Sunday, September 13, 2020

Those Wiley Squirrels

My cousin hates squirrels. They ate their way through her patio umbrella. They ruined her tomato crop. She detests them. So every year at Christmas, I try to find her something squirrely. One year I found a squirrel game. One year a quilted squirrel hanging. On Squirrel Appreciation Day (yes, of course there is one! January 21st), I send her a card. In turn, she send me information on how deadly they can be (not to humans, but she doesn't clarify that) and why they should be hated. It's our way of staying in contact. I know she secretly loves squirrels. She thinks I share her hatred. 

The truth is, even knowing they can be destructive to housing and wiring and gardens and things, I love them. I love to watch them scurry across the yard. I love to watch them bounce, tail flying, jumping quickly up a tree. My son's dog Jack is super interested in chasing squirrels to the point of distraction. So focused. If a squirrel has ever been in a spot, he has to check out the spot. My yard is Jack heaven.

I love to hear them scold the kitty for, well basically thinking about them. We had a kitten who really wanted a squirrel of her own. I'd sit out on the porch every afternoon to wait for my fella to return from work and the dog and cat would wait with me. Kittles fell in love with squirrels and would chase them. They would bark and scold her, all the while just a few feet above her in the tree. Kittles would climb a bit higher and the squirrel would also--always staying a couple feet away, barking and scolding. Obviously the squirrel was just that much smarter than Kittles because every time, Miss Kittles would climb a bit too high and get stuck in the tree. "Yeah," the squirrel would taunt, "who's smarter, now?"

Right now the squirrels are the only things moving in the yard. Due to horrible smoke conditions at a high hazard level, we aren't outside, the house pets aren't outside, the dog walkers aren't outside. So the squirrels are running rampant, gathering food for the winter, stealing from other squirrels who are gathering for the winter. They are having their own parties at the bird feeders. They are so clever! There was one old squirrel--he had the battle scars along his entire back to show his age and garner respect--who would try to gather bird seeds and fruits every day. He would fly from the porch post to grab the feeder. The feeder would spin and he would fall. Every day.

Until the smoke from the wildfires came to live in our city, my fella and I would often eat dinner out on the deck, under the umbrella that, by the way, isn't damaged by squirrels. And while we ate and chatted, the squirrels would race past us along the fence top. One way would have a little apple or nut in it's mouth; the mouth would be empty on the way back. Over and over during one meal.

Squirrels do a lot of good. They plant seeds and keep the forest going. Their caching behavior of seeds is important to renew the forest. There are also about 200 species of squirrels. They are entertaining. And they are a mystery. These rodents aren't studied as much as others, so there is always something new to discover about them.

And yeah, they can be a nuisance. Don't tell my cousin I said that. They can chew through just about anything. They chew all the time because their incisors never stop growing. Chewing stuff keeps the incisors from growing into their lower jaw and skull. They raid bird feeders. They dart out in front of cars.

But dammit! They are so dang cute. 

Visit YouTube to have more fun with squirrels: 

Ray Stevens, The Mississippi Squirrel Revival 

Mark Roper, NASA engineer, builds an obstacle course for squirrels:

And so it goes


1 comment:

SharonG/FL said...

I grew up in Battle Creek Michigan in the 1940s/1950s and never knew there was any other color for a squirrel than jet black. I only knew them as fat and fuzzy. I was surprised to learn they are really a gray squirrel (I continue to call them black), and were brought in to rid the area of the destructive red squirrels. Fast forward to 1997 when we moved to Florida and all the squirrels are a true gray, skinny, and sickly looking.