This is the year I have vowed to conquer the squirrels for two reasons. One, they decimate avocados. Two, they plant pecan trees all over my yard, even in plant pots, and one cannot just pull out the invaders. Those little paws are able to plant the nuts at least eight inches down so the sprouts have to be dug out.
Additionally, there is a third reason that is not personally pertinent to me. These tree rats dig holes in my friend Tony’s garden just for the fun of digging, thus disturbing his carrot seeds and tender transplants. Said garden is alongside my garage; I wasn’t using the space, having decided to leave veggies to the professionals at the farmers’ markets. So, he might as well enjoy soil under his fingernails.
If you are appalled at my appellation of these appealing animals as “rats,” please note that the family of Sciurdae, Kingdom of Animalia, belongs to the order of Rodentia. Case closed.
I and my neighborhood had no problem with squirrels until the City cut down 300 trees in Hillcrest Park. The scene of this massacre was the north slope above Lions Field. The purported purpose was to redirect water drainage to avoid damage to the artificial turf installed on the playing fields. Despite adverse health effects on young bodies playing on fake grass, the installation was justified by the allegation that it would save enough watering money to pay for itself in 15 years. Guess how long the fake stuff is guaranteed to last?*
First things the critters attacked were the almond trees in my front yard. They devoured the almonds before they had matured for humans. So, I did not ever harvest any almonds. One morning as I retrieved my newspaper, I spotted a furry foe in the crotch of the tree. I yelled at it. Or at least voiced a stern rebuke. The animal turned on me with a look of defiance if not outright aggression. Whoa! It appeared ready to leap at my throat, like that rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I backed away.
And took out the almond trees. No point in weeding, feeding, and watering to provide nosh for knaves.
Now the avocado tree. It looks to be a bumper crop this year. Last year, Rodentia devoted themselves to sampling the fruit, taking a few bites, then going on to another one, leaving beautiful avocados ugly on the ground. My neighbor said they even bring them to her magnolia tree to munch. She suggested I provide table service and napkins so they can eat here.
The lovely thing about avocados is that they do not ripen on the tree—at least, not ripe enough for human consumption. Hence, I could have a continuing supply of this excellent brain food, this essence of guacamole, for months. Were it not for the furry felonious feral fellows.
My first line of defense was the Internet. I bought two inflatable six-foot snakes alleged to repel the critters. Too soon to judge the effectiveness. No pecans nor avocados ripe enough for thieving yet, not until medium to late fall.
However, I discovered that the wee beasties have discovered my Surinam cherry tree, and despite the non-nativeness of the fruit, Rodentia likes ‘em. I came upon one with a cherry in its mouth, and I protested profusely. It leaped to the safety of the pecan tree, turned back toward me, glaring, sneering, with severe lashings of its tail. I retired from the field.
I checked with my 1991 Tiny Game Hunting, subtitled Environmentally Healthy Ways to Trap and Kill the Pests in Your House and Garden (Bantam Books). Mild-mannered suggestions. The authors, Hilary Dole Klein & Adrian M. Wenner seriously underestimate the leaping powers of squirrels. Nor do they have an avocado tree, especially not one with branches drooping near to the ground.
More from the Internet—solar powered electronic devices. Some comments dispute their effectiveness, while a neighbor with two very large trees testifies to her success with them. Also, I shall hie mineself to Ace Hardware for 20″ sheet metal to wrap the trunks of the double pecan tree and the avocado. The trunk is not their only access. They climb the neighbors’ Magnolia, leap to my roof, and scurry to the edge three feet from the tree. A modest flying leap, and it’s alligator pear heaven. (That’s what they were called upon arriving at the A&P in Fond du Lac in 19 ought 50-something.)
I wonder if I could get away with wrapping the telephone poles? That’s their main highway from the sheltering cedar forest of the historic 200 block of West Whiting to my place.
*You guessed it.
Certification: No animals were injured in the production of this article.
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