Not part of a nutritious breakfast

By Mir
October 5, 2007

As long-time readers already know—mostly because I have yammered about it for months and will not SHUT UP ALREADY—one of the things that drew us to this house is the fact that it has an enormous deck complete with a gazebo. Now that it is no longer 110 degrees every day, we spend a lot of time out there. One of our first new-home purchases was a table that fits neatly inside the gazebo so that we can dine in the shade and look for lizards. Because we are a high class establishment.

A few weeks ago while we ate dinner out there, I noticed that one of the support posts was looking a little… ragged. “Hey,” I said to Otto, “what’s this? What happened here?” And he cracked a joke about how if he didn’t know better, he’d think the deer had been up on the deck, rubbing against the posts.

That’s patently ridiculous, of course, because if there had been deer all the way up on our porch, there would be footprints in the butter. Or something. Also, there’s a fence and stairs and gates and stuff, and the last time I checked, deer did not have opposable thumbs or the ability to jump twenty feet in the air.

We decided that this was just further evidence of the half-assed way the former owners had tended to the house. Right before they sold it, they SPRAY PAINTED the deck. I don’t mean with cans of paint and gang signs, of course, but they loaded up an industrial sprayer with baby poop brown paint and SPRAYED the entire gigantic deck rather than staining it by hand. True, no sane person wants to hand-stain a deck of this size if there’s an alternative that yields the same results, but I am here to tell you that this did NOT yield the same results. Maybe the paint was just flaking off because they did a crappy job.

Then we were out there again a few days ago and noticed some grooves in the boards under the table. “Huh,” said Otto. “Did we scrape that, moving the table?” That seemed unlikely, given that we hardly ever move the table and we PICK IT UP when we do need to reposition it, but who knows. Whatever.

(Have you figured out where this is going, yet?)

So! Yesterday I was working away here in my office—which looks out onto the deck—and in an idle moment I was admiring our lush wildlife. My thought process pretty much went like this: What pretty butterflies, hovering around that bush. Oh, look, there’s some new birds at the feeder. I should probably empty the skimmer basket on the pool. We should probably close the pool. Hey, there’s our hawk back there. I wonder if hawks eat lizards? And there’s a cute little squirrel, just running across the deck. And now he’s licking the deck, that’s so cute, I wonder why he’s doing that? Wait. WAIT. THAT MOTHERFUCKER IS EATING MY DECK!!

I should’ve taken a picture, I guess, of that little squirrel, nose to the boards, DRAGGING HIS LITTLE EVIL SQUIRREL TEETH BACK AND FORTH on that groove as if his life depended on him getting his twelve essential vitamins and minerals from the spot where I like to rest my feet while eating barbecued chicken. But that didn’t occur to me in the moments before I burst out onto the deck, waving my arms and shrieking like a banshee.

The squirrel fled in a panic, and I inspected the damage. No question that these grooves had been worn by my furry little pest. The one I’d just caught him working on was all wet. With squirrel saliva. Because, you know, the whole thing hadn’t been disgusting enough.

I reported the entire episode to Otto calmly (translation: I looked to see if he was on Instant Messenger, and when he wasn’t, I sent him an email that said “Remember when we joked about deer on the deck? OH MY GOD SQUIRRELS ARE EATING OUR HOME! SAVE US!!!” and because he is a model husband he stopped at Lowe’s on the way home and asked them for advice. They recommended a few different options, one of which said it was specifically for foliage and the other of which said DO NOT USE ON DECKS OR SIDING. So we are unsure just yet as to how we’ll handle this. I am resisting the urge to douse the entire deck in Frank’s Hot Sauce.

Also, Squirrel Saliva would be a good name for a band.


  1. Bob

    squirrel saliva is a good name for a band only because squirrel nut zippers is already taken.

  2. Sheila

    We’ve got the same problem with some squirrels who are as BALLSY as they are destructive. I swear, they stay in place, gnawing away, until I am mere inches from them and screaming like an insane person (the neighbors love me). We’ve got a product called Deer Off which works pretty well, but the problem is you wouldn’t want to eat out there after applying it. The smell is just RUDE. Good luck with your little critters.

  3. MomCat

    Cats keep them away.

  4. Jessica

    I have NEVER heard of such a thing!!! Why do they eat the deck??? That is plain weird…what if you just put some birdseed or squirrel food somewhere else–maybe they would eat that instead???

  5. Beth

    They’re not actually *eating* the deck. They’re rodents (front teeth constantly growing), so they’re doing what they do EVERYWHERE — chewing to wear their teeth down.

    The net effect? They’re tearing up the deck. My grandmother had a life-long running battle with the little punks. I’m afraid to say they won. Too smart for their place on the food chain.

    I’m voting for the hot sauce option. Alternately, see if you can mix that nasty sour apple no-thumb-sucking stuff into the stain/paint and redo the entire deck.

  6. Leandra

    Maybe he has an acorn stuck in his teeth and just needs a toothpick. Maybe if you put some toothpicks out there for them…?? Maybe? Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve never heard of this one before. Truly bizarre.

  7. Karen

    Watch your house as well. It is getting colder and they want refuge. What better place than your attic! We had to pay an expert to come to purge them from the attic and seal it up. We have has to replace siding in places from them! Aren’t they cute (not)? Good luck.

  8. All Adither

    Maybe provide them with a tantalizing 2×4 on which to slough their extra tooth pulp.

  9. Heather

    Gardeners use hot sauce on their plants to keep the tree rats at bay. I don’t see any reason it wouldn’t do the same on the deck – once you have gotten them out of the “habit” of using your dfeck for a chew toy – you should be able to stop treating the wood.

  10. Lori

    I vote for hot sauce! But will it stain your deck? Hmmm – maybe horseradish? We have a mouse problem in our shed – they’ve decided it makes a great winter home & we’ve been evicting them and cleaning up after them for months. We finally poured bleach inside the place and are hoping that will discourage them. I *love* wildlife!

  11. Stephanie Chance

    Get a BB gun. Just kidding! I thought I had ballsy squirrels when I lived in Tuscaloosa. They would wait for us to come outside and chunk pecans at our head. Seriously. We had to wear hard hats just to get to the car. I’m all for providing them with distractions. A squirrelly little playground with nuts and bird seed scattered around. C’mon, wouldn’t it be entertaining watching them swing on a rope or whatever? Then slowly move it closer and closer to the neighbor’s yard.

  12. DeannaBanana

    I hate to break it to you, but you are about to embark on a very long, tedious battle. The little brats are hell on wheels once they set their minds to what they want to chew. Good luck with it, fight the good fight.

  13. Sophie

    First the drought, then the car accident, then the falling trees, and now this. I’m sending you a rabbit’s foot.

    To appease the MF squirrel gods, we put LOTS of bird seed in feeders all over our yard. Distraction, not extinction.

  14. Kimberly

    Those tree rats will get you every time.

  15. Megan

    We had a moose who liked to use our upper deck supports as scratching posts. She would stroll across the yard, lean right up there and scraaaaatch with her eyes all rolling up in ecstasy. We’d go out to watch her which didn’t seem to bother her any even though our feet were right about even with her head. She’d just moose-sigh a little, shift to the other side and rub away. I learned two things from that experience. 1 moose mamas are very, very large; 2 they smell. A lot. However I now realize how lucky we were – she might have been peckish as well!

  16. Cele

    Oh mi gosh, I will have to watch thosse cute little suckers. I feed them, er the birds, but I’d not noted they’d be eating my fence, my deck, my house.

  17. Aimee

    Screw the rabbit foot. How about a squirrel foot?

    Little rodent-y jerks.

  18. Radiationman

    I used to like squirrels – that is until we owned our own home…

    Then I caught the little turds feasting on the 60 tulip bulbs that we had planted two days earlier. The little twirps dug them ALL up and left half eaten bulbs and bulb husks all over the yard…

    Or better yet was the day I came home and caught the fattest squirrel I had ever seen (I think the deck was creaking underneath his little lard butt) ripping out the petunia’s I had planted in our deck boxes – The little scuzzball was burying nuts in the holes left from where he had yanked the plants out of the box!

    Needless to say, we don’t feed the squirrels at our house.

  19. Becca

    You know those cheapo giant bottles of junky chilli pepper? Sprinkle that on the deck and it’ll keep the squirrels (and any deal you have) away. Otherwise I would have no tomatoes at all.

  20. mary anne

    Two words ” poison peanuts!

  21. Kristi

    You know, I used to like the squirrels. I’d feed them peanuts, try to get them to eat out of my hand (one cute little guy back in Washington State, where they grow them small by the way, so NOT like these huge creatures here in Virginia, would come into the breakfast nook for his treats AND sit on our laps when we were outside feeding him), even saved a newborn that had fallen out of a tree. But NOW? When one had the nerve to wiggle under the cap thingie on my chimney and either climb or fall all the way down and then couldn’t get BACK UP and then DIED and began to stink up my whole house and I had to call in some help and that help had to take my fireplace apart brick by brick to take care of the decaying, stinking corpse and it cost me $350 to watch them drag out the dead varmint with all the maggots crawling all over it and the stink was so bad that it still remained in the house for another day, well, I just don’t like squirrels very much anymore.

  22. The Other Leanne

    Tree rats??
    And Kristi, that’s just hideous, thanks so much for the play-by-play.

  23. Ree

    I would loan you a certain Poopy Puppy who loves to chase squirrels away if you lived nearby.

    Actually – considering how he hogs the bed, maybe I’ll just ship him to you anyway!

  24. Marie

    We had a tree rat that ate the top of our deck posts. Now they eat the dogs food while the cat lays on the other side of the sliding door watching them.

  25. premenopaws

    Sprinkler with a motion detector attached. Just don’t forget to turn it off before you haul your BBQ chicken out there.

  26. BOSSY

    Those little bastards!

  27. Jenny

    This post and the comments are a hoot (not that the others aren’t but… a moose?! Holy gosh.).

  28. Jenny

    This post and the comments are a hoot (not that the others Most of my comment disappeared! Here’s my tree rat story:

    Scene — porch with railing. One member of the party was reading and has set his book aside on the railing. A rather persistent squirrel has been trying for some time to appropriate a bowl of trail mix on a side table, but is eventually chased off. A short time later, the squirrel approaches the porch and jumps up on the railing, running around the railing, chattering in an exasperated manner. The squirrel gets to the book, which, if you will recall is on the railing, pauses, and as all members of the party look on in shock, the squirrel POOPS right in the middle of the book and then runs off.

    If you can figure out how to get rid of them, short of shooting them, you will be my hero.

  29. Sara

    Unfortunately for us, it’s raccoons that are the filthy bastards doing damage at our house. Everytime I see a dead one on the side of the road, I pump my fist in the air and exclaim “YES!!”. (My children think I’m horrible) But two broken limbs on our very small flowering crab, 2 broken bird feeders and 2 piles of coon poo in the flower boxes changed me from “Raccoons…aww cute little bandits” to “Racoons…at their best when they’re road kill.” We now sprinkle our garbage and flower boxes and deck with cayenne pepper. It seems to help.

  30. morgan

    this from the CDC:

    “What is the risk of rabies from squirrels, mice, rats, and other rodents?”

    Small rodents (such as squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, and chipmunks, ) and lagomorphs (such as rabbits and hares) are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to cause rabies among humans in the United States. Bites by these animals are usually not considered a risk of rabies unless the animal was sick or behaving in any unusual manner and rabies is widespread in your area. However, from 1985 through 1994, woodchucks accounted for 86% of the 368 cases of rabies among rodents reported to CDC. Woodchucks or groundhogs (Marmota monax) are the only rodents that may be frequently submitted to state health department because of a suspicion of rabies. In all cases involving rodents, the state or local health department should be consulted before a decision is made to initiate postexposure prophylaxis (PEP).

    How do people get rabies?
    People usually get get rabies from the bite of a rabid animal. It is also possible, but quite rare, that people may get rabies if infectious material from a rabid animal, such as saliva, gets directly into their eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound.

    Can I get rabies in any way other than an animal bite?

    Non-bite exposures to rabies are very rare. Scratches, abrasions, open wounds, or mucous membranes contaminated with saliva or other potentially infectious material (such as brain tissue) from a rabid animal constitute non-bite exposures. Occasionally reports of non-bite exposure are such that postexposure prophylaxis is given.

    Inhalation of aerosolized rabies virus is also a potential non-bite route of exposure, but other than laboratory workers, most people are unlikely to encounter an aerosol of rabies virus.

    Other contact, such as petting a rabid animal or contact with the blood, urine or feces (e.g., guano) of a rabid animal, does not constitute an exposure and is not an indication for prophylaxis.

    rest easier, everyone :)

  31. Chuck

    How about a scarecrow?

  32. Chuck

    I recommend buying a shotgun, or at least a .22 rifle. You do live in the South now, after all.

  33. tammy

    Don’t use hot sauce. A lot of the local squirrels are South American immigrants and they like that stuff. I suggest installing a speaker system out there and putting a Dan Fogelberg CD on repeat play. That’ll keep them away in droves.

  34. PajamaMama

    Oh man do I hate squirrels! The damn things have chewed through the rubber hose on our gas grill FIVE TIMES!!! Each time, we try something new to keep them away vaseline, cayenne, Bobex – no luck. And each replacement part is a special order – these studid squirrels are costing me a mint!

  35. bec 37

    PajamaMama–we can’t keep them away from our bird food, but we had your problem and we solved it. They actually make a wire coil to go over the hose. The squirrels have stayed away from the hose since we put that on.

  36. Kellan

    I love how “Beth” gave you all the low-down on squirrels. I also love that everyone has sooooo many squirrel stories – I have one as well I plan to post one day on my site. Funny story – not for your deck of course – but funny!

  37. Daisy

    1. chili powder supposedly repels squirrels and rabbits.
    2. Urine can repel them (but don’t tell Monkey.)
    3. Some say they don’t like wind chimes. My neighborhood squirrels don’t seem to care.
    4. Old CDs, hanging in the wind, can scare them. They’re ugle, though.
    5. If all else fails, a slingshot with rocks can help.

  38. nubchai

    Squirrels are the worst. They’re relentless. We used a spray called “Squirrel Solution” The main ingredient is cinnamon oil and we were concerned mostly about flowers on a woosen condo balcony. We sprayed the balcony too and it seemed to work. But we did have to spray periodically. Also the stuff is pretty expensive. I like the idea of the sprinkler. It’s important to keep any type of food that squirrels might eat – nuts etc – away from the gazebo. The other thing is they may attack your table and garden furniture. Those critters can bite through anything. We were told that hawks or crows (I think) were natural predators of squirrels. But in the midwest last year West Nile disease killed off a lot of those birds so we had a bumper crop of squirrels this year. There are some areas that are simply putting poison out. Good luck.

  39. Suebob

    Do NOT poison them because that crap just works its way up the food chain, killing owls and hawks and cougars (do y’all have cougars?).

    You can borrow Goldie for a while. Greyhounds are highly effective squirrel deterrents.

  40. Heather C.

    Why are you resisting the urge to use hot sauce… that would totally work. Maybe a little cayenne pepper…. or wasabi.

  41. LuAnn

    We have the same problem with our dog…and apparently the same probability of getting her in the car to “take her for a ride” as you would your resident furry pest.

  42. Brigitte

    I’d avoid poison, too, as you might get unintended targets. I think the hot pepper would work, maybe Becca’s solution (as it would be clear, rather than red).

    I guess I’ve been lucky – in harsh winters, when my cat is bored out of his skull because he won’t go outside, I’ve fed the squirrels on the deck ON PURPOSE, as a form of kitty-TV. They left a couple chew marks, but stopped when they figured there was no more food.

    Morgan’s made me quite glad that we successfully (so far) drove off the groundhogs – now THOSE were a pain!

  43. Lisa

    Can’t believe not one person has come up with the best solution of all – Get a Cat! preferably a big, bad tom that will keep those squirrels confined to the crazy neighbor lady’s yard!

  44. Heidi

    Squirrels? Heh, try packrats! I just got back from a triumpant trip from way way up the mountainside where I released a live-trapped packrat that’s been literally climbing the walls at night. They’re stinky and annoying as all get out. Hey, get a live trap and relocate your local squirrels.

  45. TC

    The squirrels in our backyard used to grab tangerines off our tangerine tree (the “this is why I love my house” equivalent of your gazebo) by the fistfull. And squirrels don’t even HAVE fists! They stopped when Snug, our 50-pound Lab mix, came to live with us. We love Snug. Almost as much as an abundance of fresh-picked tangerines.

  46. Laura

    the sqirrels in our yard pluck apples and pears off of our fruit trees, perch on the fence nibbling and then leave half eaten fruit behind. Just. To. Piss. Me. Off.

    Okay, maybe it’s not personal. But it feels like it.

  47. Karen@FamilyBriefs

    At least your squirrels are staying outside where God intended them. One in our natural habitat backyard has found a way into our ATTIC and is eating our house from the inside out!

    A pest expert has set a trap, but if he doesn’t take the bait, my husband is going to start shooting at him. We need a new roof anyway . . .

  48. writtenwyrdd

    Cayenne pepper. Put it in a spray and see if that will keep the little bastards off your wood.

  49. Manic Mommy

    Do you really want to eat dinner on a deck that reeks like hot sauce? They have that sour apple stuff you put on the furniture that keeps puppies from chewing on it.

    If that doesn’t work, go for poison. PETA be damned.

  50. David

    You guys are so last century. This is the new millenium, so how about a bwand new, automatic wemote contwol wobot, with an electwonic bwain? he-he-he-he. Works on everything but wabbits, I hear. ;-)

    By the way, Mir, you had me roaring with laughter over that MF line. I’d’ve darn near paid money to see that. I like the cayenne pepper idea. Maybe a bit of jalapeno juice?

  51. nan

    Poison is a bad idea, because the dying rodent will crawl into a place where he will stink and you can’t reach him.

    Male cats are lazy, and would rather starve than hunt. Females make better hunters, but have her spayed when she is 5 months old. My cats are only afraid of tarantulas. Wimps.

    Labs and some other breeds are superb for pest control, and wouldn’t the kids love a puppy for Christmas?

    Pepper works, but you have to keep at it.

    I have had every pest possible, I think. And an open house, so they COME IN!

  52. chris

    Can’t you shoot them? Isn’t that allowed in the South?

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