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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of four. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Squirrel trials update #5

Last Monday we left for the bay area, but before leaving I stocked the owl box with sunflower seeds and made sure the camera trap was working.

Today I checked the camera to catch up.

After I put smooth plywood under the overhang the squirrels visited the box every day. They were stymied by these latest changes. They climbed about on the tree trunk and peered over the edge of the roof.

The deterrents didn't last long. On Tuesday, the first squirrel broke the sheet metal barrier. I regret not having a marked population of squirrels, and not recording the entry in movie mode. But somehow it reached the hole, and pulled itself in, as you can see for yourself.

The next day the same or another squirrel explored the box for 4 minutes and then made a left-handed side entry. Notice that the little bugger is gripping the upper edge of the roof with one hindfoot. The squirrel with the scratched nose did the same thing.

I am going to watch them for a few days to figure out their secret. Then it's back to the drawing board. Spring travel may force me to postpone further experiments until fall. The redhead just isn't very enthusiastic about watching squirrels and tending camera traps in my absense.


Anonymous said...

Much as I don't want squirrels in owl boxes, I can't help but admire them!!!
Hungry Owl Project

Owlman said...

These guys are incredible. You're going to have to record some video of them and post it for us to see! Honestly I doubt there is any design that will be totally squirrel proof.

Owlman said...

BTW, any activity in the owl boxes? I still have no activity so it looks like '08 will be a bust for me.

Anonymous said...

Could it be possible you are teaching B&E?

Is the meal more rewarding than the tin-covered box a prospective nest? Owl eggs would be the reward in the end product, and that is what you are intending to protect, right?

I am enjoying your experiment.

I tried cayenne in bird seed for a while. I learned that a few squirrels relish "hot" seeds.

Nothing like sunflower seeds to reward the effort.

In the end, the rodent is resilient and loves a challenge. They also have a lot of time on their hands.


Camera Trap Codger said...

"They are veddy veddy clever!" (if I may quote Babu).

Spot on! The sunflower seeds are a powerful attractant. These squirrels will eat peanut butter but turn up their noses to peanuts in the shells. BTW, sunflower seeds are the best bait for most rodents we encounter. There's a good paper in the Wildlife Society Bulletin on the use of hot chili as a wildlife repellent. Conclusion: it doesn't work. And yes, some species even relish it. If you are eating bitter alkaloids in bark, cambium, buds, and nuts all the time, chili just doesn't pack much of a wallop. Our own sensitivities ("oooh its hot, I'm on fire!") don't apply.

I would dearly like to get it all on video, but so far I am unable to upload video footage to blogger. It may this old Mac I am using, or maybe it's the old codger using it. (I won't give up, though.)

But if we can put a man on the moon, we can keep squirrels out of owl boxes. The problem is our budgets aren't as big as NASA's.

Owlman, I am about to put cams on the two new owl boxes. Will report back if I get anything (even squirrels). I checked last year's nest in the black oak today -- the male was not found roosting in his former haunt nearby. Sigh.