An explosion in the squirrel population this summer and fall has farmers, universities and residents crying out for a solution.

Researchers at South Carolina’s Clemson University have identified various methods of keeping the population in check and have narrowed population control down to supplying squirrels with contraception-laced seeds.

Clemson University has a personal vendetta against the squirrels, which have been causing more than a million dollars in damage to campus trees for the past decade. Yearly, the squirrels’ habit of stripping bark and killing branches has forced the university to plant new trees, care for them and remove any that have been chewed through by squirrels.

Squirrels also devour farmers’ crops, residents’ gardens and in some cases, chew through building wires. The over-populated squirrel problem is especially heavy on the East Coast, the Northeast and Midwest. Just earlier this week, a squirrel was responsible for short-circuiting a power line at a middle school in Connecticut.

Researchers captured squirrels to test when their hormone levels were at their peak and tested seeds coated with a cholesterol-lowering drug called DiazaCon on them. In 2012, the university began feeding gray squirrels the DiazaCon-laced black sunflower seeds from 16 feeders which only squirrels can access. The seeds also contain a non-toxic dye that stains the animals’ bellies pink, making them easy to identify to researchers for future data collection. So far, Clemson University is the only place to use these pills, while scientists in other parts of the United States consider similar methods.

In Illinois, squirrel hunting season is in full-swing for Chicago Now writer Dan Stefanich. He believes squirrel hunting is a great introduction to hunting for children. “They have the opportunity to learn all the fundamentals— safety, patience, stealth, and shot placement. If kids can master these core skillsets during low-pressure squirrel hunts, chances are they will be more successful when it comes to big game hunting.”

Perhaps someone should suggest this option to the Clemson University researchers?

Image from tink tracy on the flickr Creative Commons

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  • Dennis

    I’m sure if BO loses the election, the squirrels will all leave too.

  • Jim

    Nevermind that we had an erratic and MILD winter that did not have enough cold days to kill off the weak ones. Want to get rid of the squirrels on Clemson? Have a few hunters safety courses go there with some Gamo pellet guns. That should take care of the issue.

  • Greengiant

    Can you believe it! Only the educated Egg-Heads of Clemson University could come up with giving controceptives to their squirrel population! I doubt they have ever witnessed male squirrel that were neutered by their mothers when mother nature provided a poor crop of food in the summer. Mother Nature’s way of holding down the population when there would be a shortage of food for the coming winter. You know, squirrels have managed to survive everything mother nature has thrown at them for a thousand years of so. However, their encounter with and EDUCATED man just may be their demise.

  • Ken McBroom

    I like the hunting idea. It is funny how people don’t want to hunt the cute little animals and then when they become a problem the last thing they suggest is hunting which to me would be more humane than drugs and an American tradition lives on.

  • Linn

    eat more squirrels, simple, they are great breaded and fried or in stew…..

  • Kaitlyn

    This is an outrage!!! The population will die out when there is not enough food to support them all! And then, slowly, the population will grow as the food comes back and the cycle repeats itself, this is the way nature intended!! Did they ever consider the affect this might have on the predators that feed on them?! Did ever consider bringing more squirrel predators to control them? No, they jump straight to “Lets use chemicals to prevent them from having babys! That will fix the problem!”