Regretting the Day the Squirrel Came to Live in our Yard


Squirrel did in our cucumbers



I thought of a few different titles for this post:

Never say, “never.”

It’s Us or Them.

The One True Downside to Living in the Country.

In the end, I went with how this incident made me feel.

I did something yesterday that five years ago, I thought I would never do.

I’ve been posting about our time with our deck garden this year. We container garden on the deck for many reasons, one of them being the theory that the many wild animals we try to live in harmony with will not come that close to Our Little House to munch our veggies.

It worked until this year, presumably because of the drought.

First, what we thought was a rat decimated my roma tomato plant earlier in the spring, took it right down to nubs. We got some rat zappers and started trapping the wood rats (some people call them pack rats) on the deck at night.

As the plant promised to make a full recovery, we began noticing our cucumber plants disappearing.

I had four of them planted in a long pot; they were huge, healthy and full of blooms.  Last Friday, I came home and what was left of them was completely obliterated and the culprit was sitting on the deck munching away.

It wasn’t a rat at all, but that cute squirrel that has been avoiding our dogs and living in the nearby woods behind the house.

Once he was done with the cucumber plant and there was nothing left, he came for the jalapeno peppers and tomatoes over the weekend.

I caught him a couple of times on the deck and shooed him away. I put the fake owls right on the deck rail nearest the tomato plant, he simply hopped around them, no worries of getting eaten, he even knocked the bobble head off one getting to the tomato plants.

Once, he even jumped from the deck onto the tree nearest the house and turned around and sat and looked at me.

“Please,” I pleaded with him, hoping I could somehow communicate with him. “Go away before we have to do something drastic.” That worked as well as the fake black snakes we placed all over the deck, including right in the cucumber plant in hopes of scaring him.

The dogs chased him up a tree a couple of times to no avail; he just waited and came back.

And that mixture of crushed jalapeno pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic that kept the green horn worms at bay last season? Forget about it. This squirrel actually dug up one of the jalapeno plants and took the whole thing, peppers and all, with him.

I got to the point on Sunday that I was having a hard time sleeping, wondering if my tomatoes were being carted away at that very moment.

Finally, Dale got out the rifle. We hate it; we would rather find ways to live with our woodland neighbors than eliminate them. Dale has only shot three snakes here in five years, all of them too close to the house, poisonous and potentially deadly to our dogs.

Dale couldn’t get a clean shot over the weekend, but I did. On Monday afternoon, I came out of the house, startling the squirrel out of that recovering roma tomato pot. He jumped from the deck onto the ground, where I was able to finally put an end to his pilfering of our veggies.

The kill was clean, instantly to the head, but it didn’t make me feel good. I drive around snakes in the road and capture spiders to let them out of the house alive. I eat little meat and would be a vegetarian if Dale would. It actually made me sick to my stomach.

The words of Rodney King, who died last week, came into my head. “Can’t we all just get along?”

I’m still hoping to find less lethal methods should another squirrel come looking for a free meal, but the whole incident has me thinking about our place and theirs in this serene paradise. Can we all just get along? Not all of the time, I’m afraid.

Have you ever felt you had to kill something to protect yourself or your property?   


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36 Responses

  1. Freth says:

    Every so often we have to go out and shoot squirrels. This is probably going to be one of those years. Those furry-tailed tree-rats eat their way through a lot of our pecan crop … and right now they are wreaking havoc with the pear crop. However, due to our policy, we don’t shoot and leave them … they are dressed out and put in the freezer for a meal. Same with fish … if we catch them, we release them or eat them. There is no wasting. Other crop destroyers though – mockingbirds .. too small to eat … and we don’t eat crows.

    • Kerri says:

      I did put some dog hair and human hair in a mesh bag and hung it by the tomatoes, so far, no more squirrels, Freth! It’s good that you eat what you kill.

  2. Oh, squirrels are cute, but man they can make a gardener mad!

  3. Sheryl says:

    Oh, this is so upsetting. I don’t think I could have done what you did. But I do understand (kind of) your need to do it. I realize you gave it a lot of thought.

    • Kerri says:

      I have at least set water outside for the critters. People tell me they are after the moisture more than the plant.

  4. This reminds me of some nasty black squirrels that would get into our trash can in NY. We thought we had them fooled by adding a latch-on top. They CHEWED through the lid to get to the trash!

  5. Vicki says:

    Unfortunatly, yes. We had a rabid possum during the Memorial Day holiday and we caught her. She was sick, and we have too many kids, pets and she could not be released. She had the dumb form of rabies. Since we had no animal control over that weekend, we had to rig up a silencer on the 22 and took her out back very late in the night to do what we had to do. I have also had to put down cats and a dog that was sick also, also over a holiday weekend. I have had to kill rattlers here too, again, we have kids who have not been around snakes or been taught what to look for in snakes, whether poisonous or non-poisonous.
    I do not like to kill animals either, but there are exceptions to the rule. In this case, the squirrel was becoming a maurader and was in the habit and had easy pickings.
    Please do not beat yourself up over this, though its hard and I do the same, but I also look at the other side of the issue. Common sense is the lesson.

    • Kerri says:

      Non poisonous snakes don’t typically bite and they help control the rat population here. We welcome the Bull snakes and Black Snakes with open arms. The Bulls even eat the rattlers. Thanks for your comments, Vicki.

  6. Heather L. says:

    You did what you had to do. Nice to know you’re such a good shot. Might keep the burglars away.

  7. Laurie says:

    my only suggestion would be to create a feeding station away from your garden or a little garden for the critters away from your garden. It can work unless the critters get highly populated. I feed the birds in my yard and they leave my garden alone. With the drought you have going on though, I don’t know. I’m sorry you had to kill the little bugger but I understand as well.

  8. Alisa Bowman says:

    I’ve had this issue with deer and I live in a small town–not country at all. Last year, just before ripeness, the deer came one night and ate every single tomato plant. It was disappointing because I do love garden tomatoes, but I realized that they’d done it because they were starving and hungry. They had not done it to torment me or even to steal. So I thought of that garden as a gift for the wildlife. In the end, you can shoot a million squirrels. There will always be more.

    • Kerri says:

      Actually, the squirrels in the country are not at all like those in suburbs, none of the wildlife is because we are so far out and they are really not acclimated with humans as they are in towns and in the burbs. This is the first squirrel in 9 years of living here that has really even gotten close to the house. I’m hoping it is the last.

  9. Kim says:

    I haven’t. But I would.

    My condolences on the loss of so much of your deck garden! My heart hurt as I was reading the account of everything he’d destroyed, pillaged, eaten, or kidnapped.

    (I said this just yesterday: Squirrels are NOT cute critters. They are destructive tree rats with pretty tails.)

    I don’t think corn would’ve deterred that guy… I bet he’s looking for moisture just as much as food. It is dry as toast out there.

  10. Deb Berning says:

    We have had to shoot ground hogs, possums, coons because they can do serious damge to our gardens and buildings. The g. hogs actually raised a huge concrete piece in our barn under a car so we couldn’t get it out by driving it out. That’s serious. I leave most everything alone but sometimes you just have to shoot something. Then the buzzards have a buffet.

    • Kerri says:

      Well, that’s true. By the time my husband came home and he walked the 20 yards or so where the squirrel was lying, the scavengers had already begun. Two days later, there isn’t a trace.

  11. Mo says:

    Your feelings are pretty normal considering most of us grew up on disney movies and the closest we ever get to the critters we eat are quarters hanging in the butcher shop.

    My Grandmother’s Sister was a crack shot well into her eighties. Her Garden was just outside the kitchen door and it attracted all sorts of critters, including deer. That garden not only produced vegetables, it also produced the vast majority of meat we ate at her table. One of the chores we had when visiting the farm was butchering the critters she shot.

    We did eat really well there…

    • Kerri says:

      You’re right, Mo, I think our feelings toward animals, or anything, goes back to our experiences as children. My parents grew up on a farm and my mother used to describe how they would ring chickens necks. The very thought of it made me squirm. Yet, we eat meat from the store when it is not alive and we don’t have to think about where it comes from.

      • Nanci says:

        Oh gosh, Kerri, I can SO relate with this! I still envision myself in a full skirt with bright red shoes and a bird perches on my shoulder while we sing a duet together. VERY Disneyesque, me thinks!

        • Kerri says:

          LOL, Nanci. How funny. I was watering my deck garden this morning and a hummingbird came right by my face and just hovered there, looking at me for a few seconds. I thought of these “Disney animal moments.”

  12. Aleta Durham says:

    You need two outdoor cats.

    • Kerri says:

      Unfortunately, Aleta, outdoor cats here are known as “coyote bait,” they don’t last long and I couldn’t stand losing them.

  13. Sue says:

    Every once in a while you will get a squirrel or raccoon that is very destructive. Some seem to eat the corn and birdseed and not bother things. Some seem to tear up and destroy everything you have. We too like to live in harmony and we feed the animals, even the buzzards with leftover meat. But we also fit into the order of things. I don’t kill snakes that I see on the road or non-poisonous ones in the yard. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave a rattlesnake to roam free by the porch. I don’t want bugs biting me in the house, and I don’t want a squirrel eating my cabin siding. We share our veggies and grapes with the birds when we can but I don’t want to give them the whole garden. We are so overrun with deer that if the population was reduced by 2/3s there would still be too many for the land to support and it results in tiny deer that are starving most of the time.
    I think that we can live in mostly harmony but that sometimes a person has to be realistic and sometimes nature is not always peaceful and we are part of that nature. Just my opinion. I still feel a pang when something wild is killed but the closer to nature we live, the more see that is part of it also.
    The idea of some kind of cage is a good one if you can get a small enough gage wire. But sometimes nothing works if you get an especially determined varmint! We have our garden in a deer proof fence and we use bird netting over the grapes and sometimes the peaches. When the peaches start to get ripe we have a hotwire (like people use for horse fencing but this one is gaged for dogs so it doesn’t kill)we turn on to keep the raccoons from climbing the fence. Before we added that they would climb in and not only eat the peaches but break the limbs on the trees.

    • Kerri says:

      Before we moved here, we were having a problem with a squirrel or more chewing the siding. We went to a wild life store in the city who told us to put up silver streamers, so for awhile, we called our home “the party house” because there were those silver streamers blowing every time we drove in. Until this winter when the rats showed up, we hadn’t had a problem. I think it is the extreme weather. Thanks for your perspective, Sue, we are pat of that nature and all we can do is the best we can.

  14. Vonnie says:

    Totally understand your dilemma. So far I’m in the same boat as Shayla, and only killed my first ticks this spring (in fact it’s the first time I’ve ever seen one). Wherever possible, I try to catch things and take them away and get quite upset when the dogs kill a possum or mongoose.
    My biggest fruit and veg eating pests are my dogs, so no option there…as my fruit and veg begin, I have bought some rabbit and chicken wire and plan to make some wire “cloches” that fit over the plants. I’m hoping it will work OK over my smallish rows of veg and hopefully keep the big fat wood pigeons away too.
    In direct response to your question – I reckon if I had given something a fair chance to leave and it was doing damage – I may well decide to rid myself of it…but it wouldn’t be a good feeling.

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, no, the dogs eating the fruits and veggies!? My dogs are killing something often. Armadillos, squirrels, rabbits, pack rats. They couldn’t seem to get this cagey one, though.

  15. Lisa says:

    If a new squirrel comes around you might try nailing some deer corn (dried on the cob) near the base of a tree. Squirrels love it and will work on it for days because they can’t carry the whole thing off at one time. Also, a nail won’t hurt a mature tree. As a bonus, you can watch the little rodent from your deck…cheap entertainment.

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks for the recommendation, Lisa. I did read someplace that providing them an alternative food source might help. We used to have feeders for the squirrels in the suburbs. They never were a problem there.

  16. Shayla says:

    I’ll kill tics, mosquitoes, centipedes, ants but that’s about it so far. I’ll usually capture and release most others outside. This is my first year gardening and I might be experiencing my first real problem with pests. I’ve lived urban my entire life. And so far I haven’t had to defend myself from a human threat. But if I ever do, I don’t think I’ll be trigger happy. There’s often alternatives that will reach desired results. Kerri, maybe making a cage out of wire to place over the plants will keep them safe. I’m also seeking to homestead in the hopefully nearish future. I like your posts.

    • Kerri says:

      Shayla, Luckily, our intruder came in our house on a night when my husband was watching television in his chair in the family room. He worked nights, so even on the weekends, he stayed up much of the night. He was mostly awake and lucid, and had the presence of mind to push the “kid” (probably late teens or early 20s) back out of the door. But the kid was huge and if the house had been dark and both of us were awakened from a sleep, I hate to think what would have happened, even with his extensive training with firearms. Thanks for the comments.

  17. Carol says:

    Our little house is in the desert. We don’t have as much wildlife as you do in the woods. I have had to kill several rattle snakes, deadly to my dogs. The mice that get into the cabin are also killed because they make a terrible mess and are a health hazard. I shoot at the coyotes to make them go away. I would shoot a coyote that was in my yard or threatened my dogs or myself. I also had to shoot at an intruder once, he was drunk and just didn’t get it that he was at the wrong place. My feeling is that we really have a small footprint in our environment and the impact of the loss of a few snakes and mice is not that large.

    • Kerri says:

      That is an interesting way to look at it, Carol. I drove around a rattler in the road the other day and my neighbor said, “Just run over it!” I feel that every life deserves a chance to live in peace, that snake was no where near anyone or any homes and was just going along minding his business. Everything has a place in the chain. It bothers me to kill something I once lured in the suburbs to feeders. I like squirrels, but this one would not go away and leave our veggies to harvest. We also once had an intruder in the city who was looking for the “party house” on our block. Came in our door at 4 a.m., looking for the party. He was too blitzed to understand he had the wrong house, but he’s lucky, very lucky and I don’t think he ever realized how close he came to being shot.