Mad Squirrels in March


Don’t touch that squirrel’s nuts! ~ Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I love it when an acorn comes together

Remember that scene in The Two Towers where a haunted Frodo, sensing the presence of Gollum, turns to Sam and says “We’re not alone?”

I’m having one of those moments. In fact, it’s been about a month. I know I’m not alone. There’s a creature living in my backyard who makes Hannibal Lecter and those crazy hillbillies from Deliverance seem pretty tame by comparison. He’s about a foot long, with intelligent gimlet eyes and a constantly twitching bushy tail. Yes, I’m being terrorized by a squirrel. Laugh if you want, but “Chopper,” as I’ve been calling him, has plans for world domination.

It started about a month ago, when I woke to the sounds of frantic scrabbling somewhere in the attic. Because there’s a panel missing from the underside of my house, I knew animals might get inside. What I didn’t count on was little paws stamping out a beat reminiscent of a Queen song. Chopper had moved in from the cruel, wet environs outside to the cozier, friendlier confines of my attic, and he wasn’t about to leave. The housing market may be down, but for this little Sciurus carolinensis, my home became the perfect location.

They may be nuts, but they have skills

Chopper, it seems, has a puckish sense of humor. Already this spring, he’s startled me sitting outside my kitchen window and staring inside longingly the way Dan Aykroyd did at the fancy restaurant in The Blues Brothers. He’s also fond of crouching at the edge of my backyard fence and surprising me when I get out of the car after a long day at work. As with some of the neighborhood crows, I can sense his intelligence and cunning. I for one believe animals are far more clever than we humans would care to admit. Squirrels, along with their cousins, the Norway rats, have adapted brilliantly to a world dominated by mankind. Chopper is no exception. He’s well-fed, has a suitable habitat in the form of several trees in my yard, and probably his choice of female squirrels as mates.

I’ve even taken the opportunity to conduct a few experiments with him. Knowing his kind’s ability to solve problems (as any homeowner with a bird feeder will tell you), I set up a test. On a metal pole with a baffle, I placed a feeder full of nuts on top. From my deck, I tied a length of rope to the feeder, so that, in order to get the tasty treats, Chopper would have to literally walk along the rope like an acrobat. It took him about ten minutes to get the hang of things and, once he did, the nuts were history. He seemed proud of himself; his bushy tail was twitching in circles and he was making a low whuh-whuh sound.

And that is how we kill VC squirrels, gentlemen

I don’t have anything against Chopper (and, probably this spring, Mrs. Chopper and family.) He’s a cute little guy. He doesn’t steal my food, crap on my car, eat my garbage, or harass my pets. I’ll eventually have to cover up that hole so he doesn’t tear up the insulation, but right now it’s not a high priority. I’m fond of squirrels in general. Like crows, they can improvise to solve unique problems (as my rope experiment shows). It’s also obvious they have memory banks of sorts, as some estimates suggest a squirrel may create a thousand or more caches of food during the winter. In order to survive, that squirrel must remember where those caches are. Chopper has it easy: since he’s charmed me sufficiently, I’ve started leaving peanuts in plain sight for him.

Today, the first day of spring, I saw Chopper again. He was standing on his hind legs in a curiously human pose, staring right at me through the kitchen window as if to ask for more nuts. His tail was sweeping around and around in circles, and he just sat there, unblinking. Any skeptic when it comes to animals’ intelligence need only make eye contact with a grey squirrel to know that there’s a lot going on in that brain of theirs. Chopper, and his family, are smart critters indeed. They also have little paws which are remarkably adept, as seen here:

Now that it’s squirrel mating season (and Chopper, I’ve noticed, is obviously male), I expect he’ll settle down to the drey of his dreams and raise lots of bushy-tailed babies. If I’m lucky, I might be able to get some of his antics on camera. Squirrels, like crows, are notoriously tricky and will even dig false caches of nuts to throw off rivals.

Since I’m currently petless, I couldn’t ask for a better “pet” than Chopper. He’s benign, fun to watch, costs almost nothing (save for a few peanuts), and doesn’t need trips to the vet.

I just have to wonder if he isn’t plotting a hostile takeover. If he is, well, I just hope he remembers me as the Nut Lady and gives me a decent post in his regime.

Old soldiers never die, they become squirrels

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on March 21, 2011.

2 Responses to “Mad Squirrels in March”

  1. Mad Squirrels are coming to get you 😀

    Have you seen this video before: http://kimeling.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/supersquirrel/
    I love it!

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