Defeating Squirrels With Tech

After watching a squirrel chew up every single peach on our little tree, despite deploying yards of bird netting, I found myself pondering extreme and deadly measures. Then I found myself fantasizing about what I would do if I were Elon Musk. First, I’d give up on the mars idea. Mars is, after all, a lifeless, barren speck of dust lacking life’s essentials such as breathable air, plants, cats and Parmesan cheese. Why bother? How about, instead, turning that technical know-how towards the most important issue of our time: squirrel deterrence.

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As it turns out I’m not alone. At a Python programming conference, back in 2012, software engineer Kurt Grandis presented a research project he entitled, “Militarizing Your Backyard with Python: Computer Vision and the Squirrel Hordes.” Grandis’ motivation was a squirrel attack on his peach tree and, worse, his kid’s pumpkin patch. The full lecture details Grandis’ attempt to create a program that would differentiate between squirrels and birds and then deliver a carefully aimed blast of water at just the squirrels. It’s worth viewing in its entirety just to hear how Grandis resolves the image recognition question, “What is squirrelness?” If you’re impatient you can fast forward to the 16 minute mark for the video. Spoiler alert: it works, at first, and then the squirrels quickly learn to ignore the blasts of water.

It leaves me wondering if a scary clown strategy might work better such as it did with this bear:

Kidding aside, two Southern California biologists are using high powered lasers to dissuade ravens from attacking endangered desert tortoises. The biologists are also speculating about the possibility of “gamifying” this task by opening it up to anyone who wants to take a potshot via the internet. Which leads to my question of the day. Would you readers be interested in a gamified laser squirrel shoot in the Root Simple backyard? Time to learn Python!



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  1. Re: your next-to-last sentence, I would be interested. But I’d be even more interested to know how those ravens at the start of the last paragraph learned to use laser rifles to attack endangered desert tortoises. I know ravens are smart, but…

    Kidding aside, as you say, I hope that Kelly’s recovery from the aortic misadventure is going well, and that you both are establishing a “new normal” as time goes by. (That was a great photo of your mother in an earlier post, BTW.)

    • Hi A, Bad grammar happens when you drink too much coffee the day before and don’t get enough sleep! Thanks for spotting that amusing mistake! And we are doing better, thanks. Hope you are well.

  2. Better to get an actual python. Squirrels are incredibly adaptable. Elon Musk would have his work cut out for him.

  3. Really enjoy your blog. I too have tried to protect both fruit trees and garden from marauders. Think I may have found a solution for fruit trees. Bought a box of “bird spike” from Home Depot (they’re expensive). I almost didn’t buy them because of cost and I’m tired of spending time/money/energy on this seemingly futile effort. So far the apricots are still on the tree YAY! Tried one today, it needed maybe two more days on the tree but it was so delicious. The method I used was to align the bird spikes north/south on the trunk. I tied the top and bottom nestling the string under the last spikes on top and bottom. This way there is no way to scamper up the trunk. Of course if you have neighboring structures or trees — the squirrels could still jump. By this time last year the tree was already stripped. As soon as the fruit starts to “color”, they are taken. I’ll update you in a week to see if the figure out a way to foil this barrier method. Last year I ringed the trees with metal and that did not work at all 🙁

    • Thanks for sharing and please send an update. We’ve got the neighboring structure problem with all of our trees, unfortunately.

  4. I too am curious about the bird spikes as squirrels have already stripped all my fruit trees. This would have been my first really good harvest due to the winter rains we got this year, so I am really disappointed. The darn bandito squirrels have already moved on but next year I need to be prepared. I would love to see pictures of how the bird spikes are used on the trees.

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