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.