I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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goodnight you cats
Now is the time for all good cats to go to sleep
there are things to do tomorrow
And you can do them then
but now its time to sleep
and you can dream

martha the cat


<July 2017>




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Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 3:36 AM Pacific

  01:08 AM

For Friday Fun this time, I'll tell you the story of how I've been waging war on some squirrels. And how that's going, or not.

We have birdfeeders on our deck:
Some of our birdfeeders

They’re nice. We see all manner of wildfowl — not just the variety of songbirds that we have here in the NW, but occasional surprise visitors like flickers and jays. Now and then we’ll see a hummingbird, who seems to visit the feeder when the pickings are slim elsewhere.

And then there are other visitors. Those would of course be squirrels:

Squirrel [#]

As it turns out, many of the things that birds like, like sunflower seeds and suet, are things that squirrels really, really like also.

Now, I don’t have anything against squirrels as such. They’re, you know, cute and stuff. I don’t even particularly mind squirrels having a snack at the feeders.

But. But, but, but. Here’s the thing. The squirrels chase off the birds. Not deliberately, just because they’re big critters in comparison. And worse, they’re greedy little buggers. They don’t just come and have a handful of millet and then head home. Oh, no. They decimate the sunflower seeds and (especially) the suet. And worst of all, as they perform their acrobatics to get at the seed, they tip the birdfeeders so that all the seed pours out! I’ll fill the feeder and an hour later I’ll see a squirrel out there and the seed is all in a heap on the ground.

This would not do.

I had hopes for a while that I might get the dogs interested in this problem. “Look!” I’d urge them. “There’s squirrels out on the deck!” You know, get their predator instincts engaged. But the dogs are old, and my exhortations barely got them to stop snoring on their comfy dog beds. The cat was, if possible, even less interested.

I did a turn as a kind of human scarecrow. “Hey!” I would shout. I’d run out on the deck and stomp my feet. This worked, to the extent that it chased the squirrels away. But either they were savvy enough or stupid enough to come back in short order, and let’s face it, I can’t spend all day dashing out onto the deck to frighten the squirrels.

I could see that there was only one solution. I was going to have to shoot them.

(Keep reading.)

I knew just what I wanted, so I headed to a nearby sporting-goods store. When I went home, I had one of these things:

Pretty wicked-looking, eh? If you know your armaments, however, you might not be as impressed. (The orange ring at the business end of the barrel is the giveaway.) This is a CO2-powered airgun that shoots 6mm plastic pellets: plastic BBs, in effect.

See, I don’t really want to hurt the squirrels. All I wanted to do was instill in them a desire to go raid someone else’s birdfeeders. I thought that if they experienced the occasional stinging sensation when they came to visit, they’d learn — hey, they’re sort of like rats, right? — to associate that discomfort with our birdfeeders. Very Skinner.

This gun, it horrified my wife and the girls. I’m pretty sure my wife has never fired a real gun before. And although this thing is up just one level from a toy, it does have a bit of heft to it, and of course it’s designed as a replica of a real pistol. I showed her the plastic BBs and how it had a safety and everything. Almost harmless. See, you just point it at the tree over there, and just pull the trigger, and pft! pft! pft! The little plastic balls bounce merrily off the tree. Fun!

She looked … skeptical.

Anyway, thus commenced my attempts to shoot squirrels. Tricky business. For one thing, the squirrels knew enough that if they heard the patio slide open, or a window, they’d scamper off. And even if I could get off a couple of shots, it turns out that aiming a pistol — and in particular, using an air-powered pistol to shoot plastic pellets at a quickly moving target — is harder than it looks on TV. Probably for every dozen shots I fired (and then had to reload), 1 or 2 might come close.

And then it turned out that the few times I actually did hit a squirrel, the pellet would literally bounce off the beast. I’m not convinced that the squirrel even felt much.

So. I can’t say that my firearms-based defense against squirrels has been particularly effective. Basically, we play a game, the squirrels and I. I pretend to be Deadeye Dan, sharpshooter, who will pick off those pesky squirrels if they come tresspassing. And they pretend to be scared and scamper off when I open the window and level my weapon at them.

It’s more fun than running out and stomping my feet, tho.

Now, I’m sure my wife was somewhat surprised when I came home with what looked like a pistol to her. But she was even more surprised, I think, when I’d be doing dishes or something, then leap for the cupboard, grab the gun, throw open the window, and start blasting away. Who the hell was this guy she’d married, anyway? “Squirrels!” I would have to explain.

But there was a moment. I was making the long trek out to our mailbox one afternoon when I heard the definite sound of the airgun blasting away. When I went back inside, I had to ask. Well, it turned out that there had been squirrels at the feeder, so my wife had grabbed the gun from the cupboard, flipped off the safety, and … well, squirrels!

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