I used every weapon I could think of to keep the squirrels off my screened porch. Rubber snakes. BBs. Hot sauce. Nothing slowed them down as they gnawed and clawed hole after hole in the screen.
On the advice of a friend, I tried something new. I moved Iniesta’s food bowl from the porch to the adjoining garage where the squirrels couldn’t see or smell it. I allowed her only half an hour to eat. Any food that remained in the bowl was dumped back into the “Vittle Vault” where I stored it. Vittle Vaults are heavy-duty plastic containers designed to be impenetrable to pests of all kinds. Bugs. Mice. Rats. Raccoons. Possums. And, yes, even squirrels. I have a large bin for dog food and a smaller one for bird seed. Yeah, but. While partying in the garage (they didn’t care if Iniesta’s bowl was hidden and empty), the squirrels managed to chew through the lids of both Vittle Vaults. Sad but true.
Clearly, patching the holes in my screen with flimsy cardboard and duct tape wasn’t going to stop the little devils. So I began hunting for a material that would block them but not ruin my view of the backyard, which is—of course—one of the main reasons for having a screened porch. After extensive internet research, I honed in on a product called “Critterfence.” I studied the website and then called and talked to a man in customer service. Critterfence offers a wide variety of fencing designed to keep animals in or out. I was fairly sure I needed half-inch woven wire mesh, sometimes called hardware cloth. The wire is hot-dip galvanized after weaving and then coated in black vinyl.
“I can’t imagine a squirrel being able to chew through it,” the man on the phone told me. “And it’s attractive.” So I ordered 200 square feet, enough to reinforce the entire lower half of my porch.
My handyman Bob, who screened the porch a couple of years ago, moved me to the top of his lengthy waiting list because he knew I was desperate. The day after the fencing was delivered, Bob arrived with a tall ladder and a strong staple gun and installed the mesh. It looks great, more like a pleasant cage than a fortress.
Now the real test begins. For good measure, I’ve left a bottle of Tabasco on a table near the screen door (which is also reinforced with Critterfence), where the squirrels can see it. The rubber snakes are still stretched out on the porch rail and my trusty Boy Scouts of America BB gun is cocked, loaded and in full view. I’m doing my darndest to encourage Iniesta to perk up when I yell SQUIRREL!!! She occasionally meanders out into the yard, feigning enthusiasm, but has yet to get anywhere close to one. They’re so sure she harmless that they don’t even bother to scamper up a tree.
They just while away their time under the birdfeeders. Once or twice, they’ve breached my fancy National Audubon Society “squirrel-proof feeder,” but it usually dumps them off. So they hang out on the ground beneath it, chattering happily and enjoying the seeds the birds have scattered about.
The good news is that it’s been almost a week since Bob was here and I haven’t had a single squirrel on the porch or in the garage. Not one. Maybe it’s because of the Critterfence. Or maybe it’s because the squirrels suspect I have one more secret weapon. A weapon so sure-fire it would make them quake in their boots if they knew about it.
But that’s a story that will have to be told in next week’s column.
(August 4, 2019)