Anne Palumbo: Are you smarter than a squirrel?

Anne Palumbo

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but here goes: I am not smarter than a squirrel.

If there were a show on TV that pitted me against a squirrel, I would lose.

I discovered this sorry fact last year, when I noticed that the bushy-tailed evil-doers were hogging all the birdfeed, and I could not outwit them. Believe me, I tried; but somehow they always managed to outmaneuver my ingenious maneuvers.

All this from an animal with a brain the size of a poppy seed.

Unfortunately, my war with the furry psychopaths has continued into this year. What’s worse, the varmints seem smarter than ever. I can only guess their parents forced them to take SAT prep courses over the summer, so they could Steal, Annoy and Terrorize us bird-lovers into submission.

Darn it all, I won’t submit. As inept as they certainly make me feel, I am not ready to throw in the suet just yet.

What amazes me most is how brazen these rodents have gotten over the years. Back in my day, squirrels had manners: They waited their turn; they did not chatter up a storm; and they behaved in a modest way.

But today’s squirrels have no boundaries. I know this because they are “in my face” on a daily basis, strutting their stuff as if they were celebrities on a “Squirrels Gone Wild” infomercial.

Even more astounding? They seem to turn it on more when I am directly in front of the window that overlooks the birdfeeder. I kid you not. When they don’t think they have an audience, they focus on the feed: End of story. (I know this because, when I am not engaged in back-breaking home chores, I spy on them from afar.) 

But when they sense my presence at the window, they let it all hang out. It’s embarrassing, really, the way they sprawl rather indecently across the roof of my feeder, plucking at plump seeds with the air of a bored socialite consuming a box of bon bons.

Since they are (weirdly) unshaken by my fuming face, I always give the window a good thwack, hoping to startle the furry freeloaders out of their gluttonous reverie. But it has no effect. They simply look up at me with a guileless expression that says, “I’d like some peanut butter, please, crunchy if you have it, and a side of toasted walnuts.”

A friend suggested I get the squirrels a feeder of their own, so I bought a corn cob feeder that looked like a little picnic table and nailed it to a tree on the opposite side of the house. While hanging the feeder, I dreamily pictured the squirrels feasting at this sweet location till winter’s end, perhaps even sending me a well-deserved thank-you note.

Ha!  One hour. That’s all it took for the squirrels to devour the corn and find their way back to the forbidden fruit of my feeder.

Another friend suggested I move my feeder away from the house and surrounding trees, since both serve as launching pads for these seed-seeking missiles. Although the thought of distancing myself from my beloved chickadees tore at my heart – and smacked of defeat – I finally relented and moved the feeder to a more isolated location.

For most of the next day, I felt victorious. My chickadees were getting first dibs at the seeds, while the squirrels scrabbled for scraps at the base of the feeder. A rewarding sight, if ever. But then, around dusk, my eyeballs were rocked by the most unimaginable sight: a squirrel shimmying up the feeder pole with the agility of a Las Vegas stripper.

Outwitted again!   

Anyway, I may not be as smart as a squirrel, but – smug as this sounds – I am clearly smarter than a chipmunk. They no longer feed at my feeders because, heh-heh, they prefer the indoor food I leave lying around the basement. That they chewed a big hole in my couch is beside the point.

Anne Palumbo writes this weekly column for Messenger Post Newspapers. E-mail: