Growing up as a little girl in Southern California I never saw many squirrels. They were this cute little animal that you might be able to see if you went up into the mountains. If you were lucky, you might be able to feed part of your lunch to a ground squirrel at a rest stop. They were rare, elusive, cute, and I absolutely, positively wanted to have one as a pet.
Then I moved to Colorado. Squirrels rule here!!! If you offer some food to a squirrel at a park you might get mobbed. Seriously, I had to once pick up a child and back away from the descending mob of squirrels after tossing out some scraps of bread. They are so cute, but best to not encourage them too much. They eat all the yummy food growing in gardens (ahem… strawberries and grapes… ), raid the trash, and aren’t above dragging off the dog’s Kong to get the treats inside. Bird feeders are actually squirrel feeders. These guys are so bright that it is almost impossible to keep them out of the feeders. There were some “squirrel proof” feeders at the local bird supply store, but I just laughed and bought a bird house. I love the squirrels, but I am not feeding them, because… previously mobbed by hungry squirrels…
Here where I live now there are squirrel nests in trees all around, and this last year a nest finally arrived in my front tree. It looks like a huge ball of leaves caught up in the branches; three cute little squirrel youngsters showed up this spring racing around the trunk, over the branches, and across the roof to my back yard where they access the fence which serves as the highway to all the other houses on my block. I call this Squirrel Route One, and the movement of little feet over the roof and the scrabble of squirrels along the fence are my morning entertainment every day while I’m outside on the deck drinking my morning latte. Why look at what has happened: I have pet squirrels after all!
The pictures show squirrels moving on Squirrel Route One: along the fence, then down into the yard to my deck, across the deck, and then a fast climb to the upper supports and a leap onto the roof. These squirrels aren’t above checking me out to see if I have some unsecured snacks. Nope, little guys. Move along!!
There are several types of squirrels in Colorado, and these guys seem to be a type of tree squirrel called the fox squirrel. They provide endless entertainment for me and the cats and were great distractions (Squirrel!!!) for me as I recovered from surgery this spring. I used squirrels in my teaching; there was a white squirrel in a Denver park a few years ago, and I used the videotaped newscast about her in my biology classroom. That white squirrel wasn’t an albino as her eyes were dark, and her offspring were all normal in coloration. “What type of genetic mutation is this?” I would ask the class. (It’s recessive.) What would the Punnett square of the offspring look like? If two offspring mated (I know… icky… just go with it!) what would be the chance of another white squirrel? Is this a genetic feature that will be selected for? What if our weather changed and it was snowy all the time? The kids loved the white squirrel lesson. Well, they are so darn cute, what’s not to like?
I’m not above having fun with squirrels and my neighbors. Squirrels can be enormous pests, and a few years ago they managed to work their way into my next-door neighbor’s attic where they went wild eating the wire insulation. Bad squirrels!! I printed out a recipe for squirrel pot pie and anonymously taped it to their front door. I know, I’m bad. They trapped those squirrels, repaired the roof, and I’m pretty sure that none of the squirrels became dinner. Pretty sure…
They got back by feeding the squirrels that remained lots and lots of peanuts in the shells that the squirrels buried all over my yard and in the gardens.
I gave them a little stuffed toy squirrel wearing baby booties when they had a new baby.
That neighbor eventually moved away and just a couple of weeks ago she called me to catch up on all the neighborhood news. “I now have a squirrel nest!” I told her. They are living in a new housing area without mature trees now and there are no squirrels. They miss them.
Because squirrels are so darn cute!!
14 thoughts on “The BioGeek Memoirs: Squirrel”
GORGEOUS post, Marilyn !! You guys are lucky to have squirrels; but I suppose we’re lucky to have .. umm .. [trying to think of animals who can be seen in Australian gardens] bandicoots ? They don’t get good press, as they tend to like t dig up people’s lawns. But my take on that is: people shouldn’t still be having lawns !! – not these days .. Possums ? – not nearly as cute as squirrels ! Oh well ..
I hadn’t realized that Mateo is actually smaller than Hannah ! – HIS tail makes him deceptively big.
And lovely story of the squirrel wars – made me laugh.
Hoping your health is allowing you to do the same, m’dear ..
I had to look up bandicoot! Um… maybe they are more like my baby bunnies who are sure causing a lot of damage to my lawn including digging it up. I also have the occasional raccoon or skunk who comes thru and they also dig to get insects. That picture of the cats was taken when Mateo was younger, but he is a much smaller cat than Hannah. Now that his winter fur is off he looks like he shrank! I think that he is come combination of Maine coon or Norwegian forest cat because of the wedge head and the ridiculous undercoat, and both of those breeds grow really slowly, taking 4 or 5 years to get to their final size. He has a tremendous prey drive, too, which is driving Hannah and me crazy in the evenings. We MUST play with the kitten, or there will be hell to pay later on.
I’m pleased you got your squirrel pets at last; wonderful squirrel wars, too
They are cute entertainment!
Here in western Iowa, we are the home of the black squirrel. They truly rule the trees and are aggressive to other gray or brown squirrels. We love them.
I just looked them up, and they are cute and look an awful lot like the fox squirrels in my yard and trees except for that fabulous color. So fun, huh!
They are so cute! My Dad had a running war with our squirrels in PA because they constantly emptied out his birdfeeders. But eventually we started putting out food for them and they left the feeders alone. We lived in a rural area, so we started gathering up acorns and scraps of field corn from the edges of fields after it had been harvested and putting it out for them over the winter. They can be really destructive, but like you said – they are really cute!
Squirrel wars can get really serious and expensive!! I had a friend who tried everything, and the squirrels outfoxed her every time and got the bird seed (ironically, these are fox squirrels here…). I have thought about putting out a squirrel feeder with ears of corn, but since this is an urban corridor with soooo many squirrels I don’t want to attract more than I already have because, as you mentioned, they can also be destructive. The other issue with the birdfeeder in this area is that they also attract mice. I am surrounded by people with a mouse problem, but since I am careful with seeds and anything that might attract mice in the garage along with plugging holes like crazy, I don’t have any problems. Okay, there are also my two cats to take care of any mice who manage to get indoors!
Attracting mice is definitely a problem with providing seeds! And you’re right – no point in bringing more squirrels to the yarn than are already there 🙂
Squirrels are adorable! But they are also pests. In the part or Northern CA where I live, we have a TON of them all over. I’m pretty sure they are living in our attic as well. Don’t want to know what they’re doing up there, though we’re going to have to look into it soon. In the meantime, the sound like elephants when they run across our roof. I don’t know how something so small makes so much noise.
If you haven’t read Squirrel Terror by Lilith Saintcrow, you might want to check it out. I laughed SO HARD.
I’m off to read Squirrel Terror… I think that maybe I should send a copy to my old neighbors! 🙂 You so want to get into the attic to check out the squirrel activity as they chew the insulation on wires for some crazy reason. I called a company called Critter Control that made sure my house was sealed as the squirrels got in through a gap in a vent going through the roof on the neighbors house. Once you’ve worked out how they are getting in you can fix that problem and trap the squirrels.
Squirrel Terror is so much fun! (Though I’m sure it wasn’t for the author at the time.) We’ve been trying to figure out how to handle the squirrels, since we’re in a condo and we own the attic (where the squirrels probably are) but the HOA owns the roof (which is how the squirrels are getting in). It’s confusing.
Wow, that is a problem. I bet if you call one of the animal control companies (Here in the Denver area we have Critter Control) they would know the answer as it must have come up before. Since they own the roof it might be that you can file a claim for damages. Maybe your insurance company would know too.
I’m sure it must have come up before. We’re looking into options—and the HOA is about ready to replace the roofs anyway, so we’re trying to align timing.