Sure, squirrels can be playful, cute, and fun to watch — until they help themselves to the high-end feed you bought, gnaw on your feeders, and scare away the birds you’re trying to attract.

Fortunately, there are several safe steps you can take to reduce the chances of squirrels helping themselves to your feathered-friend feasts. Consider the following.

Shop around. Inventors have devised multiple ingenious feeders aimed at warding off persistent squirrels. Some, for example, feature trap doors that automatically drop under a squirrel’s weight.

Location, location, location. Place feeders at least 12 feet away from branches, roofs, telephone wires, and other potential squirrel launch pads. Put them atop smooth poles that are 6 feet tall or higher, but never grease the poles; that can cause illness and make both birds and mammals vulnerable to predators.

Go with gadgets. Wire or mesh grates can be placed around feeders to deter squirrels and large, aggressive birds. To prevent pole climbing, try smooth metal or plastic baffles (15 inches or wider) attached above or below the feeder. If your feeder hangs from a wire, string it with spinners made from empty thread spools, empty plastic bottles, or short lengths of pipe or hose.

Spiff-up spills. Minimize dropped feed that may appeal to squirrels.

Spice up the menu. Squirrels can be repelled by the bitter taste of sunflower seed or Nyjer, or you might sprinkle your feed with cayenne pepper, which affects mammals but not birds.

Create a squirrel smorgasbord. Consider creating a separate feeding station, far from your bird feeders and stocked with foods that help squirrels prep for hibernation. Packed with a high-nutrient blend of ingredients, Lyric Bird Foods' Wildlife Food is a perfect option.

Note: No matter how annoying your squirrel problem is, it’s never a good idea to reduce their population through hunting, poisoning, glue traps, or the release of predatory cats. Those methods could adversely affect other wildlife, and they’re simply not humane.

Since they contain only ingredients birds love to eat, Lyric Wild Bird Food No-Waste Mixes are seldom dropped to the ground — keeping you from attracting ground-foraging squirrels