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.


Roger Binns

@17 - People do experiment with squirrels. This is a TV advert that ran in Britain and was a real obstacle course the squirrels figured out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06S24aOqd6Q

Carl Bunch

From now on, either:
a) force your kid to finish his food ("You're not going out to play until you finish your food, I don't care if you sit there all day")

or

b) finish whatever the kid doesn't want ("You don't want the second pop-tart ? Here, give it to me, I'll finish it, I love Pop-Tarts")

or

c) give it to the dog (unless its chocolate).

either way, a real man makes sure food doesn't get wasted. Start setting a good example.

Ryan

We don't have a problem with squirrels here (we have bears instead - we use garbage cans where the top twists on and little metal things to twist it open with but the bears can't fit their paws in). My solution would be to poison the garbage. Maybe that's a bit too cruel, though.

LL

As a designer, my creative urge is piqued.
Anyone who is as bloody-minded as myself might try the following:
* A moat around the bin
* A circle of cacti
* Noise-making surfaces: foil, squeaky toys
* A plastic wall which curls outward
* A series of fiendish traps and tricks, each more devilish than the last

Michael Vanderdonk

OThe first thing that comes to my mind is you could use it for psychological experimentation. Instead of caged rats running a maze, use wild squirrels. You might come up with some interesting statistics about humans... ;-)

But longer term, instead of giving them a more complex puzzle to solve, why not use thier own instincts against them?

Bring over a friends big dog and have him 'mark' your back yard. Or better yet, go to the zoo and get some real predator scent from the lions and tigers. What else hunts squirrels in your area? How could you convince the squirrels that they were being hunted?

Carl Bunch

@26 - mcg (if those, in fact, are your real initials);

No, I'm not joking, and yes I'm probably 40-50 years behind the times, back to a time when we weren't a nation of fat lazy pigs and food was not wasted.

Don't blame me for the fact that parenting is mostly about forcing (or convincing) someone to do what they don't want to do, and if it takes a guilt trip to start people (of any age) to be socially responsible about food, then so be it.

Sam

There is only one real way to deal with the squirrel over-population issue.

They make wonderful stew. Since discharging a firearm is likely frowned upon in your backyard, perhaps a good slingshot?

Be sure to check and make sure they're okay to eat, first, and remember that the fat ones in fall generally taste the best.

mcg

@20 -- you must be joking. Or maybe you're just 30 years behind the times. The clean plate club died a LONG time ago. I'm all for reducing waste, but you do that by starting out with smaller portions, not forcing someone to suppress their appetite control to satisfy your little guilt trip about wasted food.

DJH

In my experience #15 (Nascar Wife) has it ... metal cans. Not only can squirrels not gnaw through them, I've found that if they climb on top of them and walk around, the wobbling of walking on the lids and the noise of metal-on-metal unnerves them and they run off.

But then, I suppose if they persisted, they might adapt (by not being spooked) and come up with some way in.

jesse

This might just be the greatest squirrel deterrent ever:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydLiasdJeoo
Think someone could come up with a way to adapt it for a trashcan? :-)

Gil

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?

Pat

Two suggestions:

1. Get a garbage disposal and use it to dispose of your food waste instead of putting it in your trash. My trash consists almost entirely of paper and plastic, and the squirrels never mess with it.

2. Set up a squirrel feeder in your yard. If the squirrels have an alternative source of food, they won't bother with your trash bin. Yes, this is a form of appeasement, but you are fighting a war you can't win. Besides, squirrel-watching is inexpensive entertainment even if you have to buy them lunch.

Anna

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

Nancy

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

Vincent

Woke up this morning to a yard full off little holes. Seems the squirrel forgot where he buried his treasure.

When my wife and I lived in apartment, we grew some herbs on our balcony. The little buggers managed to notice our flower pots and climbed up five stories to bury their goodies in our pots. At one point, they began to peak into our apartment through the sliding glass doors.

They sure are industrious and determined.

Silvanus

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?

NASCAR Wife

Have you tried keeping your trash in metal cans with tight fitting lids until trash day. I doubt the little buggers' teeth can chew through steel.

Isaac

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.

Grant

I saw a squirrel burying what looked like a pork chop bone on campus (after gnawing on it for a while). Maybe we'll have pigs growing on trees at the University of Maryland? Or just the chops?

Jenna

There's a popular knit blogger with an ongoing saga with a squirrel stealing her drying fleece, one such incident documented here:
http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/archives/2007/06/29/hes_back.html
After years of battle she eventually had friends set up a "squirrel deterent system" linked below and solved their problem though I think you'd need an awful big strainer for a garbage bin...
http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/archives/2007/08/28/this_is_the_way_we_wash_our_fleece.html