I’m certain that some humans are much smarter than squirrels.
The friendly ladies at the Wild Bird Shop in Beaufort showed me all the baffles and gadgets you can acquire to stymie the little problem solvers. They also sent me home with a small bag of the “no waste” bird food, which is supposed to keep the ground cleaner, therefore no little critters, etc. etc.
I went with the bag of ears of corn from Tractor Supply.
I rolled the kernels off by hand, in a couple places away from the bird feeders. It was pleasant enough, early morning in the yard, and — it seemed to work.
Fewer squirrel gymastics and emptied feeders.
I was happy. The squirrels seemed happy.
Then one day I walked onto the porch to the sight of a lovely deer, standing under the bird feeder. In broad daylight. She was quietly eating the corn under the “bird tree.”
I stopped in my tracks on the screened porch, and quietly closed the inside door. According to my husband, deer have poor eyesight – but those ears hear everything. So I stood there, and just marveled at how close she was. I studied her fur — the painter and lifelong lover of all things wild having a moment. And then another. She knew something was there, but she couldn’t really see me through the screen.
I stood watching her for a very long time, and then I registered this scolding noise off to the right, from the side lawn.
One of the squirrels was trying to scare the deer away from their corn. He even made a little run at the deer, but not too close. The deer stepped back and just looked at the squirrel.
The squirrel stood his ground – and then the squirrel looked at me.
If that squirrel could have stood up and put hands on hips, that was the look I got.
I almost laughed out loud.
But I didn’t want to scare the deer.
Since that morning, I’ve started spreading the corn 🌽 more widely. It’s still a pleasant endeavor. I stroll the back yard and put the corn down in a couple places. I know where the deer path is, and I put it just along the edge, in the corner of the yard I can see, but where they are still hidden from the road.
There’s hundreds of square miles of A.C.E. Basin starting less than a mile away but they seem to like our little village on the edge of the swamp.
One lovely evening at dusk, I was sitting on the porch with the cat in my lap and we watched them. There are two adults, two yearlings, and three “bambis.” They’re just losing their spots in time for winter. I’ve surprised various members of the group, pulling into the yard late at night after a long haul home from an art event. Until then, I might have figured it was random deer but now I’ve seen the “teenagers” from last summer. And mom and dad, and the three little ones.
It’s something I didn’t realize deer did, family. I mean, not beyond the obvious. I had no idea they would stick together year after year.
But now, I recognize “our” deer family. And every once in awhile, at dusk, or early in the morning, I might see them, which is always a delight. If they see me, they step inside the young pines at the edge of the woods, and we all stand very still.
It never gets old.
So I’m glad I bought off the squirrel mafia with corn.