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In defense of squirrels [Nov. 19th, 2008|08:41 am]
Don't get me wrong. I'm not a huge fan of squirrels. Let's face it, they're tree rats. But for a fuzzy tail and a propensity to hang out in more sanitary locations, we'd be glue-trapping and poisoning them with abandon. Instead of feeding them or eating them.

But, I do admire the cheeky. And I have from time to time grown fond of an indivdual or two -- Blaze, the black squirrel with a white patch on her chest and a white tipped tail, who had several litters in the tree in my front yard. And right now there's a grey one, possibly one of her babies, who's got a mutantly short tail, Stubby. I'd suspect Mommacat of relieving him of tail excess, but it's got a little white tip on the end, which I guess could be scarring, but I like to think he/she's one of Blaze's progeny.

Even though the little expletive deleted and his buddy have chewed a whole in the top of my garbage can. And behavior like that will move him right into "rat in my yard" territory, which means no mercy, no quarter.

But squirrels have their uses -- as weather predictors, for a start -- from the size of the little buggers and the EXTRA-franticness I'm seeing this year -- the trash can lid, major pumpkin-noshing, it's going to be a very cold winter. Time to lay in extra weatherstripping.

This and spring are the times of year I hear most about suicidal squirrels -- and see so many of them laid out on the road, often just a little trickle of blood on their furry little not-quite-rat faces, sometimes one with the pavement. Thankfully, with Willow passing, I no longer will have to say "Gah, no! Drop it, for the love of god do not make me pull that out of...not yours! Not yours!"

It always makes me sad. Not because they're dead. (There are plenty of squirrels. If we never ran them over, they would take over our houses, chew on all of our electrical wires and infest our walls.) But because, in this case, an exquisite response to predation-pressure is not only so grossly maladapted to their current environment, but we call them stupid, besides.

See, they're not being idiots when they dash out in front of you, hesitate, run toward you, hesitate, dash in one direction, then the other.

They are being creatures superbly tuned for "not being caught". After all, what goes after squirrels? Hawks, foxes, owls, racoons, mostly. A squirrel can change direction faster than any of those. Think about being on foot -- or hovering in the air, if only our jetpack dreams came true -- and chasing something that dashes, stops, turns 180 degrees, dashes, hesitates, dashes in another direction....I'd fall on my ass immediately, of course, and you might have a better chance -- but really, put that squirrel in a football helmet and pads and he's a dream footballplayerwhosepositioncatchestheballandrunswithit, isn't he?

Sadly, cars, going way faster than most predators and immune to the urge to change direction with the squirrel, mow them right down if one of their dashes doesn't take them out of the original zone.

Poor maligned squirrels. They may be trash-can-lid eating expletives, but let's admire their ability to come up with a strategy the protects them from any natural predator.

And before we call them stupid for not adjusting to cars...21 pedestrians in Montgomery County alone so far this year have been hit by cars, 14 of them met the same fate as the squirrel Percy & I passed on the road this morning.

[User Picture]From: meapet
2008-11-19 03:09 pm (UTC)
I've always admired squirrels for their ingenuity and speed. My friend rialian has been attacked by a mob of them (I tried to find the LJ entry but it was years ago), and they've always been around wherever I am.

However, I do enjoy Squirrel Pot Pie, and if you would like the recipe I think I can scrounge it up somewhere. :)
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[User Picture]From: meapet
2008-11-19 03:15 pm (UTC)
My family hasn't picked up roadkill since the Civil War. And only then because it was the holidays.... :P
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[User Picture]From: meapet
2008-11-19 03:24 pm (UTC)
Of course- only for when my Great Great Grandfather deserted the Artillery for the Christmas holiday. :)
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[User Picture]From: majorchaos
2008-11-19 03:59 pm (UTC)
I've always been amused by squirrels. I like how they hesitate, look around, and then fling themselves from tree to tree. Almost as if they're looking for friends and saying "Hey Watch This!"

I also find it fun to watch them using close knitted trees as a highway. They seem to know which trees limbs lead to where and have the routes all planned out.

It is also amusing to watch them try to "hide" from me. They'll climb two or three feet up a tree, stop, look at me, and scurry around to where I'm out of sight. Rinse and repeat a few times until they think I'm going to attack and then they run up into the high branches and start barking... or maybe it's laughing.
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[User Picture]From: terribleturnip
2008-11-19 04:04 pm (UTC)
Dude, dude, watch this! I know how to hypnotize a human...watch, you stop, hide, peek, hide, peek, hide. It PARALYZES them! Look, I could pick it up now and hide it in a tree nook and it would be powerless to resist. If I were bigger.
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[User Picture]From: majorchaos
2008-11-19 04:07 pm (UTC)
You've fallen victim to them too huh?

I think it's a love hate relationship with 'em. You love to watch 'em because they can be cute and fuzzy and do silly things, but you hate 'em when they invade the house, garbage etc.
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[User Picture]From: lowlandscot
2008-11-19 04:12 pm (UTC)

Check these squirrels out

They exist only on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We were so excited when we saw the first one, but then of course realized that there are about a billion of them packed into that ponderosa pine forest. One tried to climb into my pack when I sat down for a rest on the Uncle Jim trail. They are very amusing to watch, and pretty fearless, considering they are surrounded by natural predators.
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[User Picture]From: ferlonda
2008-11-19 09:11 pm (UTC)
We were house and parrot sitting for friends of ours and one of our chores was to keep the bird feeders full of black sunflower seeds. Only two feeders so not exactly onerous. When I went out the first time to do it one of the feeders had fallen out of the apple tree it was hung on so I filled and replaced it. The other feeder is on a squirrel-proof post also protected with wire to keep the larger birds from hogging the seeds.

I went indoors and was watching the cute little birdies when a squirrel came barreling up the tree, neatly unhooked the feeder and tossed it on the ground. I nearly died laughing, both at the squirrel and at myself and when I recovered, not only the squirrel was feasting on the seeds but it had company- a family of rats.

Not those enormous, slow-moving Norwegian wharf rats, but very cute rats, much smaller and the prettiest golden brown. There was momma rat, daddy rat and two adolescent rats. The adolescents were particularly cute and spent a lot of time playing with each other- chase, tag, hide-and-seek, etc. Momma and daddy rat spent a lot of time chasing the squirrel, once even pulling his tail hard enough to make him stop in his tracks and turn around and literally bare his teeth at them.

I went out after a few minutes and put the feeder back up into the tree on a longer, thinner branch and it kept the squirrel occupied for a whole minute figuring out how to continue eating those seeds. The rats came back out and finished up what was on the ground while the squirrel hung upside down from his back feet and inadvertently fed them more seeds while gorging himself.

Later, a huge black and white cat wandered by. There were no rats to be seen but I saw it checking out the holes under the stepping stones and sniffing along the most used path to under the deck.

The rats really were cute and very affectionate with each other... but I was glad it wasn't our house I would have to worry about.
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