DEAR JOAN: I read with great interest the letter from Shyla D. (Nov. 29) because I had a very similar problem with squirrels, as do many people in the Bay Area that have bird feeders, fruit trees and vegetables gardens. You gave her the standard answers, which in my experience do not really work very well and are certainly not cost effective. You're better off buying your fruit and vegetables rather than actually feeding the squirrels and encouraging more to come and more to reproduce.
We also have a large backyard with several fruit trees, grape vines, berry bushes and a bird feeder. About five years ago my wife started feeding the squirrels sunflower seeds and several of our neighbors were feeding them peanuts. Everything was fine for a couple years, but then the squirrels starting multiplying very rapidly to the point where they were stripping our fruit trees and berry bushes long before the fruit was ripe, and they were gnawing on our plastic sprinklers, hoses and plastic solar panels, as well as digging in our flower pots to bury their peanuts.
We stopped feeding them because it was getting to the point where instead of enjoying them, we were starting to hate them and we were not enjoying our backyard and our garden any longer.
I would have been satisfied with sharing with them, but they would have no part of it. I tried netting (expensive and almost impossible on large fruit trees) and pepper and hot sauce (didn't last long and washed away), so as a last resort I decided to trap and release them.
The first year I trapped and released 15. Then I contacted Animal Control and asked if they would take them. They informed me that it was illegal to relocate them and instead that they should be killed.
I trapped an additional 15 that year leaving about three or four, which is about normal. The past two years I trapped an additional 10 when they caused problems. Now we once again enjoy our backyard and the several squirrels that play there.
I wish there was a better solution because I don't feel good about this. I understand that killing any wild animals is contrary to your way of thinking, nevertheless, I am interested in your thoughts.
DEAR CHUCK: You're right, I don't like the killing of wild creatures, however you've just aptly demonstrated the crux of the problem facing wildlife.
The creatures go about their business out in the wild. The abundance food, or lack thereof, as well as natural predators work to keep things in relative balance. Then humans enter the picture and the wild creatures soon find themselves trying to exist in urban areas. The cute animals, such as squirrels, amuse and entertain us, and so we start feeding them. We welcome them to our backyards.
In the meantime, the animals that aren't so cute, such as squirrel-eating coyotes, are driven away. With a lack of predators, the squirrels multiply and soon their antics aren't so entertaining anymore.
This is just a snapshot of what's going on out there in the urban wilderness. Even if we don't actively intrude upon nature, we upset the balance, allowing some populations to thrive and others to decline.
I don't feel good about it, either. And that's why we need to let nature be, with as little involvement from us as possible.
Contact Joan Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org.