Do Pop-Tarts Grow on Trees?

No matter what the engineers do, the squirrels still manage to gnaw their way through the garbage bins in my alley.

The city keeps coming up with new garbage bins that thwart the squirrels’ previous strategy, but the squirrels just keep coming up with new and better ideas. They used to chew through the lid. So the engineers made the lid twice as thick. Now the squirrels enter from behind.

There is a lot at stake for the squirrels; I’m pretty sure they care more about getting what’s inside the bin than the designers care about keeping them out.

Incentives work.

Squirrels — like humans — are generalists who thrive in a wide range of environments because of their ability to adapt. What I witnessed this morning made me realize two things:

1) when you live in the Levitt backyard, there is a lot of adaptation required; and 2) not all squirrel adaptations are as productive as finding a way into the garbage bin.

Earlier today, I watched as a squirrel emerged from our garbage can with a Pop-Tart in his mouth. He carried it in his mouth across the yard into the garden, dug a hole, and buried it.

With any luck, he will forget where he left it and in a few years we will have more Pop-Tarts than we can eat growing in our garden.


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  1. Gil says:

    I don’t live in Squirrel-Central so – are Squirrels territorial? If so, then you could Adopt-A-Squirrel and maybe he’ll keep the other Squirrels away, maybe?

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  2. Griff says:

    Try rubbing chilli on areas where the squirrels will walk… works on birdfeeders (note: birds don’t feel the chilli effect). When they lick their paws = ouch. Deterrent, but not cruel.

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  3. U. Penn says:

    I’m looking forward to your talk this afternoon at UPenn. I hope the squirrel stories are abundant.

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  4. Isaac says:

    When I was a child, my family tried to keep the squirrels out of the bird feeder by greasing the pole with Crisco. We enjoyed an afternoon of watching the squirrels scramble halfway up the pole only to slide back down, but by the end of the day they could climb it despite the grease.

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  5. Silvanus says:

    Oh, the delight of squirrels and their antics are a subject of eternal delight to the urban zoologist. The rodents are fairly crafty problem solvers, as are raccooons. Perhaps it is their dexterous fingers and their propensity to hoard that makes people identify with them more readily than say, oppossums (the only North American Marsupial) or the armadillo (also known to carry syphilus).

    Still, did the squirrel get the poptarts from the trash or from your cupboard? Maybe the little buggers have found a way into your home?

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  6. Anna says:

    What I want to know is…why was a poptart in the garbage?

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  7. Nancy says:

    My squirrels buried Cheetos that the kids had spilled on the grass. I’m hoping for a Cheetos bush myself.

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  8. Sean Towey says:

    Why did you throw away a perfectly good pop-tart?

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