Squirrels and Pears-How to Harvest
Squirrels are cute little varmints who are
not too particular about whether they eat the apples or pecans
that you have spent a fortune on trying to produce.
But squirrels and pears don't mix! Squirrels
are cute little creatures that have become lazy in my yard.
The furry devils ate all of my apples and are now mutilating
my pears, rather hunting for the "wild nuts and berries"
that squirrels are supposed to eat. Squirrels don't want to
search for their food in the wilds anymore. And why should
they? We've grown their food for them in convenient, easy?to?eat
forms. You can say the squirrels of the new millennium are
NOT what their parents were. These new-age squirrels want
fast food, conveniently packaged.
Squirrels typically feed on tree fruits and
nuts. Acorns and pecans have long been favorite foods, but
now they have added apples, pears, peaches and tomatoes to
their diet as well. These critters have probably been reading
health magazines and think they can lower their cholesterol
by improving their diet! That's all we need-a longer living,
healthier squirrel! Squirrels do have a problem with overeating
and if weren't for a daily program of strenuous exercise and
rigorous climbing, would probably be terribly obese.
Squirrels can be responsible for phenomenal
pecan losses. Each squirrel can hide and eat more than 25
pounds of nuts per year. During times of peak population numbers,
when enough food is scarce, squirrels may even chew bark from
a variety of trees.
What can be done about squirrels? Squirrel
damage can be prevented by eliminating the presence of the
squirrels. Easy? Not really! A variety of traps will catch
squirrels. One good type of bait consists of slices of orange
and apple, pecans removed from the shell, or peanut butter.
Crackers to accompany the peanut butter is optional. Setting
out bait can be used as a distraction rather than as a means
to actually catch the varmints. Some folks have decided that
if you can't beat them, you may as well join them! People
have reported that squirrel damage to desirable crops can
be eliminated if the critters are offered other food. Putting
out a bucket of dried dog food near the crop may also help
solve the problem. This makes squirrels so fat they can't
climb well or run as fast. Squirrel obesity is the number
one cause of their demise-fat squirrels combined fast, hungry
dogs and cats usually add up to squirrel population control.
The most commonly used trap is called Havahart.
These traps catch the squirrel unharmed so the cute little
critter can be released into the wild or in another person's
yard with whom you have a vendetta. Using the trap also insures
that you avoid having your fingers eaten off by a trapped,
savage squirrel. The surest and most fulfilling, or should
I say filling, method is stewing. Squirrel stew can't be beaten!
Havahart traps are also a preferred path to stewing since
it reduces meat bruising and clotting spots from bullet damage.
The good news in many areas is there is no legal bag limit.
For those of you who think squirrels resemble
rats and shouldn't be eaten??forget such a ridiculous idea!
Squirrels have furry tails; rats do not. Have you ever heard
of rat stew? No! Yet everyone has heard of squirrel stew.
In fact there wouldn't be a Texas if it weren't for squirrel
stew. Don't condemn the idea of stewing your squirrel problems
away. That's right! Davy Crockett and his Tennessee sharpshooters
wouldn't have reached puberty if it were not for squirrel
stew. Besides, what do you think they ate on the long trip
from Tennessee to the Alamo? Enchiladas? Nope! You guessed
it??squirrel stew. Now aren't you ashamed of comparing squirrel
to rat? Besides, squirrel meat is lean and an excellent choice
for diet?conscience people. Squirrel meat tastes like what
the squirrel has been eating the most of, so, if your pear
crop has been under attack, recycle the flavor in preserved
Each person with a squirrel problem must decide
the best remedy for each particular situation. This is a pro?choice
situation! Something HAS to be done or the furry critters
will reap the fruits and/or nuts of your labor.
Luckily, squirrels, as well as most folks, can't
eat all the pears a tree can produce. It doesn't take an exceptionally
brilliant person to produce a decent crop of pears. In fact,
once the proper variety is selected, a gardener can plant
the tree and forget it. If you are doubtful about how easy
pear production can be, check some of the old, abandoned homesteads
in Texas. The house may have fallen down, the people are long
gone, but the pear tree is still growing strong. What is even
more frustrating is that the abandoned tree probably is producing
better than the tree in your backyard that you are carefully
Several criteria can be used to determine pear
fruit maturity. These are firmness, color, and corking of
lenticels. While few homeowners have pressure testers, a crude
measure can be done by hand. When the fruit changes from the
firmness of a baseball to the softer feel of a softball, it
is close to maturity. The background color of a mature fruit
will change from a light green to a yellow color. Fruit lenticels
are probably the easiest indicator of maturity. These are
small 'dots' or indentations on the skin of each fruit. Lenticels
on an immature pear are white. However, as cork cells develop,
the lenticels become brown and shallow. The brown color in
the lenticels is a good indicator that the fruit is ready
to be picked, and will ripen without shriveling. Another surefire
sign is when the pears begin to fall off the tree.
If you are lucky enough to salvage any pears
from the squirrels, store the fruit with no teeth marks at
room temperature until they soften. After softening, pears
can be eaten fresh, canned or stored in the refrigerator until
needed. Pears are best if they are picked when hard and allowed
to ripen at 70 degrees F. until soft. The varieties Orient
and Monterrey will require about a week to ripen. Kieffer
pears should be individually wrapped in paper and held at
room temperature for about 14 to 30 days for best flavor.
Remove any rotted fruit if it occurs. If you plan to cook
the pears, make sure to use the fruit while it is still firm.
If you wonder why pears that look good have become brown inside,
it is because they have been held too long at a temperature
that is too low.
Luckily, most pear trees produce more pears
than the squirrel's digestive system can accommodate. Any
sensible squirrel knows there is no way to keep diarrhea away
after eating too many pears in one day. Such a situation gives
new meaning to the phase "squirrel on the run".
Enjoy this year's pear bounty-with or without a side-dish
of squirrel stew!
How Can You Protect Pears from Squirrels?
Exclusion is one technique. Try to keep the
little devils from getting to the edibles. Prevent squirrels
from climbing isolated trees and power poles by encircling
the trunks and structures with a 2?foot wide collar of metal,
6 feet off the ground. Attach the metal using encircling wires
held together with springs to allow for tree growth. Trim
trees appropriately to prevent squirrels from jumping onto
roofs. Prevent squirrels from traveling on wires by installing
2?foot sections of lightweight plastic that is 2? to 3?inches
in diameter. Slit the pipe lengthwise, spread the opening
and place it over the wire. The pipe will rotate on the wire
and cause the traveling squirrels to quickly become painfully
familiar with the hard ground beneath. If exclusion doesn't
work, you may want to try repellents. Naphthalene (moth balls)
may temporarily discourage squirrels from entering attics
and other enclosed spaces. A cat in the attic or on the premises
may discourage squirrels and/or provide supplemental feed
for the cat.
Raccoons can also be destructive to crops.
Their physical presence must be eliminated. I do not recommend
coon stew. However, baked or barbecued coon has no culinary
rival. Coons can be trapped if you know how to lure them into
the trap. I have been told that the best coon bait is tender
sweet corn in the early spring and sardines later. If you
want to erect a physical barrier, try putting up a 36-inch
chicken wire barrier with the bottom and top 6 inches bent
outward. These "fenders" will prevent a coon from
digging under or hopping over.
Each person with a squirrel or raccoon problem
must decide which remedy is best for a particular situation.
This is a pro-choice approach! But remember, something MUST
to be done unless you want these furry critters to reap the
fruits and/or nuts of your labor.