Our backyard is the perfect snowscape. The delicate tree branches are coated with ice, making them look as shiny and delicate as a backyard of silver chandeliers.
The snow covered hill is our miniature Swiss Alp.
Thriving in this winter scene is a family of three squirrels. They’re either a family or a kinky group of very close friends. They romp around, chase each other up and down trees, dig snow tunnels and search for food. The main source of their food foraging is our set of dual bird feeders. Each feeder hangs from a single hook on a double pole. The squirrels have no problems shimmying up the pole, reaching over to the feeder, and helping themselves to squirrelly-stomach-warming meals of birdseed.
But technology has caught up to their never-ending nefarious nips nabbed from the birds. The new feeder is equipped with a battery controlled balance bar. The circular bar spins around if a weight heavier than a blue jay alights. Like the weight of a squirrel.
Is there a funnier sight than a squirrel sailing through the air as if shot from a circus cannon? He is not hurt, just a bit puzzled. And he is just as hungry as he was before his aerial catapult.
Now the squirrel brain springs into action. At this point it is man vs. rodent in an unending battle of wills.To stop him from shimmying up the pole we install a cone-shaped baffle, putting an end to his attempt to scale the pole and reach the feeder.
Squirrel is befuddled. He comes up with Plan B: the Big Jump. He steadies himself on a snow bank and leaps onto the top of the baffle. He has won! Or so he thinks: now he places one paw on the balance bar to steady himself while he reaches for his tasty reward, when “Whirr”: he is flying through the air. He experiences instant squirrel shock. This has never happened to him or his ancestors before.
Time for Plan C.
Squirrel, still determined, jumps onto the baffle top again. This time, instead of placing a paw on the bar he continues to climb to the top of the pole. Now above the feeders, he stretches his body down to meet the mouth of the feeder, and manages a few seeds before we see him, open the kitchen door and emit bloodthirsty screams. The startled squirrel jumps off the baffle.
Man’s turn: we now coat the baffle with a heavy coat of gooey, greasy engine oil. Now when the marauder prepares for his leap he lands, skids and slides right off, executing an Olympic caliber somersault.
Squirrel sits on the ground, looking longingly at the bird feeders above. “My kingdom for a few sunflower seeds. Husked, of course.”
The sad sight of the hungry squirrel looking so defeated and unhappy moves me. The snow on the ground has become solid ice, making it look like a vanilla Carvel ice cream cake. How can any animal find food in a frozen tundra?
Anyway what harm do squirrels do? They don’t destroy plants by eating roots, they don’t kill plants by nipping at new growth, they don’t tunnel underground, making the lawn collapse. Are they so bad?
All he longs for, in his dearest squirrel fantasies, are a few little handfuls of sunflower seeds. My conscience asks me “Must you deprive the little fellow of a life sustaining meal?”
So I get to work. Off comes the baffle on the feeder. Out comes the battery that rotates the balance bar.
I stop short of installing a ladder to the feeder to help squirrel realize his quest.
“Enjoy, little friend,” I say. “It’s been a tough winter for everybody.”