[NAFEX] Squirrels control using BonBon

Mathew Waehner waehner at gmail.com
Sun Oct 4 08:55:39 EDT 2009

Thank you for doing this.

On Sun, Oct 4, 2009 at 7:21 AM, Bassem Samaan <bassem at gardener.com> wrote:

> There was an experiment done by a gardenweb member who discovered that
> using bon bons is not effective in controlling squirrels.
> He writes:
> For those interested, I am conducting another test. While not complete, the
> experiment if far enough along to offer some preliminary observations.
> Since I'm actually trying to do research, I've decided to outline it in a
> somewhat detailed and formal write-up.
> Squirrels have long been a major pest to fruit growers. This is especially
> true for backyard growers with small orchards in urban and suburban
> settings. The unusual combination of an abundance of food with few natural
> predators encourages large populations of squirrels, of which tree fruit can
> be a summertime food staple. To successfully grow tree fruit requires
> dedication. For the serious fruit grower, it can take a significant amount
> of time, and money. As anyone who has cared and nurtured crop has observed,
> there is often a significant amount of emotional capital involved as well.
> All to often a fruit grower nurtures a crop through the growing season, only
> to find squirrels have destroyed the entire crop, just before harvest.
> Squirrels accomplish this by:
> 1. simply removing the whole crop
> 2. leaving some crop, but taking "bites" out of individual fruits
> 3. knocking fruit off before it's ripe
> In many cases experience of the squirrels' past behavior causes growers to
> pick their harvest before it is ripe, to prevent squirrels from stealing it.
> in this case, while the grower may obtain a premature harvest, fruit quality
> suffers.
> Growers have relied on many methods to prevent fruit damage by squirrels.
> Each have their advantages and disadvantages. As it's not the scope of this
> experiment, these individual methods will not be discussed except in
> summary:
> 1. Exclusion methods- Ex. electric fencing, flashing on trunks, netting. In
> general, these methods have not been met with wide success. Squirrels are
> agile, small and deft. They are determined creatures when it comes to a
> favored food source, and will generally find an entry point in the barrier,
> or make one.
> 2. Offering squirrels an alternate food source during harvest- This method
> is generally not successful. Fruit seems to be as beloved by squirrels as it
> is by humans.
> 3. Scaring the squirrels away- Ex. plastic owls, lights, sounds, radios,
> etc. Poor results have been noted from these methods. Squirrels quickly
> become acclimated to the scare methods, rendering them wholly ineffective.
> 4. Shooting squirrels. Ex. shotgun, 22 cal., pellet gun. Some locales allow
> the discharge of firearms, some allow only pellet guns, and some allow
> neither. Where allowed, these methods can reduce squirrel populations, but
> it can be extremely time consuming.
> 5. Trapping- This can be done with live traps, or lethal traps such as
> Kania, and connibear traps. This can be successful, but can be time
> consuming. Traps can be expensive. Live traps are legal to use almost
> ubiquitously throughout the U.S. However, many states prohibit the
> relocation of trapped wildlife, as do wildlife specialists, so the animals
> must be destroyed. Kansas extension services recommends destruction by CO2
> asphyxiation. Leg hold traps may also be an option, but the author no
> experience with this method. Leg hold traps are illegal in some states due
> to humane concerns.
> 6. Poisoning/baiting- Unfortunately, there are no poison baits labeled for
> squirrels that are available to homeowners. This has left homeowners to
> their own devices to make homemade baits. One such bait is a mixture of
> peanut butter and Plaster of Paris and rolled into small balls, called bon
> bons (hereafter called bait). This bait is currently popular with backyard
> fruit growers and is even used internationally. There is some debate in the
> fruit growing community regarding this bait. The experiment outlined below
> focuses on some questions outlined in that debate.
> 1. Attempt to determine if the bait is toxic to squirrels
> 2. If the bait is toxic, determine a reasonable estimate of time between
> bait ingestion and mortality.
> 3. Try to determine the mode of action of the bait. That is some believe
> the bait causes mortality by gastric blockage. Others surmise death is
> brought on by hypercalcemia (elevated blood calcium). While it is beyond the
> scope of this experiment to determine exact cause of death, the author
> should be able to observe gastric blockage. If that is case, it would rule
> out hypercalcemia. In the event, no gastric blockage is found, hypercalcemia
> would be the likely cause of death.
> 4. Determine if the bait causes undo pain and suffering to the animal. This
> may affect the decision on whether or not a grower decides to use the bait.
> As almost any form of death is painful to mammals, it becomes difficult to
> measure the relative suffering of one form of death over another. Most
> squirrels die in nature from sickness, starvation, or predators. As the
> author has never witnessed any of these occurrences, it becomes difficult to
> determine suffering from death of the bait, relative to more natural causes
> of demise they may face in nature. Added to the difficulty, is that no brain
> scans will be done, so evaluations must be made on external observations
> only. However, the author will do the best he can.
> 1. This experiment involves only 2 specimens. A treatment specimen (a
> specimen which is offered the bait) and a control specimen. Since the
> experiment involves such a small statistical sample, the results are not as
> statistically relevant as if a larger specimen sample was used.
> 2. There are different types of Plaster of Paris. Using a different type of
> Plaster of Paris may (though not likely) yield a different result.
> 3. Using a different ratio of Plaster of Paris to peanut butter, may yield
> a different result.
> One squirrel was captured on Sunday, September 27th. This squirrel was the
> treatment specimen. Another squirrel was captured on Wednesday, September
> 30th, which was the control specimen. Both squirrels were kept in live traps
> for the experiment. Water and food dishes were placed in their cages. The
> squirrels did not require anesthesia to move them, or the dishes into their
> cages. Water was replenished twice daily. The squirrels were both male
> specimens of slightly smaller size. For the treatment squirrel, bait was
> introduced immediately and not removed until completion of the forth day of
> the test. For the control specimen, fresh acorns were kept in the cage at
> all times. Bait was mixed using exactly 1/2 cup of peanut butter and 1/2 cup
> of Plaster of Paris. From this mixture 6 evenly sized bon bons were
> fashioned. All the mix was used making the 6 bon bons. No vegetable oil was
> required with this mixture. A fresh 4 lb. box of Plaster of Paris was
> purchased for this experiment
>  (DAP brand). According to the MSDS it contains 60%-100% Calcium Sulfate
> (Plaster of Paris); 10%-30% Calcium Carbonate (limestone); and 0.5%-1.5%
> silica.
> Today is the fifth day of the experiment. So far, there has not been any
> observed morbidity or mortality in the treatment specimen or the control.
> Both the treatment specimen and control did not start eating until the
> second day. As was stated, bait for the treatment specimen was introduced on
> day 1, but not accepted until day 2. Bait was the only food available for
> the treatment speicimen. The treatment specimen ate the bait consistently
> for three days starting from the second day to the completion of the fourth
> day. Bait was removed the fourth day and the treatment squirrel from then on
> has received all the acorns it wants. Of the six bon bons made from the
> peanut butter and Plaster of Paris, 1/2 of the bait, or three bon bons were
> placed in the treatment specimen's cage at day one. From day 2 to day 4 the
> treatment specimen consumed two bon bons. At the end of day 4 there was
> enough bait left over in the treatment squirrels food dish to re-fashion one
> bon bon. No wastage w
>  as observed, therefore by deduction, the squirrel must have consumed two
> bon bons. Here is a photo of the re-fashioned bon bon. For reference is is
> placed next to the three bon bons I did not use. The bon bon on the right is
> what the treatment squirrel DIDN'T eat, out of the three bon bons placed in
> its cage.
> Once the bait was removed and replaced with acorns, the treatment squirrel
> began eating acorns normally. So far in the experiment, the treatment
> squirrel has not shown a decrease in appetite, whether being fed bait, or
> acorns. At this point, both squirrels have not shown any visible signs of
> pain, or lethargy.
> One interesting observation is that on the beginning of day 3, the rodent
> droppings of the treatment squirrel turned a very light color (almost white)
> and became larger than normal. The droppings were very hard and broke as if
> they were made of Plaster of Paris. I have included some photos below.
> Here is a general photo of the treatment specimen's feces taken on day 4.
> Notice the very light color:
> Here is a close-up of the day 4 treatment specimen droppings. Notice the
> pellet dropping broken in half and white inside:
> Finally, here is a picture of the control rodent droppings taken on day 4.
> Notice the black color. Although the picture doesn't show it, these
> droppings are smaller than the lighter colored droppings of the treatment
> specimen.
> The treatment specimen has been receiving acorns for over 24 hrs. and
> already his droppings are looking more normal (i.e. smaller and black in
> color).
> Although it may be premature to conclude that the bait is not lethal, one
> may well conclude it is not acutely so. It has been 4 days since the initial
> consumption of bait with no mortality occurring up to this point. It should
> be noted, that reports indicate hypercalcemia may take up to two weeks to
> cause death. So if the bait is toxic, it would not exhibit quick results in
> this case. It is possible it does not cause hypercalcemia at all. Although
> rodents are very susc. to hypercalcemia, traditional rodent baits use
> synthetic derivatives of vitamin D to achieve this end. Rodents do not have
> a mechanism to properly process vitamin D. As such, vitamin D causes their
> system to pull calcium out of their bones, and into their blood stream.
> However, rodent baits use vit. D derivatives as an active ingredient, not
> calcium based products as an active ingredient. It may be while rodents
> can't process vit. D, they can process high doses of calcium without any
> adverse affects.
> It doesn't appear that the bait causes gastric blockage. The treatment
> specimen ate nothing but bait for three days, and seemed to process it into
> "pellets" (albeit large ones) without difficulty. At this point the stool
> samples appear to be back to normal.
> Lastly, up to this point, the bait does not appear to cause any suffering
> of the animal.
> This concludes my write-up at this point. I will plan on adding to this
> report any further observations I notice.
> Olpea
> http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/fruit/msg0911021522891.html
> Thanks,
> Bass Samaan
> http://www.TreesofJoy.com
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