More Mulling over Squirrels

February 10, 2014 BY danariely

Last week I answered this question about squirrels:

Dear Dan,

I find myself acting irrationally when it comes to squirrels. The rascals climb down a branch and onto my bird feeder, where they hang and eat like limber little pigs. Then I rush outside yelling and take great pleasure in frightening them away. But victory never lasts long. They come right back, and the whole insane cycle starts over. My sister tells me I need to watch “Snow White” again, to be reminded that squirrels are also a part of nature and not inherently worse than the birds I prefer. Perhaps, but this theory doesn’t satisfy me. Can you help to explain what’s going on with my reasoning, and how I might make peace with the furry marauders in my yard?

—Nearly Elmer Fudd

It sounds to me that the root of your problem is that you view the squirrels’ behavior as an immoral theft from the right owners of this food, the birds. If so, why don’t you start calling the contraption a “squirrel and bird feeder”? With this new framing, your problems should go away, and you might even be able to market this new product.

I did not anticipate this, but I got more email in response to this topic than any other answer I have given over the years. Who knew? This was news to me, but maybe someone should start a support group to help people deal with these topics. And what did people write? Some emails were expressing strong anti-squirrel emotions, some were giving me more facts about the damage that squirrels create. One email even provided me with an analysis of the cost to the electrical grid as a consequence of squirrels eating away at the power lines. And of course I got lots of pictures describing the many ways people are trying to protect their birdfeeders (below is my favorite example):

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