It’s bet­ter not to let squir­rels dine at your bird feeder

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - Joan Mor­ris Colum­nist Con­tact Joan Mor­ris at jmor­ris@ ba­yare­anews­group.com

DEAR JOAN » Af­ter read­ing the lat­est so­lu­tion to keep­ing squir­rels out of the bird feeder — WD-40— I have a bet­ter idea. Just let them eat it. Un­less you tell me it’s harm­ful, it’s no big deal. — Nancy Draughon, Mo­bile, Alabama

DEAR NANCY » This is a sub­ject that is not quite as sim­ple as it sounds. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, bird­seed is not harm­ful to squir­rels, but there are some folks who want to feed the birds, not the squir­rels, and see­ing the squir­rels swing­ing from feed­ers, spilling seed and chas­ing away the birds is too much for them.

These folks are so pro­tec­tive of their bird feed­ers that an in­dus­try in an­ti­squir­rel bird seed (it has cap­caisin mixed in with it) and squir­rel-proof feed­ers and de­vices is thriv­ing.

As much as I love watch­ing the squir­rels scam­per­ing around and thor­oughly con­found­ing my lit­tle Chi­huahua, there are valid rea­sons peo­ple don’t want them around. Squir­rels can do some dam­age to your prop­erty. They can chew on ir­ri­ga­tion lines, gnaw on decks and open holes into your at­tic. They also tend to bury their sur­plus food, which can dis­turb your plants when the food goes in and when it comes out, if the squir­rel re­mem­bers where it hid it.

One year, we put out some dried corn for the squir­rel vis­it­ing in our yard, and the next spring I had corn pop­ping up in all of my planters and pots.

As long as you wel­come the squir­rels and their nut­ti­ness, and as long as you aren’t try­ing to feed them by hand, then no, there’s no harm in let­ting the squir­rels share the bird feed­ers.

How­ever, not all bird food is the best for squir­rels. Their op­ti­mum diet is a mix­ture of nuts, fruits and veg­eta­bles. Squir­rels love black oil sun­flower seeds, so if you don’t want them in your yard, avoid blends with sun­flower seeds.

Squir­rels also love nuts in the shell, which are im­por­tant to them in two ways. One, the fatty nut in­side is good for the squir­rel, and two, gnaw­ing on the shell to get it open helps keep the squir­rel’s teeth from grow­ing too long, and should also re­duce their need to find al­ter­nate chew­ing sur­faces, such as your house.

Foods you shouldn’t put out for squir­rels are corn and peanuts. Shock­ing, right? Corn can de­velop a harm­ful fun­gus, es­pe­cially if it is rained on. And pea- nuts are not nuts — they’re legumes, and too many legumes is not good for the squir­rel.

What’s in a name?

I al­ways en­joy see­ing the list of pop­u­lar pet names. Here’s a list from Healthy Paws Pet In­surance. Is your pet’s name on it? My male dog’s name — Bai­ley — made it on the fe­male list. MALEDOGS» Cooper; Char­lie; Max; Oliver; Milo; Teddy; Buddy; Leo; Rocky; Tucker FEMALEDOGS» Bella; Luna; Lucy; Daisy; Lola; Stella; Penny; Bai­ley; Sadie; So­phie MALECATS» Oliver; Milo; Leo; Char­lie; Max; Loki; Simba; Jack; Finn; Os­car FEMALECATS» Luna; Bella; Lucy; Lily; Nala; Mia; Chloe; Daisy; Gra­cie; Stella TOP10UNIQUENAMES» Izzy Baby Bella Floof­ca­boose von Car­pet­moose; Regi­nald Peri­win­kle Esquire III, Esquire; The Great Catsby; Zena Princess War­rior of the Sage­brush; Ziggy the Zag; An­nie Gua­camole; Jawslin; Agent Cooper Pooper Scooper; Google; Punky Hopter

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