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!!