Monday, March 12, 2007

Survival of the Stubbornest

Okay, the short bottle didn't work well at all. And neither did the longer one with which we replaced that diminutive decanter. One, or possibly more, of the squirrels is addicted to a topside entry into the bird feeder. Either that or he\she is hooked on the taste of plastic - the ultimate non-organic food. Or maybe it's the silver plumbing tape. A couple of layers of that strong, cloth-backed, waterproof adhesive binding wrapped around the base of an empty bottle of citrus flavored liquid might be a squirrel's idea of duct l'orange. Who knows what goes on in those little gray guys' little gray matter.

Anyway here is what has happened since the bottle break-in that was captured by our surveillance camera on March 8, 2007.

Our supply of readily available replacement vessels had dwindled down to two - another short one, and a one-liter former seltzer container - plus a second bubbly water one being worked on. So I decided to repair the damaged one with duct tape in the vain hope that if it was strong enough to hold water in, it could keep squirrels out.


As anybody, including myself, could have told me it just wasn't going to work at all. Nonetheless I wrapped three layers of the silver sticky stuff around the base of the beleaguered bottle, two horizontal and one vertical - carefully extending the coverage far enough down the length of the feeder so as to block all downward squirrel sightlines into the seed.

The result was so ugly that even the dumpiest trailer park would have legislated it out of existence. But then again it didn't last long enough to come to a vote.

"Jack The Ripper" actually did look perplexed for about two minutes when he returned to the scene of his earlier crimes. He crawled down the wire, poked his head around suspiciously as if sizing up the situation, sniffed once or twice at the newly opaque object that confronted him, and climbed back up onto the branch to cogitate on the subject (eyes squinty, forehead furrowed).

Then he behaved exactly the way that thousands of his ancestors and peers would have done when confronted with an unfamiliar new wrinkle in an old familiar situation. He did exactly the same thing he did before - and it worked like a charm. For people continuing to do the same thing in the face of change is considered a sign of insanity. In squirrels it is one of the keys to their evolutionary success. In people what would have been considered as taking a step back to carefully reassess the situation for squirrels would be thought of as two minutes of their life that they would never get back.

I patched over the resulting damage - figuring that if irrational repetition worked for the rats it would eventually for me too - but gave up on that after my first attempt was undone in about one half the time it took to do.

I went back to the long bottle approach. "J.T.R." stuck with his top-down decimate-and-devour strategy. The feeder remained in tact for about twenty-four hours. Once again I tried the duct tape. Once again it failed - this time with so much of the tape-protected area destroyed that the container no longer had any places left from which it could be hung.

After several hours of thought I have put up a new one-liter bottle. But this time I'm hanging it from a much longer wire - hopefully a slightly greater distance than a squirrel's stretched out body. So far that he will not be able to dangle upside down from the branch and sink his little rodentia into the base of the bottle.

When I came upstairs to write this my antagonist had not yet returned. So as of this moment I do not know the status of my latest attempt to thwart him. I don't really have my hopes up though.

Anybody who, regardless of the changing circumstances, continues to succeed by doing the same thing over and over and over again is just too much of a match for those of us who need to evolve in order to survive - Darwin, who obviously never fed squirrels, not withstanding.

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