The world can be separated into two categories.
Those who enjoy watching and feeding squirrels and those who consider the little buggers pests.
On second thought, let me throw in a middle-ground section, because I could be swayed to category 1 if the squirrels would graze on seed from a bag that reads "Squirrel and Wildlife Food." Instead, they circumvent any system marketed as "squirrel proof" I've bought to separate them from seeds that come from the bag clearly marked "bird" seed.
Squirrels, it seems, can't read.
My love of all things feathered started at an early age, when I went bird watching with my Grandma Green, and blossomed to my backyard being certified a backyard habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
As such, I am not allowed to wish ill will toward squirrels. I've refrained from shelling out $100 for a Yankee Flipper, a bird feeder that spirals out of control when a squirrel crawls on it, flings the rodent across the backyard, and, with my luck, through the neighbors' window.
There is nothing in the rules, however, that says I can't try to make it difficult for them.
Purchase 1: Squirrel Be Gone feeder. A tension feeder activated when a squirrel's weight closes its access to the seed ports. My squirrels' weight, exacerbated, I'd imagine, by the tons of birdseed they've consumed, caused the springs to bust, thus opening all ports, enabling said squirrels to dine sans tension. Result: Returned to Wal-Mart.
Used refund to buy more birdseed.
Purchase 2: Opus Fortress feeder. This baby has a sort of cage surrounding the feeder to bar the critters from feasting. Mine consider the cage traction for their little squirrely feet. Result: Filled with aforementioned squirrel and wildlife feed, having accepted de-"feet."
Purchase 3: Stop a Squirrel feeder. Another tension feeder meant to close when the squirrel's weight hits it. In this case, the squirrel's weight didn't hit it. He (or, to be fair, she) hung upside down from the branch above the feeder and grazed without leaving fingerprints. Result: Cut majority of branches from said tree, left one holding feeder intact, creating a Charlie Brown Christmas tree effect.
Purchase 4: Outdoor Seasons Squirrel Baffler. A plastic contraption that hangs above the feeder, it's supposed to tilt and send the squirrel tumbling to the ground. Result: Did you read the part that described the thing as "plastic?" Do you know what a squirrel's teeth can do to plastic? The braniacs at this company made the hook the thing hangs from out of plastic. The squirrels, in fact, did tumble to the ground. As did the baffler and the feeder.
In addition to these store-bought remedies, there have been several homemade devices I've attempted to use to thwart the tree rats. Among them, PVC pipe, adding cayenne pepper to the seed (I swear, I heard a squirrel say "gracias") and my cocker spaniel, who takes off through the backyard upon hearing "Sophie, go get that squirrel." Harley, my chow, would only chase a squirrel if the squirrel was dressed as a cat or the squirrel was carrying a sirloin steak.
I finally thought I'd stumbled upon the end-all in my quest to baffle squirrels.
Purchase 5: The Mandarin Squirrel Baffler. This one is known as the Fort Knox of squirrel bafflers. Really. It actually says that on the label. It's another plastic contraption, this one with a metal hook, and it really does tilt in a way that sends the squirrels sailing to the ground.
So imagine my wonder when suddenly I was again going through a bag of birdseed a week. Could there really be that many more birds hearing my yard was certified, and as such, a good place to eat?
I watched out the window. In no time, I saw a squirrel crawling ever so cautiously across my backyard, looking, I can only guess, to survey the whereabouts of my attack cocker spaniel. He then commenced to jumping, as if his last name was Wallenda, from the tree trunk to the feeder, barely dodging the $25 baffler that now served only to shield him from the elements.
Result: I'm still thinking about it.
Judy Green is county editor of the Gwinnett Daily Post. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.