Thieves in the Night

by Cherie R. on December 28, 2012

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Squirrel Under Glass Feeder Living in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, we have a variety of wild animals passing through our yard. Most commonly, we see Grey Squirrels, Weasels, Chipmunks, and White-tailed Deer and the occasional Raccoon. We have not seen any of those animals ever get to the feeders, especially at night. So what was invading our feeders?

I was frustrated to find chewed feeders hanging from my squirrel-proof hanger. I photograph most of the feeders in our wild bird category so finding out which little stinker was looting was important so I could remedy the problem. I could not figure out who was able to get to the feeders and how it defied physics. When I put the Squirrel-Proof Hanger in, I was so careful on placement of the hanger not to be too close to a tree, or my house and deck. I did not want a launching point for Grey Squirrels to jump onto the hanger. That defeats the purpose, but I was still getting chewed and emptied feeders. It kind of became my mission in life to find the thief. I imagined it had a little James Bond style kit of tools and could sneak into anything. I became private investigator in surveillance mode repeatedly playing the soundtrack to “Mission Impossible” in my head. I needed night vision, a closed circuit TV, and motion activated alarms! Just kidding!

I thought I would get a squirrel feeder to encourage whatever it is to stay off my bird feeders. So I came home with the Squirrel Under Glass Feeder, found a tree that was appropriate, and hung it up. I have to say, that alone was entertaining to see the grey squirrels dive in and out. However, the thievery continued but I figured out it was occurring at night. What on earth is stealing seed at night? Is there a Vegan owl? I just didn’t get it!

One night doing dishes in my kitchen, I saw one of my feeders swing in my peripheral vision. I shut off my lights and peered out the patio door. And there was a fluffy little grey blob on my peanut feeder. It disappeared in a flash. I called my husband, “I saw the thief, but it’s gone now!” We both waited until it reappeared on our large maple tree. We both announced, “Flying Squirrel!” I knew they were around but I had not seen one before. I also knew they were endangered in some parts of the United States, and I am looking at one in my backyard. Holy cow this is so cool! More began to cascade out of the trees stealing one peanut at a time. They would grab one, launch back to a tree trunk, climb up to a limb, open the shell, and eat the peanuts. They were fascinating! They glided back and forth from the feeder to the trees but seemed to defy gravity. We both grabbed our smart phones and researched them.

We decided to leave out the Squirrel Under Glass Feeder and take down the bird feeders at night. (We really should have been taking the feeders in at night because black bears are very common visitors as well.) They came to the squirrel under glass feeder every night, and had developed a sort of Pavlovian response to the yard light coming on and my husband walking out with the jar full of peanuts. We started to notice they would land on the tree and wait for the peanuts to be delivered which progressed to waiting on the feeder. Apparently, the word got out, because three flying squirrels turned to fifteen or more. There were a couple that got awful brave and would dive into the jar while Adam was trying to place it into the feeder “house.” We both could not believe how close we were able to get to them.

Now they squeak at us as if to announce, “It’s about time! I’m hungry!” and eat peanuts and mealworms a few feet from us. Just like watching my birds, it makes me happy. I do want to make it clear we in no way are trying to tame them. They have just learned they have nothing to fear from us. It’s exactly like the birds that feed in my yard, which land on me regularly when I fill up my feeders. We want all of them to remain wild animals.

Flying squirrels can cause a lot of damage if they gain access into your home. We have built modified houses in the back part of our property to encourage them to keep residence in the woods and not in our home and have not had any problems yet. Here is a video of my husband re-filling the Squirrel Under Glass Feeder. I Hope you enjoy it.

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Cherie is a photographer at Drs. Foster and Smith. She and her husband, Adam, are avid outdoorsmen, as well as volunteer firefighters. They share their home with their dog, two cats, and a beta. Cherie also shares her daily workspace with two skinks, a lovebird, and a Green-Cheeked Conure. In her free time she photographs wildlife and the night sky.

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