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.
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.