Dallas always had squirrels. But I didn’t see so many Texas Fox Squirrels before I planted a garden.
Oak is a very common tree in Oak Cliff. We have a 70 year old Oak in our back yard.
I started what I figured would be a labor of love. I dug a spot out near the back patio and added several sacks of Miracle Grow potting soil to the black gumbo. I figured this mix of native soil and commercial potting medium would be more suited to growing plants as our natural soil is clay-like and tends to harden soon after being cultivated thus acting more like cement when it dries. I’m actually surprised we can grow St. Augustine grass or Bermuda grass in such soil as ours.
After preparing the garden and placing landscaping timbers around it, I planted a few tomatoes, a few blackberries and some jalapenos. I also planted a few shrubs both in the front yard and the back where I have a peach tree with green peaches.
My first encounter with a squirrel in the back yard was years ago, when I was actually feeding the birds with wild bird seed and making bird houses for them. There were 3 squirrels playing in the trees, jumping from limb to limb and tree to tree. One day I was looking up at a bird house that once was occupied by sparrows, when I saw a squirrel’s head poke out from inside one of the holes. It had taken over!
I stopped feeding the birds, and emptied the bird baths because I didn’t want to encourage the squirrels. At that time I had no idea just how many squirrels lived in Dallas. I still don’t have the exact number. I noticed that the squirrels were not only chewing on the openings of every single bird house I made, but they were eating all the sunflower seeds in the wild bird feed and when it came time to harvest the peaches they were bright orange and golden and practically ripe.
In a very short time, I would look out to my horror and see dozens of ripe peaches laying on the back yard grass, with one single bite each. I thought this was kind of silly. Why would a wild animal take one bite from a fresh peach only to leave it laying on the ground uneaten?
I took over half the ripe peaches and buried them in a compost pile then brought the remaining peaches in the house. I had still managed to harvest over 50 peaches. From this my wife made peach preserves and froze the rest for later.
But that winter a snow storm hit Dallas, and many of the trees in our city were hurt or completely devastated by the weather. The Alberta peach tree died that winter and the Georgia peach was still alright but had a few broken limbs that had to be trimmed back. At this time in my short lived gardening history, the number of Texas squirrels in our back yard was never more than a hand full or less. They usually did nothing but dig up acorns, which fell from the Oak tree by the thousands.
My main concern about those squirrels in my yard was, they’re being driven away by urban development. Are we to blame for their arrival to our big cities?
It is said that black ticks that carry Lyme disease, thrive on wild dear but don’t usually survive all well on the squirrel. As a result of the squirrel inhabiting our cities, there are lower incidents of humans contracting Lyme disease. The downside is that a squirrel has been living in one of our Sycamore trees and it chews off the bark along it’s path upward and back resin is visible in the form of dark patches where the squirrels have been removing the bark leading up to their nest. I tried taking a garden hose to the hole, some 25 feet up the main trunk to scare them off.
I have read that traps to re-locate wild squirrels invading your back yard should be implemented in May and June, early summer so they will have time to stock up on food for the following winter. That way it’s no harm, no foul. In spite of the fact there are companies that do this for you for a small fee, I just don’t want to wast effort on this because I know that when you get rid of squirrels in your back yard, others will fill in the gap, naturally! Squirrels are always looking for a new place to nest and it’s out with the old, in with the new, squirrels, that is.
Many people take to shooting the critters with pellet rifles and by doing so they get the message they’re not welcome without killing them. Mixing tap water and liquid red pepper on or around your garden plants may deter them from attempting to approach your plants to eat them, however, I would have to set up a surveillance system in my yard with infrared night vision to find out what really works.
I don’t actually hate squirrels so much. I just know that the next BLT I’ll be eating will be of the Monsanto variety from our local super market.