than a few feet.

Another technique is to use metal duct tubing open to the ground to cover the pole a few feet above the base.  The squirrel will shimmy up the pole and into the duct, but will retreat when discovering the top of the duct is blocked.

Live traps are available at area retailers and through catalogues, and can be baited with hickory nuts or pecans.  Check with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about regulations governing the relocation of wild animals.

Commercial squirrel repellant can be applies around the edges of a garden or landscape.  They may contain methyhonyl ketone crystals or fox urine crystals as the active ingredients. Both of these need to be renewed after a rain shower.

Squirrel shields which wrap the trunk can be used on pecan trees.  The shields will need to be adjusted annually to compensate for the tree’s growth.

To learn more about controlling squirrels in Wakulla County, contact the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Office at 850-926-3931.

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