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It gets interesting when squirrels try to beat 'squirrel-proof' feeders

As long as he gets some food of his own, Sammy the squirrel leaves the birdfeeder alone. Flickr photo by Tracy.1 / 3
A gray squirrel visiting a feeder. Flickr photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS.2 / 3
Outdoors Columnist Blane Klemek3 / 3

This past winter a black-phase gray squirrel, evidently the smartest of the lot, figured out that if he or she climbed the nearest bur oak tree adjacent to the platform feeder that is truly squirrel-proof from the ground, and took a running leap from the least flimsy of the limbs 15 feet above the feeder, that said squirrel could launch itself into the air in a death defying leap and land with a startling thud on top of the platform where the prize of all prizes resides—a birdfeeder plumb full of scrumptious black-oil sunflower seed.

There was a day that I would've been annoyed that yet another squirrel had outsmarted me, but I'll have to concede that if a squirrel wants to risk its life for a bellyful of birdseed and can succeed, then have at it, my furry friend. Knock yourself out.The seeds are all yours.

I've written about squirrels many times. Most of the stories involve birdfeeders and ways to make birdfeeders "squirrel proof." And over the years I've received e-mails and letters from readers describing their ingenious and creative squirrel-proof bird feeding stations, or, as you'll read next, stories about observing squirrels in their ceaseless attempts at accessing our so-called squirrel-proof birdfeeders.

Bonnie Paul, Crookston, recently told me a squirrel story that I'll quote because the story is best told in her voice:

"I watched a red squirrel this morning trying to get onto our bird feeder hanging on a shepherds hook. We still have a lot of snow and the bird feeder was only about 3 feet off the snow, but he was too small to reach from the ground. He decided to try and go to the end of some small branches on a dwarf lilac bush.

"As the tiny branches bent under his weight, he bobbed his head trying to get up momentum to jump across to the feeder. Not quite enough courage, he decided to give it up and climbed off the bush. He tried jumping from the ground but couldn't quite reach. My husband had attached a metal fence post to the shepherds hook to try and keep the deer from bending it over.

"'Little Red' finally figured out there were notches to climb up rather than a smooth pole. The only catch was there was still about one foot of smooth pole at the top. He would climb and slide, climb and slide ... taking a mighty leap he landed on the top of the smooth plastic feeder.

"The next dilemma was trying to reach the food from the top of the roof; climb around the roof, reach down as far as possible, climb and reach.

"One last try and he slid off the roof and landed on the ground. He was so miffed at this time that he shook himself, chased some birds laughing at him, and took off."

Bonnie's story made me laugh, too. I can almost see "Little Red" getting even redder with anger and, who knows, maybe red with embarrassment, too.

She had another story that I could relate with as well. Hers, like mine, involved a squirrel's physical contact. She added:

"My husband used to live-trap (squirrels) and let them loose. The first time he did this, he didn't put the trap on the ground to release the squirrel. Holding the handle with one hand he tried to pry the door open with the other. The squirrel must have thought it was too far to jump to the ground and jumped up his arm, ran around his neck, around David's back a couple times and finally down his leg. All the while David (was) dancing around like a head banger trying to shake the darn thing. I laughed so hard, tears ran down my cheek."

Good one, Bonnie!

The squirrel that I had physical contact with occurred in a far more precarious situation. One early April day years ago, I was on top of a ladder, cleaning a wood duck house that I had mounted to a tree next to Assawa Lake. I could clearly see that the debris inside the nesting box was a squirrel nest. Thinking nothing of it, I took a handful of leaves for discarding when all of a sudden the leaves came to life. I had grabbed a full-grown gray squirrel! Both squirrel and I were quite surprised as the two of us simultaneously let out unintelligible squawks, the squirrel flew out of my hand, and I nearly toppled off the ladder.

Indeed, I could go on and on with many more "squirrely squirrel" stories, as I'm sure you could, too, as we get out and enjoy the great outdoors.