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Squirrel Swindle

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Squirrel Swindle

My neighborhood has lots of squirrels. I sometimes feed them. I’ve noticed they practice an effective scam to ensure that they get more nuts. Here’s how it works.

1. Stand on my lawn looking cute and hungry.

2. Look up attentively as Don throws an almond or peanut to within six inches of your big, hairy squirrel feet.

3. Look left and right and up and down as though searching for the nut, but never look directly at the nut or walk toward it. Then look up and make eye contact with Don. Wait.

Squirrel

4. When Don throws a second nut equally close, repeat the fraud. If possible, shrug your little squirrel shoulders to indicate that you are baffled about where all the nuts are going. Look pathetic and clueless.

5. Continue this swindle until Don stops throwing treats. Then take your sweet time eating this bounty of nuts...relaxed and confident in the knowledge that you have tricked Don into sharing more nuts than he would have if you revealed yourself to be a capable squirrel behaving in a professional manner.

6. When all the nuts are gone, raid the bird feeder.

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What are the critters up to in your neighborhood?

Don—Pittsburgh, February 7, 2020

Comments on this post (42)

  • Feb 24, 2020

    I rarely see see any squirrels where I live🙁. Oh where oh where have squirrels gone 🎵🎶

    — Cindy

  • Feb 24, 2020

    The squirrels in my neighborhood hang out in the oak trees that lean over a cemetery. It’s quite delightful to see them protect the peaceful sleepers… and crack their nuts and food particles on the tops of the tombs and headstones. It’s a win-win.

    — GaBriella

  • Feb 10, 2020

    We live in Spillimacheen British Columbia Canada on 5 acres in the forest.

    Our squirrels seemingly have jungle militia training of a sort and throw sh*t at us from the tall pines and birch if we get too close, too quietly. We are fortunate to have a Spitz-Australian Shepherd whose first job in the morning is to run to the near forest and ‘get them organized’ or alert them that there’ll be trouble if any of that nonsense happens on her watch.

    We are only really safe from a pelting in that bit of the forest. Otherwise, all bets are lot and, of course, one looks like a lunatic for screaming at the treetops in gum boots when the air assault inevitably happens. I think we must be the adorable ones to them. I swear they snicker at us.

    — Patti

  • Feb 10, 2020

    I wish you would put this squirrel design on a coffee cup/ mug as I have a friend to would love that .

    — Pamela Holt

  • Feb 09, 2020

    A few years ago, we had a squirrel with an attitude; therefore, we named him Attitude. He had no fear of us. One day, he was in one of the bird feeders, gathering up as many sunflower seeds as possible. I had been sweeping the walk, so still having the broom in my hand, I decided to get him out of the feeder. I started flipping his tail with the broom handle, to no avail. Finally, I poked Attitude in the backside, that got his attention…and mine. He jumped to the ground, performing a 180 on mid-air. When he hit the ground on all fours, he bared his teeth, as if to say, you want a piece of me? I really miss that little character!
    At a different time, a squirrel was in a nearby tree when it saw me with a pail of sunflower seeds heading to the squirrel feeder (yes, we’ve built squirrel feeders for the little critters). That squirrel ran down the tree, raced me to the feeder, climbed up on top, and waited for me to put out the sunflower seeds.
    Who has trained who?
    Never try to outsmart squirrels, because you will loose!

    — John Loy

  • Feb 09, 2020

    Since the iguana invasion our backyard rarely has squirrels. The hated reptiles have eaten every flowering and tender plant. To our horror a six footer chewed its way into our attic to escape a cold spell. He was was difficult to evict. We can’t forget to watch out for the hibernating ones falling from trees! The Horror!

    — Karen

  • Feb 08, 2020

    We enclosed our back deck to make a catio for our resident Maine Coons. Just outside the catio is the North wall of our fence (aka Squirrel super highway) and a tree. There are two channels of cat TV on the tree: one is a hummingbird feeder for the resident Anna’s hummingbirds and the other is a “squirrel proof” bird feeder containing seed. Last week, I caught a squirrel (cue theme from Mission Impossible) suspended upside down from a branch and chugging the hummingbird nectar. His accomplice went for the bird seed on the ground. The female Anna’s Luftwaffe launched an aerial assault on the nectar thief, to no avail. Our female cat eventually broke up the ruckus and carried on with her nap. This is far more entertaining than anything on TV.

    — Joan

  • Feb 08, 2020

    Squirrels are active annually out here on the Texas prairie. Twice in the last four years they have eaten into the gable over our front door and chewed up our attic and the panels under the eaves outside. Very destructive. A house in our neighborhood burned down after squirrels chewed through electrical wire in the attic and started a fire. I do not feed them. I shout at them like a madwoman.
    My husband has devised a system I do not want to know about to keep the squirrels out of the bird feeder.
    Although I no longer love squirrels, I do love your drawing and hope you add squirrels to your Calamityware. I would definitely buy items with gnawing squirrel villains in them!
    Also, I am enjoying your sketchbooks. The paper is perfect for all the media I use. And they fit nicely into my bag.
    Be well.

    — Linda Oistad

  • Feb 08, 2020

    BadBandana 7: Squirrel swindle

    — Mary

  • Feb 08, 2020

    BadBandana 7: Squirrel swindle

    — Mary

  • Feb 08, 2020

    Absolutely love squirrels 🐿 ! Absolutely love calamityware! A marriage of these two would be delightful!

    — Valerie

  • Feb 07, 2020

    My (then) 7 year old grand daughter was learning to ride a Two Wheeler bike. Her mother took her out on the walking/cycling trails through a nearby forested area of parkland. GD saw many squirrels and came home to tell the tale of how the "KING OF THE SQUIRRELS; named Peter, was to be seen out there, and because he was so concerned for all his fellow forest critters he towed a TANK behind him as he went through the woods and up into the trees. This TANK contained 32 small animals. " We then discovered that she meant an Aquarium type tank, not an Army Tank, so the critters could see out, and that it had both wheels and wings, enabling it to fly between trees as well as run on the paths. Two years later King Peter is still a member of our family!

    — Liz Powell

  • Feb 07, 2020

    My parents’ suburban backyard boasted a lively young pear tree. But after two summers of having every. Single. Pear. Spoiled by a solitary squirrel sized bite, Dad fought back. He bought a beebee gun and took up a post on the deck. The idea was not to shoot the little rats but to give them enough if a scare that they’d stay away. One afternoon, while the sprinkler refreshed the garden, Dad surprised himself by hitting a furry-pawed raider square on one rear cheek. With a great deal of leaf rustling, the aggrieved rodent ran down the trunk and across the lawn. He parked the wounded hindquarter over the sprinkler to cool down the abrasion.
    They’re so much smarter than we’d ever have guessed.

    — Silke Force

  • Feb 07, 2020

    We have a hazelnut tree that was planted by a squirrel probably close to 15 years ago. It produces every year — but we get no hazelnuts. The squirrels get All the hazelnuts.

    — carolyn

  • Feb 07, 2020

    I don’t hate squirrels but I do know that they are really just rats in cute outfits. 😏

    — Kate

  • Feb 07, 2020

    It is my understanding that bird feeders were originally invented as squirrel exercise equipment.

    After having more than one feeder knocked down, raided, or chewed apart, I started feeding the birds from a flat souffle pan on the deck. (easy to fill, easier to be emptied.) One snowy day, I set the pan up on the seat of the porch swing. The swing had a canopy which helped pan from being covered with snow.

    The first thing to spot the pan of seed was a pair of crows. They came in with a flurry and made a ruckus while tossing seed everywhere. (Very few birds or squirrels will mess with crows.) Some of the seed that was flung around landed beneath the swing where I was storing my deck umbrella.

    Next, a pair of squirrels arrived. One perched in the center of the pan, stuffing herself. Not to outdone, the other, smaller squirrel when under the swing to pick at the cast off seed. That spring, after the snow melted away I set up my umbrella to find it was laced through with holes – each with chew marks around its edge.

    We still feed the crows and the squirrels, but now we store our umbrella inside.

    — Janet

  • Feb 07, 2020

    I don’t mind the squirrels eating the birdseed, but they have eaten the wiring for every set of deck lights I have installed for the last 10 years. # % & cute squirrels!

    — Jan

  • Feb 07, 2020

    My husband has an ongoing war with the squirrels in our neighborhood because they get in out large tree and strip off bark from the branches. He has wrapped the trunk with metal flashing to keep the little critters from climbing, but now they jump from the neighbor’s garage roof. He has cut so many “climbable” branches from the tree that soon we will not have any left at all! Ykes! The squirrels are winning I’m afraid.

    — Karen

  • Feb 07, 2020

    I would love to see squirrels appear on plates. My father called every squirrel he saw “Walter”. (His parent’s started it.) Squirrels have always been a favorite of mine. They can eat as much birdseed as they want. It’s fun having them around.

    — Susan Loveland

  • Feb 07, 2020

    I put out yummy nuts and fruits for the squirrels so they would stop eating my plants. Now they get nuts, fruits, and plants. Sneaky… (Love your stuff!)

    — G S

  • Feb 07, 2020

    My maiden name is Swindle…and when I was a little girl…we had a pet squirrel named Squeeky! He had fallen out of a tree as a tiny baby during a hurricane…so we fed him and raised him. When I saw the title Squirrel Swindle…it made me remember my sweet little pet squirrel! Thanks so much!!!

    — Vali Swindle Bishop

  • Feb 07, 2020

    Don, perhaps you could design an official Squirrel Patrol shirt — a badge on the front, warning off the critters, and a squirrel on the other side, laughing behind our backs as it upends a tube feeder full of seeds into its mouth…

    We don’t have feeders in our yard, because they attract not just squirrels but black bears, here in NH — and with climate change bringing us such mild Winters of late, the bears aren’t hibernating as long or as deeply as they should, to give us a “safe for feeders” window. (Squirrels will devour feeders’ contents, but bears will destroy the feeders themselves, in quest of easy food. I don’t mind buying extra seed, but I draw the line at having to buy fresh hardware on a regular basis.)

    What we do have is an official Yard Chipmunk. It lives in a hole in one of the garden beds smack in front of our front porch, and happily scampers around the yard and surrounding trees to feed. So far, we haven’t planted much in the way of bulbs and flowers that it likes to chomp on, so I’ve been content to play host — and have even been known to leave out treats now and again, at the entrance to its lair. Unfortunately, for unrelated reasons, we need to tear up that garden bed — should have done it last Fall, but I didn’t have the heart to turn Li’l Chipper out into the cold on the cusp of Winter. As soon as the ground thaws in the Spring, though, I’m going to be feeling mighty guilty, as I pick up the shovel to start digging…

    — Katrina in NH

  • Feb 07, 2020

    WANT SQUIRREL PRODUCTS! We love our calamity tea cups! Please tell me you are making Squirrel Swindle into a series of something for my kitchen! A nut bowl, perhaps? A cookie jar? I want to see more swindling! Sneaky snacky squirrel wear! Bring it on!

    — Julie A Burkhart

  • Feb 07, 2020

    My sister swears that squirrels are rats with better outfits. Based on the behavior Don describes, I must concur.

    — Audrey

  • Feb 07, 2020

    https://www.thisamericanlife.org/510/fiasco/act-three-0

    — DrGuano

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