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Further Reading:

  Understanding the Technology
  About Chili Treat
  Safe, Natural Product
  Does it Harm Squirrels?
  Aversive Taste Conditioning
  Cornell University Study

Understanding The Technology

As with many new inventions, the story behind coating birdseed with hot pepper to safely and effectively rid bird-feeding environments of squirrels and other pesky furry intruders is an interesting one. It begins with Dr. Joe Dunn, who has an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a PhD degree in pharmacology (the science of drug action and chemistry) from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

In 1980, Dr. Dunn was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. At Harvard, Dr. Dunn studied in the laboratory of Dr. Peter M. Blumberg, a prominent biochemist pursuing basic research to discover the biochemical causes of many diseases, including cancer. Dr. Blumberg's specific expertise was in the fields of cellular pharmacology, carcinogenesis (the process of cancer formation) and pain intervention. 

In 1982, Dr. Blumberg decided to devote his career to the study of cancer research and left Harvard to join the staff of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland as Section Head in the Laboratory of Cellular Carcinogenesis and Tumor Promotion. He recruited Dr. Dunn to join him there. 

At the National Institute of Health (NIH), one of the areas Dr. Blumberg's research team focused on was examining natural irritants and their effect on tumor formation and growth. Among the chemicals studied was capsaicin, the natural occurring component of hot chili peppers that produces a "hot" sensation when eaten. While capsaicin is a very powerful temporary irritant, it is also all organic and non-toxic. Research also proved that it had no effect on tumor formation, but interesting observations and theories about neural receptors abounded. The studies showed that the "hot" sensation is caused by capsaicin binding to specific, high affinity "capsaicinoid" receptors on C-afferent (nociceptor) nerve fibers causing the release of the neurotransmitter Substance P producing a "perceived" painful response in mammals. However, there is no physical damage or lasting sensation as a result of contact with capsaicin. Mammals (squirrels, rabbits, deer, raccoons, rats and mice, as well as humans) have these receptors, and therefore, experience hot sensations when exposed to chili peppers.

The scientists at the NIH wondered whether all species of animals have capsaicin sensitive receptors. It has been long observed that several species of birds could eat chili peppers regardless of the level of capsaicin present. Studies were undertaken which proved that birds either lack capsaicin receptors or have receptors that are insensitive to this compound. Most botanists and ornithologists believe that nature evolved this way so that birds would freely eat the pepper plants thereby spreading undigested seeds over wide areas. Small mammals would avoid eating the plants because they do not like the taste of capsaicin. This adaptation/co-evolution would result in natural propagation of the chili species. Drs. Blumberg and Dunn discussed what practical application these discoveries might have and came up with the idea to coat wild birdseed with capsaicin. Birds will freely eat the coated seed because they do not "taste" capsaicin. However, squirrels, as well as most small mammals, would avoid eating it and look elsewhere for food. 

The National Institutes of Health filed for and received U.S. Patents for this unique approach to controlling squirrels. The Canadian patent was issued in early 1999. Dr. Dunn licensed the worldwide rights to this technology. Further research and product development involving safety and effectiveness was undertaken through a close alliance with Cornell University. At Squirrel Proof we are committed to being customer focused. Squirrel Proof products have been developed to solve a long standing problem for bird enthusiasts, specifically pesky squirrels raiding and destroying your bird feeders. Our goal is for you to fully enjoy year round backyard living space. 

We want to continually improve our products and services by learning from you - the customer. We have set up our website to hopefully provide helpful information, as well as be a forum to answer questions. We want to proactively communicate with birders like yourself. We would love to hear from you about your experiences, needs and ideas. Please phone, fax, e-mail or use regular mail. 

Thank you for your interest in Squirrel Proof Products. 

e-mail: info@squirrelproof.ca
Phone: 416-491-1417
Fax: 416-491-1426 

Squirrel Proof Inc. 
647 The Queensway
Toronto, Ontario, M8Y 1K6 

Special Note: We pay a royalty fee to the National Institute of Health based upon our sales volume. Therefore, a portion of your dollars spent on pepper-based squirrel resistant bird feeds goes to fund cancer research.

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