Last week we called in an arborist. As I had postulated, the arborist suspected something was off in the squirrel's diet. They chew the boxelder bark because it's the softest. Now, we've been buying our bird feed from the same store in Hopkins for over ten years. Cathy gets the Supreme Mix. The guy at the store suggested we add squirrel food---lots of whole kernels of corn and more nuts. What's odd about this is that there is corn andnuts in the feed we currently use. Apparently not enough. So now we have big fat corn kernels out there.
The arborist suggested wrapping the trunk of the tree in chicken wire. I got some green chicken wire which is nearly invisible when you look at it straight on from a short distance. I had my doubts about this, having seen squirrels climb up the face of a three story brick building like Spider-Man. I installed the chicken wire on Saturday, rather loosely, the theory being that the squirrel couldn't get a good grip on the tree bark and that its weight would move the wire, thus making it feel insecure.
Cathy went out to water some plants afterwards. A squirrel saw her and ran up the boxelder as if nothing was there. So I added another wider layer of chicken wire at the base of the tree that fans out more at the base. The closest this piece gets to the tree is an inch and a half and spreads out at the bottom to several inches. Okay, after I did this I'm looking outside our kitchen window and see a grey squirrel hanging by its rear feet from the chicken wire about five feet off the ground. It's not stuck, he's just hanging upside down. Five seconds later he whips around and scampers down the tree then back up again as if to show me how easily it could be done.
The chicken wire seems to have deterred most of the squirrels, but at least two of them are indifferent to it. With any luck maybe the addition of gourmet squirrel food will prevent the bark chewers from killing this tree. I hope to show that I'm smarter than the squirrels, but so far I wouldn't bet against them.