Winter and hungry birds, squirrels and feeders copyright, Frania Shelley-
Grielen, all rights reserved
When it comes to urban wildlife can’t we all just get along? An article in the 1/3/2012
edition of The Wall Street Journal makes no apologies at squirrel bashing in the name of
bird feeding even though everyone has to eat. In the article Ralph J. Gardner, Jr.,
writes that he has gone to war “Against the squirrels in my backyard.” Defending his
bird feeders against the “fat and dull” squirrels that live there he has threatened them
with a BB gun, fantasized about squirrel chasing dogs and extols the virtues of squirrel
proof bird feeders and the joys of watching the thwarted: “frenzied, frustrated squirrels
as the weight of their greedy, obese little paws causes the shroud that encases the feeder
to descend, shutting off their food supply.”
Well, hungry squirrels- I've got your back:
Providing supplemental food sources for birds in harsh and extreme weather may
somewhat mitigate the impact of loss of habitat; the trees and shrubs we have cleared
that would normally provide food and shelter. But birds are not the only species that
struggle to find food and shelter in winter. For animals that do not hibernate, finding
enough food and shelter determine if they can survive until spring.
Grey squirrels breed in mid December through early January. This means that right
now, female squirrels need to find enough food to sustain them through not just the
cold but a six week pregnancy. Male squirrels also need enough food to survive the
winter where food sources are scarce and to compete with other males for breeding
females and shelter. In the wild squirrels live on fruit and nuts, in urban areas
squirrels forage for available food. When bird feeders are accessible to squirrels they
use them for food sources.
In fact, if a feeder intended by humans to feed birds only can be accessed by any other
animal it becomes an animal feeder by default. No blame, it's all fair. When you're
hungry or have young to feed, you find the food where you can. It’s the way it is in
nature and in the nature in your back yard. “Bird” feeders can and do attract a range
of animals to backyards including foraging feral cats, black bears and raccoons.
If birds are all you want to feed in your backyard make sure and use a feeder designed
to only support bird body weight, place it properly (at least five feet off the ground and
8 feet away from other structures) and change the feed and clean the feeder every
week—diseases can easily be passed between birds when feeders are not maintained.
And as for the rest of the animals—hope they find a meal too, it’s cold outside.
Olli Scarff Getty Images
"In fact, if a feeder intended by
humans to feed birds only can be
accessed by any other animal it
becomes an animal feeder by
default. No blame, it's all fair. When
you're hungry or have young to feed,
you find the food where you can. It’s
the way it is in nature and in the
nature in your back yard."