So, you have a new hobby. What is it? You want to observe and record the habits and activities of owls. Now, how do you do it?
You build a screech owl box. It looks like a simple bird box, with an opening large enough for owls to enter and peek around. You make the box quite warm and cozy with ample nesting and stock it with a little bit of food also. Then you place it on a treetop.
Now, the problem. Squirrels. The almost regular intruder wants the owl box for itself.
So how to stop them? Here is why squirrels tend to invade your owl boxes and some tips as to how to deal with such an invasion.
Why are Squirrels Attracted to Screech Owl Boxes?
The biggest reason for this would be warmth and shelter.
For instance, if a squirrel is pregnant or has a newborn young then they are in search of ready-made shelter. What better than your owl box?
Plus often people are known to keep food inside the owl box. That too attracts the squirrels.
Ways to Keep Critters Away from Owl Boxes
The most common way of deterring squirrels from attacking your screech owl box is by making it too uncomfortable for them. Squirrels hate strong tastes and smells. So use that weakness accordingly.
Take some pepper powder or chili flakes and add water to them. Do not dilute it too much, just enough that it mixes well and is in the form of a flowy liquid. Pour it into spray bottles and spray on the trunk of the tree where your box is. Also, spray on surrounding plants as well.
You can also make the mixture with hot sauce. Keep adding water to the bottle of hot sauce till the texture is liquidy. Then spray it similarly.
Squirrels do not like the sweet smell of peppermint oil. It is too sweet for them. So you can spray your tree trunk and plants with that too.
Tip: You can add a few drops of liquid soap to make the mixture spray stick to the surfaces of plants.
Spill some garlic cloves around the trees and plants. Squirrels are too sensitive to the pungent garlic odor and might actively try to avoid it.
Squirrels hate water. They do almost everything to avoid getting wet. So, you drench them.
Whenever you see a squirrel nearing your owl box or sneaking around it, spray water on them. Each time you see them, do this.
Repetition of the same reaction will condition them to not return to your owl box and go in search of their necessities elsewhere.
Owls are a predator species of squirrels. But interestingly these sneaky critters are not afraid to enter an owl’s home in its absence. Though they are not known to disregard an owl’s presence if it is present there.
So to keep squirrels out of your screech owl box, you can make them believe the presence of an owl. You can purchase or create a model or statue of an owl and set it up in your yard or somewhere on the tree, your screech owl box is on.
Make sure to let the model be light enough to sway. Also, changing its position frequently as a stationary predator is not going to scare the squirrel every day.
A baffle is a large umbrella-like structure used to make it difficult for squirrels to climb into the screech owl box. It is a smooth conical dome usually made of aluminum that sticks out away from the object it is placed above or below.
It should be placed under the box as well as over it. Squirrels cannot balance themselves on it. Neither can they climb around it, they usually slip off.
Reportedly squirrels hate flashy things. So wrapping an aluminum sheet or metal flashing around the tree trunk, above and below the box might work.
- While spraying water on the squirrels, be careful to not hurt them. Just use it in a way that they escape unscathed but are too scared to return.
- Ensure that the metal sheets you use do not have sharp edges. They can nick and cut the delicate flesh of the critters.
The biggest inconvenience caused by squirrel invaders is that, once a squirrel starts living in the box, even after you chase it away, the owl in most cases does not return. See, there goes your chance at an owl observation project. Phew!
So if you want your project intact then you need to chase away the squirrel as soon as you see it. That way the owl does not need to know about it and it can return to its resting place in peace.
If you have an owl box, try being on a vigilant lookout and engage in the immediate evacuation of even seemingly adorable intruders. Do not let them bunk for even a minute!
Hope this article could help you with the squirrel-intruder problem. Cheers to your owl observation!