Aug 5, 2009

Cutest Rodents on Earth

I’ve been thinking about squirrels today because one of them has taken up residence in an oak tree right outside my window at work.

I grew up in a neighborhood with huge, green, leafy trees: oaks, elms, maples and ash trees for the most part. Before the insidious “Emerald Ash Borer” killed it a few years ago, my parents had a huge ash tree in their backyard. Many creatures called that tree home, including a long line of squirrels.

Large tree populations mean large squirrel populations. There were always squirrels running around, jumping from fence to tree, then a high wire walk across the power line to another tree. At one point, we had the squirrels taking peanuts, oh so gingerly, from our out-stretched hands. Prey animals are so skittish.

The picture above shows a red, grey and black squirrel. The reds are common in Europe. Here in North America we have mostly grey squirrels. But there are several pockets in the Northern US and in Canada, where populations of black squirrels dominate.

The first black squirrel I saw in our neighborhood was about 30 years ago. He stood out because he was unique. There was just one, on Elm Street, down by Elizabeth Street. Every time I spotted him I would wonder where the heck he had come from. I guess it is sort of sexist of me to think of the squirrel as a him, but I always did. Like some sort of rodent Christopher Columbus, moving into unexplored territories.

The little explorer was wildly successful. These days, everywhere you look in the neighborhood you see black squirrels. The population has spread from Elm Street onto Chestnut and Ash Streets and all the way from Elizabeth Street, across Wayne Road to Fourth. Probably even further, but these days, that’s the extent of my roaming in the City of Wayne. Quite a successful migration for that one little black squirrel.

One more squirrel story. One summer day a few years ago I left my car window open a little bit when I came back from lunch. After work I went back to my car and opened the car door as usual. I was confronted with a small, brown creature scrambling madly from front to back, banging into the windshield. A squirrel had climbed into the car and couldn’t figure out how to get back out again. I slammed the door shut in a panic. Eventually, I opened the door as wide as it could go and ran. I watched from a distance until the squirrel finally ran out of the car. I'm not sure who was more relieved the squirrel or me.

OK, just one more squirrel story, I promise. Once while golfing, a friend and I watched a squirrel bury a nut in the woods, just off the fairway. We decided to mess with him a little bit. We drove the golf cart over there, dug up his nut and drove off. The squirrel watched us do this from a neighboring tree. After we drove off he ran to the spot and checked for his nut. I swear he was shaking his head and muttering to himself as he walked away from his empty nut hole.


  1. Cute squirrel stories. I have never seen a black squirrel. It might be nice to see something different. We are overun with grey ones. Drives my dog crazy.

  2. I hosted a French student way back in high school and she was fascinated by the squirrels in our backyard. Apparently over the last thousand years they've been hunted clear out of the greater Paris area. So sad not to have squirrels frolicking in your neighborhood. I sure love watching their insanely bushy tails. -kate

  3. I almost made a squirrel soup reference and then thought better of it. hehe jk

  4. I like the squirrels too except the more squirrels, the more fleas. Which I and my dogs do not like.
    The squirrels drive my Pekingese crazy too. My Golden barks at strangers, my Peke barks at squirrels. I guess that's why they used them in the Chinese Imperial Palace Centuries ago. Better rodent chasers than cats.

  5. We have the most healthy and beautiful grey squirrels here in O-Town.
    I just love 'em.
    Here's my squirrel story;
    When I was in Karlsruhe,Germany,I was walking with a German girlfriend in the park when I said,'Hey!..There's a squirrel!'
    She thought that was the funniest word she ever heard,and try as she might,she couldn't get past that 'sq' combination...I thought that was funny too.

  6. Rae - Dogs think squirrels were put on earth just for them.

    Kate - Hunted? Oh my. Maybe Grish has been there looking for soup fixins.

    Grish - Been to Paris recently?

    Breezy - so the snot blower does have a real purpose - rodent catcher.

    Sling - I like to make my German relatives say "they think they're thin." and also "very white vinegar". I could listen to it all day. For a laugh... take a look at this youtube...

  7. I have never seen a Squirrel in real life...they are pretty little things...we don't have any downunder

  8. MC - but you have koalas and kangaroos, which are much cooler than squirrels.

  9. We have tons of red squirrels in our forest. The grey ones live in town and are the size of small dogs. They raid garbage cans. When we first lived here way back in 1990 we would watch them for hours. They had well defined routes, burying places for the peanuts and seeds we put in their boxes and made an amazing number of squeaks, chatters and screams. Like an idiot I thought year after year the same squirrels were entertaining us. Then I saw the hawks. sniff. I love these creatures...they are quite industrious and creative...and they also nest in insulation and chew wires...not good for longevity.

  10. I love those stories!--and I love squirrels.

    Iwanski and I love to squirrel-watch. We once saw a squirrel burying flamin' hot cheetos...I had to wonder if he had actually tasted them before he decided they were worthy of being buried! :)

  11. Rosemary - They are entertaining, with their tails flipping around madly. Seeming to taunt the dogs as they skitter about.

    MHP - I suppose in the dead of winter a flaming hot cheeto hits the spot.