To keep himself entertained, former NASA and Apple engineer Mark Rober built a genius obstacle course to deter his backyard squirrels from stealing his birdseed — or, at least, make them work for it.
For weeks, Rober watched as his neighbourhood squirrels — which he named Rick, Marty, Frank and Phat Gus — attempted to navigate the course, making their way through his labyrinth to reach the bird feeder.
Rober has been sharing his progress over YouTube, where users can follow along as he collects supplies and builds the course, fit with rope bridges, a fake bikini-clad squirrel, jumps and even a photo opportunity to throw the animals off.
“This course is extremely challenging,” he says in the video. “But I will admit, in hindsight, that I completely underestimated my adversary.”
Some of the obstacles are called The Bridge of Instability, The Maze of 1,000 Corridors, The Slinky Bridge of Deception, The Homewrecker and The Tourist Trap. The latter is a small cowboy squirrel with the face cut out, and a treat strategically placed so each squirrel poses for a photo.
Small as they are, the furry animals quickly adapted to the different challenges, with some of them nearly making it to the coveted collection of seeds.
The project took eight weeks to complete, Rober explains in the video. He got the idea when he started bird watching — out of sheer boredom — and noticed how smart the squirrels were in conquering any anti-squirrel device he installed.
“When I started this two-month adventure trying to bird watch, I had no idea I’d enjoy squirrel watching so much more,” Rober. “Of all the animals, I can definitively say that now squirrels are my absolute favourite.”
Rober is well-known for answering science questions, building structures and conducting experiments on his popular YouTube channel.
The California-based DIY-er previously worked on the Mars-exploring Curiosity Rover.
Now he’s enjoying the curiosity of his earthbound test subjects.