Garden Detective

Use creative props to combat fruit-stealing squirrels

Experts tackle readers’ garden questions.

There’s more than one way to trick a squirrel.

Responding to Bob Sloan’s plea for help with his apple-eating Western gray squirrels, readers shared their tips for how to keep squirrels out of fruit trees. They often employed unusual props.

“I’m disappointed you didn’t mention in your article what I’ve found to be the best remedy of all,” said Crilly Butler of Davis. “I buy a large pack of blank CDs at Fry’s and hang them from all the branches of the tree by nylon fishing line. As the CDs spin in the wind, their movement startles squirrels, but in addition, the rainbow light that reflects off the CDs’ faces significantly increases the effect. Keeps birds away, too!”

Susan Duarte of El Dorado Hills uses other props; one fuzzy, the other shiny.

“Two strategies I used successfully to protect the persimmons on my trees: A teddy bear and a balloon,” Duarte said. “The teddy bear should look as much like a bear as possible; 24 inches is an optimum size. Arrange him artfully in the branches of the tree. You can tie him there – squirrels are not stupid, but they’re not too bright either, and they don’t risk themselves if they can’t determine what they are looking at. Move him around in the tree from time to time so he seems alive rather than just a fixture.

“A Mylar balloon makes a wonderful scarecrow,” she added. “Get one with a face, preferably one with a face on each side. Then, enhance the eyes with whiteout or liquid embroidery paints. Give the mouth a bunch of nice sharp-looking teeth. Adjust the length of its tether, then tie it securely to a brick or other heavy object, set it far enough from the tree to prevent tangling, and move it from place to place periodically.

“You will have to replace the balloon several times during the season as the helium leaks out,” she added, “so get it at the dollar store.”

Besides bears and balloons, Duarte also employs other methods in her battle against furry invaders.

“A cat that sits at the base of the tree and stares at the squirrel makes the squirrel too nervous to eat,” she said. “And squirrels hate to get wet, so keep a hose hooked up and handy!”

For more information on tree squirrels and possible controls, see the UC IPM Pest Notes at ipm.ucanr.edu.

The Bee’s Debbie Arrington is a consulting rosarian and lifelong gardener; darrington@sacbee.com, 916-321-1075, @debarrington.

Garden questions?

Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties. Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to h&g@sacbee.com. Please put “Garden Detective” in the subject field and include your postal address. To contact UC Extension directly, call:

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