How to discourage unwelcome squirrels and raccoons
The number one concern we hear from our customers is how to deal with squirrels raiding feeders. Luckily, we have a lot of strategies to combat these cute little thieves—and maybe even help you learn to like them!
FEEDER PLACEMENT & BAFFLES
A baffle is a physical barrier designed to keep squirrels and other critters from climbing up a pole or down a feeder hanger. For best results, use a baffle with every feeder. Trust us: critters will find the one feeder that doesn’t have a deterrent!
Use pole baffles for feeders that are mounted in place.
Pole baffles may be shaped like a disk, cone or torpedo. Most pole baffles attach by resting on a clamp that grips the pole. There are also baffles available for 4″ × 4″ posts that mount using brackets and screws. When you install a baffle, place it so that the top is at least 5′ from the ground. If using a cone or disk baffle, make sure your feeders do not hang below the top of the baffle.
Use a dome-shaped hanging baffle for feeders hanging from a tree.
When hanging a feeder from a tree, you’ll want to use a dome-shaped hanging baffle, typically made of heavy-duty plastic or metal. Select a baffle that’s at least 14″ wide. The baffle should be able to teeter on its setting so that when squirrels jump, the baffle tilts and squirrels immediately slide off. For best results, hang the baffle with a metal chain, then hook your feeder beneath it.
While dome baffles aren’t as effective as pole baffles in preventing squirrels from raiding feeders, they certainly discourage would-be attackers! When placed strategically and used with feeders that serve seeds squirrels don’t prefer, the effectiveness of hanging-type baffles increases.
Place feeders strategically.
While baffles work to block most vertical attacks, you’ll also need to prevent squirrels from leaping directly onto feeders. Squirrels are amazing acrobats. They can jump 4–5′ vertically, leap 10–12′ horizontally and drop 20′ without getting hurt! This means you’ll need to place your feeding stations outside of their jumping ranges, remembering to consider potential perches from tree branches and trunks, deck rails, roofs and fence posts.
Weight sensitive mechanisms
Most squirrel-resistant feeders use weight-sensitive mechanisms to differentiate squirrels from birds. Springs or counter-weights close the feeder or collapse perches when anything heavier than a bird sits on it.
The nice thing about weight-sensitive feeders is that they work to deter squirrels without a baffle. Therefore, they’re a perfect choice for hanging in tighter spaces, for example near a deck or roof line. One of the most effective examples of weight-sensitive feeders is the Squirrel Buster® line by Brome Bird Care. The weight-sensitive mechanism is calibrated so birds will not activate it—even larger species like woodpeckers and cardinals. But the moment a squirrel hops onto the perch, the feed ports close, creating a physical barrier between the hungry squirrel and an easy meal.
Electric shock mechanisms
Electric shock feeders give squirrels an annoying little zap when they touch two metal parts, like a perch and a tray. Birds will not get a shock because they are poor conductors, given their feather insulation and scaly feet.
With any squirrel-resistant feeder, squirrels will continually try to access the feeder for a week or so before giving up. Also, they’ll realize when the batteries are low, so be sure to keep your feeder charged if you go with a battery option.
Select seeds squirrels don’t prefer
There are actually some seeds that squirrels don’t have a taste for. You can use these seeds in feeders without baffles—even hanging them in your trees for your birds to enjoy.
- Safflower and Golden Safflower (NutraSaff™) seeds are appreciated by most birds, especially cardinals. Fortunately, squirrels typically don’t like the slightly bitter taste of safflower while the birds, with fewer taste buds, enjoy it.
- Nyjer™ is a type of seed that squirrels typically do not eat, so you can safely fill and hang finch feeders (containing only Nyjer™ seed, not a finch mix) in your trees.
Of course, squirrels are curious! Every now and then a new squirrel may sample seed to see if it’s worth consuming, especially if natural food sources are scarce.
Spice it up a little!
You can also use a pepper mix like Squirrel Away or liquid additives like Flaming Squirrel Seed Sauce on any bird seed. Again, birds have fewer taste buds and can’t taste the pepper, but squirrels can. An effective way to apply the hot pepper mix is to lightly coat the seed with a cooking spray so that the pepper adheres better to the seed. If you use suet and don’t want to use baffles, there are hot pepper cakes and plugs that are effective in keeping the squirrels at bay.
IF YOU CAN’T BEAT ‘EM, JOIN ‘EM
Try a distraction technique
Squirrels, for all of the trouble they can cause, can actually be quite—dare we say it?—cute. And one thing we’ve found: a well-fed squirrel is a well-behaved squirrel! Try spreading some cracked or whole corn, in-shell peanuts or Critter Crunch mix in a ground feeder. You might also try hanging a corncob from one of our bungie feeders for a good laugh! Feeding squirrels keeps them distracted from your bird feeders and, as a bonus, you may find you get other visitors to your yard that are fun to watch—like pheasants, turkeys and ducks!