My own private Caddyshack

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

We live in the mountains and have a back deck that is, at its highest above the ground, about twelve feet up. There are many benefits of living here, and some problems. One of those is these things called Golden Mantled ground squirrels, and chipmunks. We cannot grow anything down on ground level, as these creatures will eat anything we put out there. We have managed to put out Russian Sage, as they show no interest in that particular plant, but everything else is quickly toast.

Everyone who lives up here has the same problem. The best solution is planters up on the deck that are large enough that the critters cannot get  up and in them. That seems to work. Other solutions are sonic devices that supposedly disrupt their nests and force them to move away. Last year we tried these, and noticed that chipmunks would perch on them while they observed the horizon. In other words, they do not work.

They do not like water, and I delight in standing on the deck and surprising them with a burst from the hose. It brings me such joy to see them scatter and hide under and in rock walls.

Least chipmunk

The ground squirrel, which is perhaps twice the size of the chipmunk, is by far the most aggressive pest. It has an IQ of maybe four, meaning that my inability to outsmart it places me somewhere way down in Dunning-Krugerville. These animals will burrow underground to get to a plant, and we can see it get pulled down into the ground.

The chipmunks are a problem too, and there are more of them. Last year we counted five of them at once. Since my wife and I are both soft about animals, killing them is out of the question. We have trapped them on occasion, but I stopped doing that – there are so many that when one disappears another immediately fills in.

So the question is how to keep them off the deck. This year I decided to try an oscillating sprinkler that is motion-activated. The idea is shock and awe, for the creature to come face to face with it, set if off, and then panic and run. This has actually worked to a degree, though like the Borg they are adaptable.

We sat on our deck a couple of weeks ago, and watched as a chipmunk made is way up the stairs. The sensitivity on these sprinklers is such that even at level nine, the highest, the chipmunks do not always set it off. But this guy must have gotten right in its face, as he set if off. The next thing I saw was him flying through the air, landing perhaps 25 feet away down on the ground.

I laughed so hard I teared up. Yes, I am that easy to amuse. The thing about it is that we are not harming them, only creating trauma. They must view the sprinkler, pictured right and left here, as some sort of monster.

If that image, that chipmunk flying through the air,  reminded me of anything, it was of a T-shirt gun they use at events to fire the shirts into the crowd.

Yesterday they were up on the deck, having figured out how to come up the stairs without setting off the monster.

We often get tree squirrels up on the deck, and I don’t want them in our hanging bird feeders, so I spray them with the hose. A tree squirrel will jump from twelve feet up, spread its feet, and land either on a tree branch or the ground, uninjured.

The ground squirrel and chipmunks do not have that jumping ability, and so yesterday when I found them, they were trapped. I hosed them, and to get away from me they ran down the stairs, only to be hosed again by the sprinkler. It gave me such joy, schadenfreude.

We found one other benefit of the motion-activated oscillating sprinkler. Last week we heard noises during the night, and went out on our little deck off our bedroom. A bear was making its way up the steps, and set off the sprinkler. It surprised him, and he ran away.

Bears do not necessarily do any harm, as they don’t attack the planters. We take all the bird feeders inside at night. But it was nice to know we have some control over bears too. If they come around during the day, we have a problem, as we have to confront them to get them to run away.

Last year we had one attacking our hummingbird feeders. I keep Frankensled pocket flares on hand for such occasions. It is not actually a flare, but rather a small bomb that I fire high above the head of the bear. It gives off a loud Boom! and frightens the bear enough that it will not return.

Several years ago we had a bear on the deck attacking a feeder, and I needed to make it go away. I opened the back door part way and started to bombard it with anything I could get my hands on. Nothing worked, and in desperation I grabbed a squirt gun that we use to keep woodpeckers and nuthatches from making holes in our siding. I sprayed the bear in the face, and he looked at me as if thinking “WTF?” He might even have enjoyed it.

Finally I hit him with a small broom, and he looked at me and decided enough, and backed off the feeder and down the stairs.

By the way, the reason we were getting bears in the daytime was a homeowner down the hill from us who was renting out his house as an AIRBNB. People would rent it for the weekend, party, and then leave their garbage cans on the road to be picked up on Thursday. Of course the bears got to it and quickly became habituated. They usually return to places where they have scored food. Bears were marauding on all the homes in the area.

We finally signed a petition with others to shut down the AIRBNB. The county cooperated because what they were doing was illegal. We did not know that. Of course, the neighbor was pissed at us. He was making good $$$ on the place, but harming everyone around him too.

Our neighbor up the hill last year left his deck door open during the day as he went inside to retrieve something. A bear came up on the deck by climbing a 4×4 – these creatures are amazingly agile. The bear went in the house, and our neighbor quickly went out. I am not sure of the resulting damage but as I recall, the bear opened the fridge using the handle.

All things considered, I will take bears any day over ground squirrels and chipmunks.

13 thoughts on “My own private Caddyshack

    1. Against local ordinance, we have an “outdoor” cat. None of the neighbors complain due to his prowess on the battle field. No more city chipmunks; far fewer rabbits; less, I would say “dumb” birds; I have yet to see a LIVE mouse-type. He even bagged a squirrel that was annoying him this spring. He has gifted many kills to us; and stained my patio and porch with his feast. A beautiful animal. I have no fence on my vegetable garden. Just a little population control. I will admit though, that I have never made a serious evaluation of the overall environmental impact.


  1. I would love to have a dog. Problem is, we want to travel. My ideal dog would be mid-sized and love water. I envision me in my kayak with him/her on board.

    Outdoor cats don’t last long up here. We have foxes, coyotes, bears and even some bob and big cats. Pretty soon we see a sign on the mailbox … “Lost, my little Fluffy. Reward offered.”


    1. Not to belabor the point, but I would guess the fortitude of the domestic [outdoor] cat would likely be dependent on breed and lineage. Although in the suburbs, I am near enough to forest that mine contends with the resident coyote, fox, dog, raccoon, [bald] eagle, [red tail] hawk and a confirmed bobcat. He’s no dummy, and incredibly quick.


        1. He loves our house and his sleep; he frequently stays out nights (his choice). Strangely, he doesn’t seem to give a shit about the rain… his thick striped fur often soaked enough that we dry him on re-entry (which he seems to enjoy). Also, I have had cats my whole life, and this guy is by far the cleanest. If I could attach an image, I would. Chipmunk yesterday, vole on Friday – this is in addition to the real meat and kibble we feed him (and his fatso roommate).


    1. We have done that too. There are just too many of them, so that trapping does not affect the population. And, we feed the birds, and so put food out. I cannot blame them for being attracted to that. It has always been just a means of living with them, letting them have the ground but keeping the deck for our flowers and vegetables and bird feeders.. Yesterday we had zero of them up on the deck even as they were down below. The sprinkler system might be working.

      I used a spring trap a couple of years back and got a tree squirrel in it. It was in agony and I had to beat it to death bare handed to end its suffering. That was awful, just left me empty and grieving. I don’t personally kill the cows, pigs and chickens I eat. There’s a woman, Temple Grandin, up in Fort Collins who has had major impact. The thing is that these animals that we eat would not exist otherwise. We create them for the purpose of eating them. They don’t anticipate the future so that if we can devise a way to slaughter them without them being in fear up until the very moment they die, then we are being humane. That is what she did, devising a way for cattle to live peacefully right up until that moment. Slaughterhouses adopted her techniques. Quite an interesting lady, suffering from autism, she was quite good at nonverbal communication, the reason she harmonized so well with animals.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mark

        Before moving west to Oregon twenty years ago, we bought and lived in a house in Trenton NJ, one of those old city row houses (two and three stories high, mostly) on narrow lots leading to the alley behind. We nevertheless carved out a pretty nice garden for us for those two years. The one big problem…squirrels, that were constantly destroying and taking random bites out of nearly everything. I bought a live trap, and started relocating them outside the city. In that two years I removed 90 of the critters. You read that right, ninety. Seemed hopeless, at first, but the flow (I started visualizing the squirrel population as a water flow that sought the lowest level) slowed down enough to minimize the damage, allowing for some happy gardening….one guy walking down the alley peered over the tall fence and said “nice farm”.

        When I was a boy (8?…10?…12?) growing up on the farm in Ohio, my father instructed me to kill a very young but sick and suffering calf, which would have been done by the same method you used on the squirrel. I went somewhere else, never going close to that calf again, and not knowing what my father’s reprisal might be. So there is one big thing to his credit (we were never close), as the matter was not mentioned again. Apparently he learned something about the sensibilities of his son, and accepted it.

        When I met my wife (now 10 months deceased) online over a decade ago, her profile specified her disinterest in any man who would eat meat. OK, I was not eating meat at the time. She was working at the Kushi Institute (marobiotics) in Massachusetts, and our first real eye-to-eye and physical contact was in the Portland, Oregon airport, as she had flown out to meet me….fast forward…..she had some major health issues, and her concerted research efforts led her to believe that strict veganism was leading many people into problems, and that animal fat is an important part of a healthy human diet, and this was proved out to us by clear improvements in her health subsequent to the introduction of animal products, her death last year notwithstanding (that’s another story).

        So, even though I now eat some meat, I still do not want to be the one to do the killing. The closest I came to that was to kill and eat a yellow-tail snapper that I caught while in the Bahamas, and that was not easy for me. Am I a hypocrite?….in early discussions with Erika re meat eating, when she might comment on the seeming “cruelty” of the practice, I would point out that 99.9% of all farm animals (excluding horses, of course, and maybe some goats…wink to Stephers) have any life at all because they are being husbanded for food, and that life can be granted along with humane practices, as pointed out in your comment above.


      2. MT,

        Despite being quite an avid meat eater, and fully acknowledging that the concept of “humanely” raised/slaughtered livestock is on a spectrum (subjectively defined by meat-eaters and vegans/vegetarians), may I suggest that there could be some intentional myth making surrounding good ole’ Temple Grandin?

        I met Grandin years ago, as both of my daughters are neurodiverse. We had an absolutely horrific personal exchange (a story for another day). Needless to say, she was probably the least empathic person I have ever met in my life – and I highly doubt the woman ever even milked a cow by hand (something I have done only a few times myself).

        I visited an industrialized factory farm once (pigs) – slaughterhouse and all. I would not choose to do it again. Conversely, I have regularly visited farms that raise pasture-raised animals, and I do purchase meat directly from these non-commercial farms, as well as their accompanying farmers markets.

        The livestock I own are only for companion animals, so I have no personal experience in slaughtering. Over this past winter, my hay farmer friend (who provides us with our goat hay and also sells us his grass-fed beef from his free-roaming cows) had a troubling experience with one of his goats (like us, his goats are only companions, and not raised for meat). His goat got into the cow pasture somehow, and devoured the cow hay (as there was no spring grass yet on which to graze), and ended up getting deathly ill (the cow hay can have bacteria and organisms in it, which is safe for cows, but not sensitive goats). His goat was suffering greatly, and my friend proceeded to get his rifle. He instructed his wife to go inside the house (keep in mind this goat was their pet). You can imagine what happened next. My hay farmer (I just saw him this morning) is at ease with raising his cows, and slaughtering them. But when it came to his pet goat on the farm, euthanizing him with the shotgun was extremely upsetting to him. Clearly, there is a range of mindsets and emotions when it comes to raising livestock – whether for meat or pure companionship.

        In any case, I agree that animals can be raised for the purpose of eating them (which may upset vegan/vegetarian readers here). However, based on what I have observed (at the one pig factory farm, and conversely, at local family-owned cattle, pig, and chicken farms) and learned about livestock born in captivity, with little or no space to roam – fed on industrialized feed and shot up with hormones and antibiotics (due to the crammed, unhealthy, stress-inducing environs), I refuse to eat meat that originates from those factory farms and associated slaughterhouses. Granted, I do not insist that I know the name of the animal from which my meat originates (there is a really funny episode of Portlandia speaking to this – watch the two-minute clip here:!) – but knowing that the animal had a fairly full life eating, sleeping, and roaming amongst its peers, permits me to eat that meat with gratitude and grace.

        Some food for thought (yes, pun intended):

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I had no illusions about Grandin, as I knew her purpose was to assist in the slaughter process, but so what? It goes on anyway. I had the impression that cows slaughtered while at peace yielded better meat, just as wild game like deer and elk taste better if not stressed at death, that is, a bad shot that causes them to flee and die slowly. Her autism is not appealing, that is, she would not be that and be personable too.

          We buy only organic beef and “Certified Humane” eggs, maybe all an illusion. Organic pork is hard to come by, and organic chicken is frightfully expensive, but that is the price of virtue signalling, right? We do have farms and ranches in the area that sell freshly slaughtered meat, but we have no means of storage other than a small side-fridge freezer. My folks when I was growing up used to buy a “side of beef” and freeze it to save $$$. But that was from a butcher shop, so it was the same beef that the stores sold. I don’t think anyone cared about animal welfare in those days.


        2. Ditto to your comment. I have purchased some beef from a local woman who raises it herself, and a few frozen chickens from another woman doing the same. Today I am going to the beef woman for a bag of bones for bone broth.

          The idea of eating tortured animals is repugnant. Beyond that, “factory” animals are probably as medicated, or more so, than your average person. That thought brings to mind vaccinations for animals. What is the pressure, or even mandate, to jab the livestock? That’s something I know nothing about…..not asking you to do the research:)


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