Sure, you have opposable thumbs and a massive brain, but do you really think you can stop squirrels from eating your birdseed? The oldest squirrel fossil is 36 million years old. That means the squirrel had a 35.5 million-year head start on outwitting us modern humans.
And yet mankind — bless its naive collective little heart — perseveres nearly as much as squirrelkind. Build a better mousetrap? How about build a better squirrel-proof bird feeder? The files of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are full of inventions that promise to do just that.
There’s the ANTI-SQUIRREL AND RODENT ATTACHMENT KIT (Patent No. 6,532,894), the brainchild of Raymond P. Johnson of Sabillasville, Md. In his patent application, Raymond lays out the issue pretty clearly: “Many people enjoy the presence of birds on their property. . . .” But bird feeders “are susceptible to raiding by animals other than birds, especially squirrels.”
Designed for pole-mounted feeders, his invention consists “of a section of tubing slidably mounted around the pole suspended by an elastic band.”
If that doesn’t work for you, try the BIRD FEEDER POST AND DEVICE TO INHIBIT SQUIRRELS (No. 7,574,976), created by Michigan’s Jeffrey A. Ellen and Kim A. Sena. “Many devices and tactics have been developed over time to deter squirrels (and other such pests) from their thievery,” they write. “The efficacy of such prior art attempts have been notably lacking. . . .”
If their invention seems lacking, try the BIRD FEEDER WITH SQUIRREL GUARD (No. 4,867,104) from Lonnie E. Vandiver of Springfield, Mo. It’s a house-shaped seed reservoir surrounded by horizontal shafts. “Mounted for rotation on each shaft,” reads the application, “are a plurality of roller elements which may take the form of rectangular blocks meant to spin.”
The blocks are supposed to pitch the squirrel onto the ground like a lumberjack falling off a spinning log.
In a similar vein is the FULLY ROTATABLE SQUIRREL PROOF BIRD FEEDER (No. 6,192,832) from Monte Joseph Husnik of St. Paul, Minn. Squirrels, Monte writes in his application, turn a “once enjoyable bird watching experience” into a “frustrating circus-like environment.” His assemblage of pivoting shafts, brackets, bolts and lock washers looks like a fun-house ride, the Zipper for squirrels.
Still, it’s not as extreme as the half-dozen or so inventions I saw that employ “electronic squirrel deterrence.” That would include No. 5,937,788 from Randall D. Boyd of Knoxville, Tenn. It’s covered in conductive surfaces just waiting for a squirrel to close the circuit. Shocking!
The less said about No. 7,488,244 (APPARATUS FOR SKINNING SQUIRRELS) from Donald Tyler of Cadiz, Ky., the better.
But not every would-be Thomas Edison is trying to stick it to the squirrels. Kenneth P. Adams of Lawrenceville, Ga., calls his invention a SQUIRREL ATTRACTING DEVICE (No. 6,085,692). He promises that his contraption (imagine a teeter totter with an ear of corn stuck to it) “will provide squirrels with a safe place to feed and play.”
I can hear bird lovers everywhere cursing under their breath.
And there’s the SQUIRREL CAFE (No. 6,334,407) from David P. Schneider of Apalachin, N.Y. Mounted in a window opening “or some other suitable naturally existing opening in the house’s exterior shell,” the SQUIRREL CAFE brings the outdoors indoors, allowing squirrels into an acrylic plastic box that sticks through your wall. It’s a veritable squirrel aquarium.
According to David’s application, one object of his invention is “to eliminate the need for people feeding the squirrels to go out of doors to load food inside the feeder. It is a further object of this invention to provide exercise mechanisms or toys that can be inserted inside the confines of the squirrel feeder or placed on the outside of the feeder that the squirrels or other wild animals may physically play with and perform upon.”
Forget the Xbox, kids! Let’s go watch the critters in the Squirrel Cafe!
Or — just buy a squirrel-proof feeder, fill it with seed and stick it in your yard. In no time at all, you’ll have squirrels performing upon it.
To see a gallery of some of these inventions and to read more Squirrel Week stories, go to washingtonpost.com/washingtology. You can send us photos you’ve taken of squirrels. Share your squirrel tales in the comments below. Or tweet your story (in 140 characters or less) on Twitter. Use #DCSquirrelWeek.