Perhaps the squirrels have to work a little harder up here to make it through the winter, but really - squirrels in Montana are doing something this year that I have never seen them do, and it's not good news for your home or property.

The Old Farmer's Almanac tells us that squirrels can predict a cold, harsh winter by how they prepare for the months ahead. Sure, that makes sense. It's WHERE they're storing their winter provisions that has us on high alert because it may be damaging to your home.

If winter is going to be cold, better store up more food! In addition, a tough winter is ahead if squirrels’ tails are very bushy. Even squirrel nesting patterns tell us how cold a winter will be. Nests higher in trees suggest a colder, snowier winter; nests located lower in trees suggest a milder winter.

Squirrels are stashing food for the winter in places that are NOT good for your home. They're actually pretty smart places for the squirrel, but we're more concerned about stored food doing damage to your property. For years, we've seen the squirrels do their fall ritual, but they have never dumped their booty where they are this year.

We've have an old apple tree in the backyard which produced a massive amount of apples this year. Of course we've done our best to go out and pick up any fruit that falls to the ground. (I'm not a big fan of inviting black bears to hang out in the backyard , either. Leaving fruit on the ground is a TERRIBLE idea.)

The squirrels have been coming down from their high pine tree perches to stash these apples. They're taking a funny journey up the deck stairs, crossing the top of the big deck, going down the north stairs, grabbing an apple from underneath the tree, then making the long return journey to the base of their pine tree home. BUT:

Instead of eating them immediately or buying them somewhere in the backyard, the squirrels are dropping the apples into the basement window wells. We've been lucky to catch the little buggers making their many-time-a-day journey, but couldn't figure out where the actual stash was...until we did a slow, focused walk around the house.

Apples - Michelle Wolfe
Apples - Michelle Wolfe
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If you don't catch this happening, you're inviting trouble. Not only will you have the squirrels digging around in your window wells all winter, but that fruit is going to decompose. The smell of rotting food seeping into your basement through those windows is a probability.

The pile of food in a window well is also inviting other rodents to make themselves at home right next to your house. Think voles and mice. Remember what the voles did to all of the fruit trees in southwest Montana last year?

THIS MONTANA RODENT HAS DESTROYED HUNDREDS OF FRUIT TREES

We also noticed the squirrels storing apples and other things underneath a stand-up planter that WE stored underneath an elevated deck. Normally we don't put anything underneath there during the winter, but we falsely assumed this wooden planter wouldn't cause any trouble. Wrong. Just another great place RIGHT next to the home where rodents can flourish.

There's nothing we like better than a very simple explanation, so here's how squirrels prepare for cold, winter months by storing food ahead of time:

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