November 8, 2022
How do I keep squirrels from raiding my bird feeders? Nebraska has two species of tree squirrels — fox squirrels and gray squirrels — and both of them love to get into bird feeders and eat all of your seed. Preventing squirrels from getting to your feeders can be difficult, but there are a few effective deterrents that will help.
A baffle is one of the most common ways to prevent squirrels from getting to your feeder. Think of a baffle like an upside-down funnel (i.e., pointy end up) that you can attach above or below the feeder to prevent squirrels from getting to the feeder. The primary benefit of a baffle is it works on shepherd’s hooks or a wire for a hanging bird feeder.
If your feeder is on a shepherd’s hook or pole, be sure to place the baffle above 40 inches as most squirrels can jump about 36 inches from the ground, and you want to make sure they don’t jump past the baffle.
You can buy a squirrel baffle at most hardware stores, but I would recommend a metal one. I had a plastic baffle, and a persistent squirrel eventually chewed through the attachment point and now it’s useless.
Another way to prevent squirrels from getting to your feeders if they’re on a pole is to use petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) or another inert lubricant to make the pole too slick for the squirrels to climb up it. I’ve tried this on my feeders, and while it does work, you need to reapply the lubricant a couple times a week until the squirrels stop trying so much.
If you don’t want to keep greasing your bird feeder pole, you can place a PVC pipe over the pole. PVC pipe is smooth, and squirrels have a hard time getting enough of a grip on the pipe to climb up it. As a bonus, you can put petroleum jelly on the PVC pipe.
One final trick I’ve seen for keeping squirrels from climbing up a feeder pole is to attach a metal slinky (yes, the toy!) to the top of the pole and let the coils hang down toward the ground. The idea is that when the squirrels grab onto the slinky to climb up, it will just stretch down and they’ll never be able to climb up.
While I have seen this work, its effects are usually temporary, and the squirrels realize they can grip the pole under the slinky to make their way up. However, it’s really fun to watch them figure it out!
A completely different option is to keep your squirrels occupied with their own feeders. Squirrels love squash, corn, acorns and other nuts, so you can set up a couple of other feeders (preferably away from your bird feeders) and keep them filled.
Squirrels are really fun to watch, and keeping their bellies full will keep them off your bird feeders.
Dunn is a natural heritage zoologist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
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