What I’m about to say may surprise a few of you. I don’t love all animals. I’m vegan, which should translate into unequivocal support for all our furry and feathered friends. But come to find out, I’m a speciesist. Why? Because I hate squirrels. Plain and simple. I think you might too if you walked a mile in my shoes, or maybe just around my back yard a time or two. So here I am laying it all the line. Join with me as I share my Confessions of an Animal-Loving Vegan.
The animal-loving side of me crystalized on a cold, windy day in November, some 16 years ago. It was, by all definitions, a lousy day. Lots of cold, windy days can be terrible, but this one is frozen in my memory because it was the day of my divorce. There are some things in life even a good chocolate eclair can’t repair, and this was one of them. I was feeling utterly down and out until something hit me. No, it wasn’t a mack truck, it was an idea. I had wanted to become a vegetarian for years, but it wasn’t an easy thing to do with a “meat-and-potatoes” husband. As much as I was disappointed to be going through a divorce, I suddenly had something to look forward to.
I was going to finally make vegetarianism stick…and that’s exactly what I did.
When I confessed the news to the rest of my family, they were on the unpleasant side of surprised. A few of them thought (or hoped) it was just a passing thing…as if I was in some kind of “just divorced” phase of my life. Is there such a thing? Well, if there is, I know my family thought I was knee-deep in it. Everyone except my dad.
When I told my dad the news he just looked at me and said, “I knew one day you were going to be vegetarian.”
I stood and stared at him, mouth agape. That’s what I do when I’m in shock. I know it’s not the most intellectually, self-composed response, but when a moment overwhelms you deep to your core, your face can’t help but show it.
“What do you mean, Dad? How did you know?”
“Well, you always had posters of animals in your room. Baby Seals and all. And you were always rescuing animals here and there. I don’t know why, but I just figured one day this might be something you’d do.”
I forgot all about posters of baby seals…and kittens dangling from limbs with words like “Just hang in there” inked below.
I smiled with the realization that maybe I had just achieved a lifelong destination — I was born to be a vegetarian. What I didn’t know then was that my animal loving journey didn’t end there. Several years later I chose to become vegan. Or maybe vegan chose me. That’s because I have problems with dairy – I felt much better eliminating butter, cream, and eggs from my diet. My two strongholds were pizza and milk chocolate and once I learned to let go of those, I was free.
Until I moved to this house…and met the squirrels.
The squirrels in my yard are evil.
Oh sure, they might look adorable. That’s just part of their act.
They eat every last piece of fruit from my fruit trees…never mind that they don’t even touch the apples from my neighbor’s yard when she couldn’t care less about fruit. Tell me that’s not some sort of premeditated evil! They destroy potted plants. Devour tomatoes…if I plant them (which I don’t anymore). And they plot.
Look at this one. He’s strategizing right now.
I received several responses from readers – from those who were sympathetic and others who were not so much so.
Some people shared with me the animals that were problematic in their yards — everything from rabbits, black birds, crows, raccoons, possums, and snakes.
I don’t have a problem with snakes.
Shawn and I discovered this friendly Snake in the Grass in our yard and he seemed content to pose for quite awhile. Some people will kill a snake upon first glance, even though these little guys really provide more benefit than harm.
That takes me back to squirrels. Let me clarify something. I would never intentionally hurt a squirrel in my yard…or anywhere. It’s not in my nature. Personally, I think they’ve figured this out which is why they run roughshod in my backyard. Second, if my squirrels were as docile and harmless as a garter snake, I could completely tolerate them, even in large numbers.
Here’s a synopsis of some of the things I’ve tried to keep the squirrels away from the fruit in my yard:
- I tried protecting selected pieces of fruit with netting materials (see photo above). This managed to delay their fruit-seeking missile behavior for about 24 hours…before chewing through the netting and eating the fruit off every growing thing in my yard.
- The next year I brewed potions of cayenne pepper (and other offensive ingredients) and sprayed the trees from tip to torso every few days. The squirrels were distracted by the flavors for about, oh, 48 hours…before eating the fruit off every growing thing in my yard. I was discouraged, but making progress.
- I tried hanging pie pans in the trees. Fake owls. I even ran in the yard screaming a time or two. The neighbors are afraid of me now.
- The next year there was a late frost so none of us got any fruit. That somehow made he happy. If I couldn’t have any fruit, why should they?
- The next year I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea. While the fruit was still tiny, I inserted it into a plastic bottle and secured it in place with ties. And do you know what? It worked! Not only did it protect the fruit that I had covered with the bottles, but every other fruit on the tree as well. We had pears galore! Of course, the only caveat on my celebrations was the fact that the squirrel population seemed lower in general, but I wasn’t about to let that dampen my spirits.
- This year I went into the fruit season with misguided optimism. There was a late freeze, but I discovered a few pears on the tree. I covered the ones I could reach with plastic bottles and waited. It didn’t take long before I began to notice squirrels in the tree. They were moving in for the kill; eating whatever pears they could get their opposable-like thumbs on. I thought my plastic bottle brigade would hold, until one day I noticed that a pear in one of the bottles was upside down. Upon closer inspection I saw that the squirrel had gnawed on the branch…adnd that the pear had been dismembered from the tree. Every single bottle that had “protected” the pears had the same thing. It’s as if the squirrels were sending me a signal – each of those pears belonged to them!
That closes out my latest Squirrel Confessions. The squirrels have won again. I’m going to post a white flag in the back yard to let the squirrels know I give up.
So here’s my question to you.
What animals push your buttons? For some people it’s deer that look like Bambi incarnate, but eat the bark off every tree in their yard. For others it’s beaver that build dams and destroy native habitat. Raccoons foraging through trash. Bats camping out in garages. How about you? Do you have any animals that drive you crazy? If so, how do you handle it?
Or, maybe you’re on the other side of the fence. Maybe you love animals and believe they should receive a “get out of jail free” card on everything.
There’s an ever narrowing intersection between the habitats of wild animals and human day-to-day life. What side of the road are you on?