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Living close to woodland means that the peanut and fat ball containers hanging on a trellis in my garden are well used. Jackdaws, jays, blue tits etc as well as a daily visit from a greater spotted woodpecker are among my delightful visitors. My consideration during cold winters rewards me with bird song during the summer and I keep the feeders full, despite plentiful flying insects. This idyll used to be interrupted only by the arrival of the Great Grey Predator and all his friends.
You know the one. Some people think they look cute unless they have watched them take baby birds from the nest or destroy our garden crops as well as breaking bird feeders. I am more relaxed watching an occasional rat take a delicate nibble before continuing on his/her way. Added to this, I was spending good money to feed the nasty things. Whoops! I am relapsing into Aunt Betsey mode again and I rarely even see squirrels now.
I tried just about everything reasonably humane to deter the pests. I used a laser gun which is supposed to irritate their ears with a vibration soundless to mine. Use of an additional switch on the gadget sent out an ear-splitting shriek which must have had every nearby neighbour dialling 999. Neither worked. Missiles aimed close to them just resulted in a hasty retreat, followed by reappearance within a minute or two.
It came to a head when I realised that I had become as obsessed with squirrels in my garden every bit and more as David Copperfield's Aunt Betsey Trotwood as she ran onto the green with a stick to chase off the donkeys. I, a peaceful animal loving pensioner, was fast turning into a noisy harridan running into my back garden several times a day, whilst throwing clods of earth and yelling "Go get it" to my bewildered dogs. Peace and my heart rate were restored when I found Squirrel Stop in a nearby garden centre.
Squirrel Stop comes in an 800ml spray bottle and contains capsicum (chilli) peppers which while not distasteful or harmful to birds is totally unpalatable and irritating to a squirrel, which will beat a hasty retreat should your bird feeder be sprayed with it. Indeed, a YouTube video of a squirrel attacking nuts treated with Squirrel Stop and then bolting for the hills demonstrates how effective this is.
This product is not only safe for your garden birds, but contains vitamins and proteins which are good for them. However, there are a list of precautions on the pack which include the fact that anyone with allergies or breathing problems should avoid its use.
To use, shake the container well and then spray on to the bird feed covering all sides of hanging feeders. Do think of the prevailing wind. I place a hand over my mouth and nose while doing the deed. The instructions suggest that you repeat every 48 hours to start with to get the message across to the pests. However, I found that it worked from day one. Proof of its effectiveness was demonstrated when I found the bottom pulled out of a nut holder and the contents on the ground. I removed what I could as I didn't want the dogs eating peanuts and then sprayed the remnants (still on the earth) with Squirrel Stop and waited. A few minutes later a squirrel ran across the top of the trellis, before climbing down to finish its spoils. It took only seconds before it was on its way back to wherever it came from. I do hope it tried my next door neighbour's very impressive bird table as that is sprayed as well. I find that the spray lasts well as I bought mine during the summer and there is plenty left. I apply when topping up the feeders and after prolonged rain and can honestly say that I have seen only two grey squirrels since using this stress- freeing product.
Squirrel Stop seems fairly easily available and cost me £4.99 while I have seen it for slightly less online. The link to the video I mentioned earlier is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hicJveHMMNM and shows that while it seriously annoys the squirrel it doesn't do harm. It is also hilariously funny.