Those of you who read my Monday column may have wondered if I had lost my mind. I know I questioned my sanity when I realized what I had done.

A San Jose reader wrote me about creatures getting to her persimmons, and asked for help on keeping them off the fruit long enough for it to ripen. I had a lot of what I thought were excellent, well-reasoned suggestions and a few snarky comments. The problem: Her question was about squirrels, and my answer was about rats.

I'd like to say that I have a perfectly good excuse, but I don't. I'm not sure why I saw squirrels and wrote about rats.

I suspect it was a squirrel plot -- oh, they're capable of dreaming it up, even if not technically equipped to pull it off. I plead "unexplainable brain burp" and apologize to anyone I managed to confuse over their cornflakes.

Squirrel can be persistent.
Squirrel can be persistent. (Courtesy of Craig Nelson)

But let's get back to the squirrels and the problems they can create.

It seems there are two types of squirrels in the world -- those content to run along fences, gathering nuts and stashing them in odd places, and those who spend hours nabbing ripening fruit and pillaging vegetable gardens.

When your yard is visited with the second kind, there will never be any peace.

So here are some ideas to try. Some will work, some won't, some will work for a while. It's a war, albeit a pretty peaceful one, so keep experimenting until you hit the right combination.

Blocking the way


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Pruning trees away from structures and wrapping trunks with metal flashing is a big help in keeping squirrels out of trees. Most of us, however, weren't thinking about those things when we planted our fruit trees. They almost always are too close to fences, storage sheds and houses, giving squirrels easy access to persimmons and other fruit.

Sparkling things

Some folks have had luck hanging Mylar strips or balloons in the trees. The sudden movement of the strips and the bobbing of the balloons, coupled with the flashes of light and color, can discourage the squirrels.

The smart ones, however, may figure out that there's nothing to fear and will ignore them.

It's worth a shot, though. Maybe your squirrels are the dumb ones.

Mothballs

Tying a handful of mothballs in a bit of old pantyhose and hanging it around the tree has been known to work.

Mothballs contain a substance that is poisonous, so be very careful with it. You don't want creatures eating it.

Hot sauce

The most effective repellent against squirrels is hot sauce or hot peppers. They don't like the smell.

You can spray the tree, after straining the hot sauce, or paint the fence and tree trunk with it. You may need to repeat this every few days.

Another idea is take small condiment cups, poke some holes around the top edge, fill the cups half-full with the hot sauce, pop the cap on and hang them in the tree.

Radio

One reader says she's had good luck leaving a radio playing in the tree. Just be sure you don't disturb your neighbors.

If none of these things work, then you might hire some muscle. Perhaps a gang of maligned rats might be available.

Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read the Animal Life blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/pets.