Back Yard Squirrel Olympics

Backyard Olympics: Lessons Learned from “Rocky”

As the Olympics drama unfolds in Tokyo, a lesser known, but still dramatic event is taking place closer to home. Yes, it is the Backyard Squirrel Olympics. I know, you will not find it in your cable guide. Nevertheless, it’s here!

Let me give you some context. When I put up my Covid-19 backyard bird feeder system, I did extensive research about how to deter unwanted critters. What else did I have to do? I read articles. I watched squirrel videos on YouTube where people attempted to deter the acrobatic critters. Based on my research, I measured out distances squirrels can leap with my yellow, Stanley 25’ Lever Lock tape measure. Feeling confident, I installed my feeder system based on expert research.

You can probably see where this is going.

All was great for 15 months. Fifteen months of peaceful, squirrel free existence for my feathered friends and the other visiting wildlife like deer, wild turkeys, and the occasional bob cat.

Then, as the song goes, along comes Mary. Or maybe Rocky – as in – Rocky the Flying Squirrel. She/he/they aren’t saying and I’m too polite to ask.

Fun fact – the voice of Rocky was June Foray, a talented actor who was born in 1917 and lived to be 99. Her career encompassed radio, theatrical shorts, feature films, television, records, video games, talking toys, and other media.  Explains a lot; I think I’ll go with Rocky.

June Foray – The voice of Rocky

My first hint that something was amiss was when the bird seed started to disappear faster than normal. I also put out a small dish of peanuts attached to the pole for the Blue Jays. Now they do take quite a few to feed their babies, some days it’s a peanut caravan for the pair as they back and forth from feeder to nest. The evidence was there in discarded peanut shells. Not what Blue Jays do.

Anyway, back to the Olympic trials.

Based on those clues, I started to watch closely. Sure enough, I see Rocky taking off from the top of my pool screen. It is at least 10 feet, according to Stanley. I do not know how many attempts Rocky made before a successful landing was made. I did see a couple of dramatic misses and some successes.

You must watch this video. Although it left me Not Amused, I concede that it is a stellar performance. My scoring gives Rocky a 9 out of 10. The dismount needs work, so one point deducted.

I can think of a lesson here. The squirrels are smarter than the “experts.” Or at least they do not read the same instruction manual and just get on with it. Obviously, they did not sit around during Covid watching YouTube. If they did, they would not even attempt this death-defying flight.

Also, there is plenty of real, nutritious, regular squirrel food around. On average there are 1.5 oak trees for every house in my neighborhood. Granted bird food is nutritious, for birds, but something inside this little backyard would-be Olympian would rather take a risk – to throw themselves off the roof, literally fly down and catch a small, narrow rod then twirl around a few times before becoming upright.

Maybe they, like our Olympic athletes, yearn to be the “best” at being, well, a squirrel. If I get the opportunity, I’ll do an interview.

What’s next? Is this a one off, highly motivated, slightly weird squirrel? Will Rocky be training more to make up a team? Go back to YouTube for more research? With Delta variant around, there’s time.

I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, we have our USA Summer Olympics team to cheer on. I give them all a 10!


P.S. No squirrels were harmed when writing this story. At the time of this story, Rocky is alive and well, taking a Great Course in Advanced Trigonometry and waiting for the next Amazon truck, hopeful for more peanuts.

Diane White, MA, PMP, earned advanced degrees in information technologies from George Washington University and education from USF.  She has been managing projects for over 25 years in the information technology and telecommunications industries.  She joined OLLI-USF in 2008 and has taken OLLI courses in art, art appreciation, architecture, music, great books, science, nature, literature, and leadership.  She is a member of OLI’s Tech Squad, teaches a variety of technology courses, (She is an OLLI Roll of Honor Instructor) and is OLLI Connects’ technology contributor and consultant.


20 Replies to “Back Yard Squirrel Olympics”

    1. Who knows, it could happen! No moose here but there are deer. I can just picture a new event, but not giving”Rocky” any ideas.

  1. Diane, this was one of the first things I saw this morning. Hilarious! When we lived in Westchase, one of their boot camps. We don’t see too many of them near our home in Esplanade but we don’t have so many bird feeders or huge trees close to the house. So your story brought back lots of memories. 👏🏻👏🏻

    1. So glad it brought back memories, thank you for sharing. I’m happy to pass along your GPS location to Rocky and friends! 🙂

  2. Diane,
    What a clever & entertaining Olli connects. Your background shows in your professional presentation. I was laughing 😆 out lord. Thanks so much for sharing. Cindy C. 😂

  3. Thanks, Diane. Started off my morning with a good laugh. I have seen death defying antics, even so much as literally hanging on upside down by the squirrel equivalent of a fingernail.

    1. Thank you Linda. I’m happy that started your day with a laugh. I was just lucky to get that video. I have a couple others when I was trying to figure out how the little rascal was by passing my squirrel “defenses.” This was by far the most amazing.

    1. Thank you for reading my blog and sharing your comment. I had a hoot writing it and the tie in to the Olympics was irresistible!

  4. Oh Diane, this was simply wonderful. I abandoned my bird feeder to the superb contortionist squirrels in my magnolia tree. Your leaping Rocky, however, is the Sunisa Lee of rodent world. And the video was splendid!

    1. Thank you Theresa, I am happy that you enjoyed the story and video. Rocky definitely took inspiration from Sunisa Lee. I just saw where Simone is going to compete in the balance beam.

      Al Carlson gets a “12” for taking my story and doing brilliant things with graphics and polishing the video – even adding the slo mo version.

  5. Hi Diane, thanks for your funny presentation of a backyard scene. Original and nicely written!
    I HATE squirrels because they eat like pigs–without end . . . Besides, they have the face of a rat . . . Finally, I found a “heavy weight” feeder with doors that close when a dove or a squirrel rests on an adjacent platform. Also, the length/height of the feeder is larger than an upside-down, overstretched, nasty squirrel acrobat!

    1. Thank you Junia. Exactly, I’m with you there about their behavior.
      I have a very funny experience with supposedly squirrel proof bird feeders. They just knock it off the branch and onto the ground. In the middle of the night. Or they somehow get it tipped onto a branch which knocks the seed onto the ground. It is a heavy model and one of the best. Don’t get me started. Oi!

  6. I have the same problem! The squirrels eat up a “squirrel proof” bird feeder full of seed every day–keeping the birds away. Thinking about a bb gun to not hurt but keep them away.? Any other suggestions?

    1. I wish I did. I think the squirrels are narrowly ahead of the game. I keep trying but so far they always are one step ahead.
      I did find that they do not like the “hot” bird food. That’s an option although my sources say they are adapting to it. So far mine aren’t fond and do not eat it.
      To be continued….

  7. Thanks for the squirrel tip. I have limited mobility and it’s an effort to fill up a “squirrel-proof” feeder for the birds and watch the squirrels empty it in one day. I have a rodent loving neighbor who thinks they are “cute” and I have to admit their actions to reach the food are very ingenious like hanging upside down for access. I couldn’t hurt them but would like something to scare them away. Interesting that my son’s farm has coyotes nearby but no squirrels! Thanks for remembering me and hope to rejoin the outside world soon.

  8. This could be my story! I haven’t gotten out the tape measure, but keep trying to move the pole to a spot the darn squirrels can’t jump to. No luck so far. And that ‘hot bird seed’ that squirrels don’t like. False advertising! Thanks for the great story and video. Loved it!!

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