By Hannah Berman

Several years after my first encounter with a squirrel in the basement of my house, I had the dubious pleasure of another face-to-face meeting.

I was sitting in my backyard, reading a book, when I noticed a sudden movement. I looked up and, not far from where I sat, a squirrel was racing around in the grass. But this wasn’t a one-shot deal. Each time I went into my backyard, I saw a squirrel climbing up and down our apple tree and then running around on the ground. This meant that, because of my fear, I would no longer enjoy sitting in our backyard. I had to get rid of it, but presumed that any request I might make to ask it to leave would fall on deaf ears; I don’t speak “Squirrelese.” As always, I relied on my husband, Arnie, to take care of the problem.

Wanting to help, but not wanting to harm the squirrel, Hubby bought something known as a Havahart Trap. The instructions said to put some food inside and when the animal smelled the food and went in to grab it, the door would spring shut. It would not hurt the animal, but it would trap the little fellow inside. We debated about what the food should be, and Hubby came up with the idea of using peanut butter as an enticement. It worked like a charm.

The squirrel took the bait. He went into the cage and was unharmed when the door snapped shut. The next step was for Hubby to take the caged animal, place it in his truck, travel a few short miles away, and then release him (or her) in a field and take the empty cage back to our place. That is exactly what happened, and we were sure that we were free of the squirrel.

But things didn’t stay that way for long. Within a few days, there was another squirrel racing around in our yard. So my hero repeated the process. This meant placing more peanut butter in a little bowl in the cage and waiting for the new squirrel to take the bait. He did just that, and Hubby once again drove to that same field, opened the trap to release the squirrel, and then came back home.

Oddly, this went on repeatedly. Every few days we would spot a squirrel cavorting in our yard and then Hubby would repeat the process. We didn’t understand where all these squirrels were coming from and why they were choosing our property as their playground. In short order, we went through three jars of peanut butter, and the process was becoming tiresome.

So Hubby decided to ask for help from a friend of ours, Dr. Toby Jungreis, who is a veterinarian. Certain that Toby would be able to help solve our problem, Hubby explained the situation to him. And sure enough, Toby provided us with a lot of information and the answer to our dilemma. He told Hubby that squirrels are territorial and they mark their territory with a scent. Miles and distance are no problem for squirrels — they have been known to travel up to five miles, and possibly more, in order to find their way back to the area from whence they came. Uh-oh! That explained it.

It was not likely that we were suddenly inundated with multiple squirrels. A more plausible explanation was that we were probably dealing with the same squirrel over and over again. Apparently, the little guy had outsmarted us. He would come to our backyard, feast on our peanut butter, get a lovely ride in our truck, and then be released so that he could return to the scene. On occasion, there may have been more than one squirrel. It was entirely possible that the first little fellow may have told his friends (in squirrel talk, of course) about his wonderful new lifestyle. He may have said, “Hey, buddy, here’s a tip for you. Go over to the Berman place. I can give you the address. You will get a delicious meal, a nice ten-minute ride in a truck, and then you will get sprung in a field. You can race around the field for a while, and when you get hungry there is no need to hunt for food. Just hightail it back to the Berman joint for more of the same. It works every time!”

Squirrels are smart! Sometimes, that’s just the way it is.

To be continued …

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


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