Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Monday, December 26, 2011

Too Much Gray In The Garden

Of course I mean too many gray squirrels. Way too many. Maybe one would be okay!  Then it would be more pet than pest!

But half a dozen or more is a recipe for disaster. That's what we have in my suburban garden. More than I need and a mess! They've cleaned out the suet feeder, emptied the bird feeders and dug up plants in the garden.  Even offering them their own food doesn't keep them away from the feeders for long! They have voracious appetites all winter long! (Step Right This Way Folks! Seeing Is Believing!) Never stop searching for food and seek out scrumptious bulbs. My good friends Barbara/Mr Mcgregor's Daughter and Frances/Fairegarden know my pain.

Resting after a tough day raiding the feeders
Oh joy! The Eastern gray squirrels breed twice a year.  If you've wondered why they seem especially destructive in your winter garden, it's because they are breeding right now! The first litter is born sometime in  February to March and  the second in June to July. There are normally two to six young in each litter, but this number can be as high as 8. The gestation period is about 44 days. The young are weaned at 7 weeks and leave the nest after 10 weeks. Eastern gray squirrels can start breeding as early as 5 and a half months old, but usually breed for the first time at the age of one.  These squirrels can live to be 20 years old in captivity, but in the wild usually only live up to 12.5 years.  (source:wikipedia I think I have a few old timers in my garden; it's pretty safe back there!
Sciurus carolinensis with a french roll!
Mr I says that the National Wildlife Federation should take my certification away!  I say the squirrels are lucky I garden for wildlife and have a terrible rock throwing aim. 


Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone."


  1. Noooo! I do feel your pain, that's why I gave up on birdfeeders. The shot with the roll is very funny, at least it's funny for me because it's your squirrel.

  2. We have no bird feeders but they come all the same. They nested in our owl box and plant oaks in all my garden areas. Plus we have a worse squirrel than the greys. The big fat rock squirrel. Grrh.

  3. I feel your pain as well. Those hangdanged furry-tailed rodents!

  4. Gail we had dozens in the black walnut groves at the old house with no predators...the destruction was beyond belief in my garden, feeders....not a fan of the squirrel...we hired a "hit kitty" to keep the numbers low...

  5. Love your squirrel photos!
    We gave up long ago trying to keep them from the bird feeders. Our dog makes sure they stay in the trees and out of the garden and flowers. Once (that I know of) our cat caught a small one - and ate it!
    Hope you are having a blessed Christmas season. Best wishes for the New Year

  6. I'm starting to see more squirrels in my garden as the trees mature. They are not welcome, that's for sure!

  7. Gail, I can't take on more squirrels by adopting yours, but I can give you a foolproof solution for your suet feeders. And I mean foolproof. Substitute Hot Pepper Dough suet cakes for the more traditional suet/seed cakes. The squirrels will not touch them. All birds, including woodpeckers, love the hot pepper dough cakes. I buy them by the box (12) at Home Depot.

    Also, squirrels will absolutely not eat safflower seed, which is a highly favored seed of cardinals. Finches and some of the other birds will also eat safflower seed.

  8. Thanks Sandi, I'll get them today! xogail

  9. Funny I was just reading about Jess's plethora of squirrels too. I guess I'm lucky in that the cats keep the critters out of my back garden. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Gail. I believe 2012 will be a fabulous year.

  10. Devils!!!! Well, that explains the stepped up digging activity, the breeding. Boo to them, they are not cute at all! Thanks for the linkage, and we do sooooo feel your pain. Let's work on our rock throwing to be more effective.

  11. Sad to say, I never can remember which color of squirrel is native to BC here...the grey, or the brown. One is being pushed out, almost to extinction by the other.

    My elderly neighbor would give them peanuts all summer long, and guess where they would bury them? In MY garden, not hers....sigh. LOL.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  12. Gail,
    My gardening companion was delighted when I brought home (a larger) squirrel baffle for one of our feeders today. We'll see how effective it is! Ha!

    Happy New Year,

  13. Those rotten buggers are so destructive. They chew holes in everything. They ate through an electric line to my water feature one time. DArn things. They are too cute for their own good. They are pretty good simmered in milk gravy. Grrrrr.

  14. Aww, but they're so cute, Gail! That is, they're cute as long as they're in your garden, not mine:) I had no idea they lived so long; no wonder we're all overrun by squirrels.

  15. That tornado we had SERIOUSLY thinned out the squirrels in our neighborhood thank goodness! With most all the large trees gone there doesn't seem to be as many.

  16. My son has an air soft gun that shoots small plastic pellets. It is great at harmlessly deterring racoons from the fish pond, perhaps it could persuade squirrels to visit some other garden.

  17. You need some Jack Russell terriers! Oh wait, they're more destructive than squirrels (I used to have one, and although I loved her dearly she was not an ideal gardening companion).

    I'm sorry the squirrels like your garden so much. At least they have some entertainment value although it doesn't offset their annoyance value.

  18. Your gray squirrels seem very destructive, much more so than ones over here, although they are renowned for emptying bird feeders. Stunning photographs, Gail.

  19. My uncle was feeding a squirrel in his yard and it scratched him. He ended up with leptospirosis and almost died! Got to be careful around those critters. Had to laugh at your husband's comment. Mine says the same thing to me when I complain about some of the undesirable wildlife in my garden. Guess we can't pick and choose, can we?


Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.