Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I always believed that their antics were random acts of hunger
motivated vandalism. I would even sometimes break into the irritation
I feel for them to acknowledge that yes, their poofy little tails
probably do shiver sadly on cold winter nights.
Never again will I look out on a rainy day and think of the poor
helpless squirrels. For, I now know, that they sit in those trees
embittered by our indoor resources, plotting their sweet revenge.
My realization started with a tiny noise under a table. Looking
towards the noise I ventured closer. Like a flash the little rat faced
monster, ran from room to room and, through my kitchen. I reached the
back porch just in time to see its clawed back feet propelling its garbage and vengence seeped body out of the window, so it might hide and wait for its next attack.
Little did I know, this was only a distraction. Seconds after the
first squirrel escaped me, I heard tiny footsteps on the roof above
and a small pounce as another soldier of rabies jumped down into an
upstairs bedroom. My constant mistrust of their goings on had alerted
me to the intruder at almost the same instant as the visiting neighbor
cat became aware, and so we raced together up the stairs.
I think I can describe both of our reactions as horror when we
discovered the apparent squirrel ring leader, seated a top my sleeping
son's buttocks, staring at him and plotting his evil doings and rolling his
tiny squirrelly hands.
Having selected my home as their own winter rodent sanctuary the squirrels show great unalterableness. This initial plan to devour the inhabitants and move in thereafter was thwarted by Leroy, the neighbor cat. Since this massive setback the squirrels have been attempting to negotiate a more peaceful settlement. Having learned something from history I have not made any compromises to my position in their favor.
With their food and supplies dwindling, and the time of panicked adrenaline charged rioting giving way to a more listless poking about for an acorn possibly forgotten in a clever hiding spot, the squirrels start to seem a bit more sympathetic again. Until I am in the kitchen and hear a strange scratching at the door and think that Leroy has come for a visit only to be tricked into opening for a squirrel. Or until I sit near a window and they pose on the sill outside with their best sad eyes, and I look deeply into the black watery depths and feel the quiet desire to spread disease through tooth to human contact.
The total amount of time that a squirrel can possibly sit and look into the eyes of a human and attempt to look harmless, pathetic and sweet is, by my best research, forty five seconds. As the seconds click by past twenty five, the tail starts to twitch with the burning sensation of bottled hatred and resentment. The fur slowly rises around the shoulders. After this the whole body seems to jerk every few seconds with the strain of holding back the fury deep inside.
If they could only grow a bit larger. If only their teeth could bite a bit deeper. If only they could get a bit more protein than the occasional taco left out in the alley, to build their devious little brains. If only one more blessing of strength or wit were given to these wily little devils it would be the end of us all.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Guy #2: Do squirrels have wieners?
Guy #1: I don't know... I want to see if he sticks it in her!
Guy #2: Oh my god! They're 69-ing each other! This is awesome!
Guy #1: Holy shit! He just stuck his head up her squirrel-gina!
Guy #2: [Captivated silence.]
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
A kamikaze squirrel fell from the sky and detonated a Bayonne woman's car yesterday, police said today.
Lindsey Millar, 23, and her brother, Tony, 22, were both home Wednesday at about 12:45 p.m. when Lindsey's car suddenly started burning outside their 42nd Street home.
Tony Millar said firefighters told them it was the work of a buck-toothed saboteur that had been gnawing on overhead power lines connected to a transformer directly above the 2006 Toyota Camry.
"The squirrel chewed through the wire, was set on fire, fell down directly to where the car was," Tony Millar said. "The squirrel, on fire, slid into the engine compartment and blew up the car.
"They're always coming around here, chewing through the garbage," he added.
Tony Millar says his sister was fully insured.
"It's something to laugh about once she has a new car," he said. "It's not funny yet."
Police said there were no injuries -- except for the squirrel, that is, which is dead.
The Millars' home is decorated for Halloween, complete with a tiny plastic tombstone on their front lawn. Tony Millar said the family will consider dedicating the tombstone to the squirrel, who was not named.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
HELSINKI (Reuters) - A Finnish squirrel with a sweet tooth heads to a Finnish grocery shop at least twice a day to steal "Kinder Surprise" chocolate-shelled eggs.
"I named it the Kinder-squirrel, after the treats. It always goes after them, other sweets do not seem to interest it as much," the manager of the store in, central Finland, told Reuters.
The confectionary, which is intended for children, has a toy inside.
"It removes the foil carefully, eats the chocolate and leaves the store with the toy," Irene Lindroos said.
Unfortunately, the bushy-tailed thief does not clean up after itself, but leaves the wrappers behind, she added.
Squirrels have a well deserved reputation for being clever and adaptable animals. Many a home owner has seen the small rodents raiding their supposedly "squirrel-proof" bird feeders.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Thanks to readers who generously shared their squirrel tales and short stories. I had a great time wading through the offerings. I wish I could publish them all, but here is a hearty sampling:
Squirrels trap Minneapolis woman; police fail to respond I live in south Minneapolis and have a batch of squirrels apparently taking up residence in my back yard. I have planter boxes and different pots that I plant. As soon as I get them potted up and watered, the squirrels are in there digging them back up — and they don’t just toss them on the ground; they take them with them. So I figure they must have the most beautiful planted nest ever. The other day, though, I headed out the door to go to work when lo and behold, a squirrel ran right by my feet and ran up the side of the garage and sat on the roof, staring at me. Then another squirrel ran by me in close proximity. I screamed and jumped into my truck. As I’m sitting in my truck going “Whew,” I put on my eyeglasses, and this is what I saw: a squirrel lounging on my potting bench, a squirrel in the bird bath, a squirrel on the fence, staring at me. And, three squirrels chasing each other and a squirrel on the roof of my garage. HELP! I called 911. They didn’t take me seriously, either, and gave me to animal control, who also laughed at my dilemma. Michele McMullen
Squirrel in a dandelion patch While waiting for the traffic light to change, I looked at the yard near the curb. It was covered with dandelions gone to seed. A squirrel was very busy chipping each stalk off. Then, holding the white-headed dandelion in its mouth, the squirrel would blow the seeds off, then chomp down the stalk. I would have enjoyed watching longer, but the driver behind me was getting impatient. Monroe P. Killy, Minneapolis
New generation turns on them It all started when my neighbor and I found four baby squirrels in our yard with their tails tangled up. We worked together to get them separated and they were free. The four stayed in our yard and would go after my husband’s bird feeders. After many different attempts and feeders, we decided if you can’t beat ’em, feed ’em, so we got special squirrel feeders, a bungee corn feeder and many bags of peanuts and corn. They were ours. We even named a few, such as Pudge and Dots. It worked well for a few years. We lived in harmony with our squirrels. We watched them play, eat like pigs. Our neighbors enjoyed the squirrel shows. We even had other squirrels coming from different yards to partake in the peanut and corn feast. When we ran out of food, they would kindly let us know by coming up to the deck and place paws on the sliding doors looking in to tell us, “Hey, we need more food out here!” And, “Our feeders are empty.” Then out we’d go and refill. This went on for more than two years, until this year, when the squirrels turned on us, or, at least their new batch of baby squirrels did. They dug up our yard, ate newly planted perennials, chewed all my spikes, got under one fenced-in annual and took the whole bulb. “That’s it,” I told my husband, “no more.” These new ones are not right in the head. They are jumping around and eating everything, including the food that is just for them. Mom and Pop squirrel forgot to tell their young ones that there are rules to follow in the Menke yard: they feed us, we leave their garden alone. Oh, and leave the cable wire alone, too. So out went the food, down came the feeders. You rascally squirrels are on your own. Alas, we do miss the show. Maybe in the winter we will bring out the food, for a good show. Deborah and Steve Menke, Burnsville
Do Twin Cities swap squirrels? I live east of Lake Nokomis. We have tons of squirrels in our neighborhood, doesn’t everyone? I have a very sweet neighbor, a retired man, who traps the squirrels (live trap) with peanut butter. Then, he releases the squirrels near Hidden Falls Park in St. Paul (or at least I think that is where he is releasing them). I’m thinking how funny it would be if some person in St. Paul was doing the same thing and bringing them to Minneapolis. Megan Miller, Minneapolis
How to squirrel-proof feeder for bears I have a bird-feeding table made out of a sheet of heavy aluminum. It is about 2 feet square, with an aluminum cylinder 5 inches in diameter welded to the center of the aluminum top, that’s standing 4 feet above the ground. The squirrels cannot get their “arms” around it to climb it, and cannot jump high enough to get on it. It is perfectly squirrel-proof. I dump sunflower seeds on top of the table. When the bears come in for the seeds, they just swipe the seeds off into their mouth and don’t bend or break the aluminum pole. It is effective in keeping the squirrels off and is not wrecked by the bears. Also, the feeder is not near any trees, so the squirrels can’t jump on it. In winter, I shovel back the snow if it gets deep enough for the squirrels to jump up on the feeder. Darrel Mathieu, Luck, Wis.
Healing hurt squirrelI have a squirrel encounter at least twice a day! Friend, not foe. His name is Chipper and he must live pretty dang close. He comes for food, company and even medicine. Last year he must have gotten into a pretty good fight because he had an open wound on his back that would not heal for more than two weeks. So one morning I decided to see if he would let me touch him, and much to my surprise he did not get too scared. I got an antibacterial cream and put some on his back where the wound was. When he came back the next day, he let me do it again, for a total of five days straight. Well, it healed very well although he still has a scar in the middle of his back. Some days in the winter he sits on the fence with his legs dangling on either side and watches me in my hot tub. This year he even came by with his pregnant girlfriend and now we have babies running around. They are not as friendly yet. But I have no doubt they will see me as a good and trustworthy food source, just as Chipper did. My friends and neighbors think I am nuts (no pun intended) for encouraging this furry rat, but I actually enjoy his company. John Heller, Minneapolis
Squirrel head appears on carpet I live on the third floor of an apartment building with no nearby trees and my windows have screens. A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to get to sleep, but I kept on waking up. I felt my extra pillow fall on my cheek and I shoved it aside. I then managed to drift off again but felt something run across my comforter over my legs. It felt similar to my fiancé’s cat walking across the bed. I kicked my legs and fell back asleep. I then awoke to a “thunk” at the bottom of my bedpost. I was wide awake by then, and turned on the lights. I heard a “scurrying sound” and rushed into the living room. I flipped on the lights and saw this thing hanging over my picture window. I couldn’t tell whether it was a bat, rat — but it looked at me and started to run across the top. I realized it was a squirrel. It stopped at the end of the window and turned to look at me, then jumped across the room at me and landed on the floor (about 10 feet). I screamed and ran into the bathroom. After regaining some courage, I came out of the bathroom with a broom and started to move tables, chairs, bookcases, rugs and even turned over the sofa. I couldn’t find the darn thing. I called my property manager at 5:30 a.m., but was told this isn’t an “emergency call” and would send someone out in the morning. I packed up my things and went to work. After four trips to my apartment with no sign of the squirrel, the management company just said to keep an eye out. I decided to sleep over at a friend’s that night. The next morning, I came back only to discover that pictures were off the wall and candlesticks knocked over. I spotted something furry in the corner of my bedroom. I turned on the lights, but it was still a bit dark. I grabbed a flashlight and saw a head — no body — just a head. I looked around to see if I could find the missing part of the corpse, but no blood, no fur, no nothing. I figured it may have been decapitated by the ceiling fan. I got a huge pile of paper towels and leaned underneath my vanity to pick it up. It was squishy as I tried to pick it up. It wouldn’t move. I then grabbed the flashlight and shone it on my prey. The squirrel’s head was stuck in a hole in the carpet. The rest of the body was underneath the carpet (which is wall-to-wall carpeting that is glued down to the floor). I decided to leave the removal of the body to the maintenance men. I left them a note with an arrow pointing to the head. When I got home, there was a note saying that the “head” had been removed. … They seem to think that my window air conditioning unit had a space that was big enough for the squirrel to climb into my room. The unit has now been secured tightly into my window. Hopefully nothing else will happen. The property manager said it was a flying squirrel. Nancy Teel
Look out! The squirrels have backupWe have bird feeders, so therefore we also feed squirrels. Over the years, the population has grown and we can usually count anywhere from 10 to 14 squirrels in our yard at any given time. Recently, I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of birdseed falling onto the ground. One night about 3:30 a.m. I was awakened by a crash on the deck, so I went to investigate. I found my plant stand knocked over and all three plants spilled out on the deck. On the deck railing were two large raccoons who were busy stuffing their faces with birdseed. I can’t seem to win for losing because now the squirrels have the raccoons on their side. Barb Stanley, Apple Valley
Minnesota squirrel for Mexican bride My encounter with squirrels happened on my first visit to Minneapolis in October. I had seen squirrels before in Mexico City, but never so up close. My husband, who was my boyfriend at that time, gave me a nice sweet furry stuffed squirrel to take back home with me, so I would not miss them so much. We got married and I came to live in Minneapolis in February and since then I’ve been having a nice and funny relationship with squirrels. Our apartment is on the lower level of the building and our bedroom window is only a couple of feet above the ground. Every morning, I put some peanuts on the edge of the window, and a squirrel that I named Tita comes for food and to play. She likes to sit on the edge of the open window and starts to make noises at 5:30 a.m., just to let me know that she is ready for breakfast. However, I don’t get up until 6 a.m., so she waits to hear my voice and searches for me, wanting me to bring her some peanuts. As she is very excited about the peanuts, the first one is very difficult to put it out, I have to open the screen just a little bit. She wants to take it from my hand, but I’m afraid she might bite or scratch me. When I finally make her jump down from the window, I give her just one peanut, then I put out a few more. These experiences have happened since I arrived, and now I can identify Tita from other squirrels that come every day for peanuts as well. It’s so wonderful to enjoy these moments each day. MariaElena Lopez-Shetler
Squirrel is poor builderFor more than a week, we’ve had a squirrel apparently setting up a condominium in our very large old oak tree. He isn’t satisfied to have one nest. At last count, he’d created seven. We think that he is either not a very good builder or perhaps he enjoys wrecking them. Freshly chewed branches rain from the tree each time he builds, and after any wind. We’ve been collecting one to two leaf bags full of branches each day. We’re concerned that he could harm the tree or that a branch could fall on someone’s head, not to mention the headache of constantly picking up after him. Why is this squirrel doing this? Is there a solution to prevent him from cutting down so many branches? Should we be concerned about the health of our tree? [Fixit says: Horticulturists say that, in most cases, the pruning probably will not kill the tree. As with many squirrel behaviors, there’s not much you can do about it.] Teresa and James Thomas-Carroll
Anger management for squirrelOne of my squirrel visitors needs anger management — he won’t let another squirrel on the deck, let alone near the feeder. He chases them off, stops to chatter in anger and then takes a bite out of the wood railing and spits it out. Nancy
Squirrel unscrews corn cobWe have many squirrels in our yard, so several years ago I bought a Twirly for feeding corn to the squirrels. The ears of corn are screwed onto the Twirly, and if the squirrels want to eat the corn, they usually have to “take a spin” on the Twirly. I usually try to buy older corn so that the core of the cob is thoroughly dried out. One year I bought the current crop, which worked well until I noticed that a squirrel had the ear of corn in his teeth and was walking counterclockwise around the Twirly, unscrewing the ear of corn. After a few minutes he had his ear of corn and was last seen scurrying up the tree. Duane Heitz, Miltona, Minn.
Squirrel vs. Yankee FlipperI have an unusually dumb squirrel. He keeps jumping from the ground to my Yankee Flipper bird feeder, a “state of the art” feeder guaranteed to use cordless power to spin the squirrel off the perch. Dumb because he kept jumping on and spinning. First, spinning for one or two rounds before jumping off. One day later, he held on about eight twirls. That dumb squirrel was purposely spinning birdseed on the ground because as soon as he let go, he immediately ate his ground supply. Then, up again to twirl for more goodies. Dumb squirrel? Eunice
Squirrel chews bathrobe, dressI like to hang clothes out on the clothesline in the back yard to take advantage of the sunshine and fresh air smell it gives the clothes and bedding. A little red squirrel decided to perch on the top of the line and eat holes in the shoulders of my bathrobe and my daughter’s favorite dress, and claw and rip several parts of both garments, ruining both. The squirrel was in a frenzy clawing and chewing the clothing! What’s up with this? Now I am afraid to hang anything out and sad to miss out on using my clothesline this summer. Debra Palmquist, Plymouth
Squirrels vs. walkie-talkie My mom actually came up with this idea. Take two walkie-talkies, and put one in a bird feeder. When a squirrel or chipmunk jumps on the feeder, you wait a little, then scream, shout, or make a loud noise into the walkie-talkie. (They both have to be turned on before you begin.) Anyways, say something like, “HEY! You get off that feeder, mister, or you’ll be sorry,” or “WHAT are you doing? GET OFF THAT FEEDER,” or anything else you want. Make loud noises into the walkie-talkie until the squirrel is off. It is a little short-term, so make sure to rotate it around to different problem feeders when the squirrels don’t seem to mind the noise. Amy
Squirrel vs. Shirl the Squirrel KillerI came in for a break from yard work and was headed to the bathroom when I heard an odd sound. I also noticed a wet spot on the floor near the toilet, and I was concerned that there was something wrong with the plumbing. Then I heard another noise, this time from behind the door of the bathroom. I moved the door aside and saw a wet squirrel that had been swimming in my toilet bowl. He looked at me as if he were asking for a towel. I looked at him as if he were asking for an acorn souffle. I later determined that he had entered the house through a pipe; like James Bond in “Dr. No,” he had swum into the lair of his natural enemy, me, Shirl the Squirrel Killer. A chase ensued worth of the opening credits of a Bond film. His four furry paws against my two work-boot clad feet. He was quicker and obviously wanted a tour of the house. We went through the kitchen and around the living room. Along the way, I grabbed things, a wastepaper basket and a broom, you know, in case one of us made a mess. He went into the den. I shut the door, sealing him inside, and considered what to do next. One thing I probably should have thought of was plugging the space beneath the door. It is barely an inch wide, but it proved to be enough for him to slither out and the chase is on again. I followed him down the hall through my bedroom and into the master bathroom. There, he slipped into the tub and I thought I had him trapped. The tub is deep, the sides are slick and the beast has no opposable thumbs. I thought about filling the tub and drowning him, but I knew he liked water. He’d be more likely to ask for a loofah and a bar of oak-scented soap than to drown. While I was deciding what to do next, he somehow managed to get out of the tub. I still had the trash basket and managed to clamp it down over him; well, over most of him. His head was sticking out one side of the basket. I stepped on the basket and figured he would soon breathe his last. Unfortunately, he seemed to be one of those squirrels with a titanium trachea and wasn’t even rasping. … I couldn’t reach anything helpful without getting off the pail and setting him loose once more. I thought about using the broom, but outside of brushing his coat, I couldn’t image why I had carried it around in the first place. Finally I realized that I had what I needed with me all along. So I stomped the living daylights out of him with my work boots. A little blood, a crushed skull and it was off to the big oak tree in the sky. “Shirl the Squirrel Killer,” aka Shirley Gazzola, North Mankato, Minn.
Squirrel finds bread in kitchen My squirrel encounter began three weeks ago on a Saturday morning. Our house was built in 1949 so no central air — just window units. I awoke to the sound of someone or something trying to fiddle with one of the window screens. I walked into the kitchen to find a very brave squirrel sitting on my window sill, helping himself to some bread that was on the counter and then furiously chewing a hole in the screen to escape back outside. After he was back outside, I watched him walk along the side of the house, clinging to the stucco and checking out another kitchen window. From there, he sat at the top of the fence gate and stared at me for a few minutes before leaving the yard. Needless to say, I was quite surprised with his boldness, amazed that he would even try to gain entry to the house. A house with a dog, no less! At any rate, the air conditioner units went in that morning and all the windows were closed so there were no issues with Mr. Squirrel popping back in for a bite to eat. After a few days, the air was turned off and the windows opened and my husband was awakened by the sound of his glasses hitting the floor. He walked into the kitchen to find another package of bread chewed open and the hole in the screen just a bit bigger. We both knew it had to be the same squirrel. The hole in the screen was then covered with duct tape and the windows barely cracked so nothing could gain entry. Fast forward to Monday, July 2. I was getting ready for work and as I walked into the kitchen for more coffee, I looked out the window and saw a squirrel sitting by the apple tree, casing the kitchen windows. My first thought was, “It’s him.” I knew this was the same criminal who had already entered my home on two occasions and this was war. The live trap was set with, of course, bread. Tuesday morning I watched the varmint try to pull bread through the sides of the live trap and he even entered it, reaching over the trigger spot, careful not the set the trap door off. I must admit, he was a smart and brave little dude, but his days were numbered. The bread paid off because when I got home from work that day, we had a squirrel in the live trap. I felt bad for him, he was young and scared and had spent most of the day with our chocolate Lab knocking the cage around and barking at the poor fellow. I have always been an animal lover and I just couldn’t follow through and sentence this poor creature to death. So, I named him Scooter Libby and we commuted him to a public golf course about two miles from our house with the dog giving chase. I still have the hole in my screen and I wonder if squirrels are smart enough to find their way back or if he is passing our address out to all his new friends, telling them of the bread on the counter. If he is so smart to come back for a third time … he is going down. Teri Seawell, Columbia Heights
Ever higher, squirrel finds feeder I have put a thin wire about 9 feet off the ground. I have had to remove my bird feeder because the squirrels will walk the tight rope wire. They even do this in the winter. This was supposed to be a fool-proof method to keep them away. It is also about 5 feet from the tree or deck. I also have a window feeder. They would jump from the deck to the window. I moved it. It was 5 feet off the ground and they were able to jump up to the feeder that is attached to the window by suction cups. OK, now I moved it to the top of the window and it is about 10 feet off the ground. One day we saw them climb up the middle of our crank-out windows, which are closed, and get into the feeder. I am now ready to go to the second story and see what they will do. They are very evil! Sue Berke
Squirrel vs. Penn State student Although I am no longer in the Twin Cities area, I’m in graduate school at Penn State, I’ve had an ongoing war with the squirrels on my back patio for over a year when I lived in the Twin Cities. My prior attempts were so many that I made a picture book about them. After numerous unsuccessful attempts, I finally managed to make significant headway with a new “squirrel-proof” bird feeder. Although this feeder has significantly cut down my squirrel problems, there was still one squirrel that managed to find a way to eat from the feeder. At first I figured that I’d just let the one squirrel eat and leave well enough alone. I just couldn’t do it! That darn squirrel kept eating and I got more and more frustrated. I toyed with ideas about how to stop it, but I finally figured it out! I made a plexiglass sandwich with a square dowel in the middle of the sandwich. This sandwich fit over the hanging part of my bird feeder and prevents the squirrel from getting hold enough to eat the seeds. A week into the project and it’s still working — the squirrel hasn’t managed to figure it out. I’m extremely excited! If you would like to see pictures of what I’m talking about, I’ve posted my entire squirrel saga at the following address: www.personal.psu.edu/users/m/a/mat294/the-war_online.htm Now I just need to figure out the chipmunk. Maggie
Entertaining but chews metal We have a maple tree that has housed countless families of squirrels over the years. It is actually kind of fun watching youngsters play and try to hide from us on the stucco of the house. They figure if they quietly lie flat enough, we won’t see them. … Unfortunately, they love sharpening their teeth as they grow up, and with each new brood, they have damaged the garage trim and siding and some of the stucco. But their latest tactic is driving us crazy. They are sharpening their teeth on the chain link fence ties, chewing them down until they are completely cut through. We now have to replace all the ties on our fence! Anyone know how to make the ties distasteful? Barbara Lutz [Fixit says: The best advice I’ve heard is to apply repellent (commercial varieties are available at garden and home stores). However, it has to be renewed regularly. Depending on the size of the fence, that could be an expensive and time-consuming task, unfortunately. ]
He was a 12-pounder I’ve had squirrel problems ever since I moved to a wooded area of Fridley last year. One of our first purchases was a wire mesh bird feeder to attract birds. In the winter months, my family and I would turn off the TV and simply watch the birds. We would pull out the binoculars and a field guide to get a better look to identify these birds. After spring 2007, and the arrival of the newborn squirrels, we would often hear the chaos and loud commotions from the wire-mesh feeder. There was a constant struggle with the squirrels in the feeder. We had one that weighed upwards of maybe 12 pounds, which would dominate the feeder. The birds would simply stand by to get their turn. The other, younger squirrels would squeal and hiss to distract the big “12 pounder” in hopes to get their turn. We counted eight squirrels at a time trying to get to the feeder. The cost to fill that feeder began reaching the $20 mark weekly. The noises were disturbing and scary when you’re not ready for it. To eliminate the problems at the feeder, we decided to have the “12 pounder” evicted. We attempted to use a pellet gun. He was way too fast and sneaky. I would take aim and he would roll around the trunk of the tree totally out of sight. After a couple of attempts the big gray squirrel caught on. By the time I opened the door he was already well out of range and in the neighbor’s trees. These attempts were not effective. I don’t recommend anyone to use a pellet gun. So the noises continued, the birds were going hungry and the cost of feed continued to escalate. While shopping at the local lumberyard, I went by the live traps. I decided to make that purchase of a live trap. How hard could it be to catch a squirrel? He was big, but the trap was bigger. I made that purchase. I placed the trap under the tree with some peanuts as bait, and within minutes after taking down the wire mesh feeder, I caught the “big 12 pounder.” One after another, I caught each and every one. Daily I was making my rounds to the park near our house to relocate the squirrels. No more harassment from the feeder. Just the cardinals, jays and chickadees. Tony Rossi
Bird house becomes squirrel house In spring 2004 , I put up a birdhouse in our back yard. It was made of old barn lumber so it had a great weathered look about it. I was hopeful of attracting some song birds to this new house. The next spring, I noticed that we did indeed have a tenant in the bird house, but it turned out to be a squirrel. It took possession for the entire summer making necessary modifications to the entrance to allow for his larger body. How did we solve the squirrel problem you ask? After the squirrel’s alterations to the entrance, we learned to accept the things we couldn’t change and renamed the bird house to a squirrel house. David C. Johnson, Minneapolis,
Mothballs!!! After many tries to move the squirrel who set up housekeeping in our front door porch roof and before I was going to fill the space with concrete, a friend suggested I put a handfull of mothballs in the space. The squirrel has move and stayed away! Anonymous
Thursday, July 26, 2007
• Prevent squirrel entry into buildings by sealing gaps and holes. Install a mesh cover on the chimney. If they get in, trapping will get them out. You can release them outdoors, but don't transport them to another area and release them. Consider employing a pest-control company. A trail of peanuts or almonds also works, readers said.
• Use fences and covers to keep them out of gardens, but you might need to be creative. Place metal mesh in the ground to keep them from digging up tulip bulbs.
• Use squirrel repellents, available at garden stores. Or sprinkle areas with cayenne pepper or hot sauce. Repellents need to be renewed regularly.
• Some suggest offering food, such as cobs of corn, so they'll eat that instead of your crops. Supplying a water source limits garden thievery, some say.
• Don't feed birds in summer. Add a squirrel guard or use a squirrel-resistant feeder at other times of the year.
• Short of tying a dog to the trunk or nailing a metal baffle on the tree, there's no way to protect fruit on trees. Some say mothballs in pantyhose hung in trees will keep squirrels away. (The neighbors, too, probably.)
By Karen Youso, Star Tribune
Are squirrels little creatures that make us chuckle, or are they destructive, thieving critters that drive us nuts? A little of both, it turns out.
Those large almond eyes and bushy tails are attached to determined, hard-core rodents. Squirrels -- sometimes called rats with cosmetic enhancements -- scamper about innocently enough, but also clean out bird feeders, run off with apples and break into homes.
When I asked readers to share their squirrel stories, I received lots of "love 'em" letters, but also tales of frustration with squirrels and squirrel lovers alike. As one reader put it:
"Many people think that squirrels are cute, almost pets and they provide food for them, enabling them to multiply, spread disease and damage property."
Squirrels have a long history. Aristotle dubbed them "skiourus," or "shade tail," which eventually became "squirrel." And in the original French fairy tale, Cinderella's slippers weren't glass, but squirrel fur. (The reason for the change is unclear, but many French nouns sound alike.)
Today, they thrive in near paradise -- the mature trees, vegetable gardens and back-yard bird feeders of city and suburban neighborhoods, where the duality of being cute and aggravating produces the obvious results.
Some people love squirrels. They feed them and laugh at their antics, give them names and shoot pictures of them. Others hate them for the destruction they can wreak on house and garden. They'd just like to shoot the varmints, period.
Few readers offered solutions to squirrel problems, probably because there aren't many. Squirrels are legally protected animals, and they are smart. The part of their brains responsible for remembering details regarding food is well developed, researchers say. They also have well-honed survival skills, including how they raise their young.
"The mother squirrel carried her babies across the street to bird feeders and showed them where the food was," wrote reader Beverly Carlson of Brooklyn Park. "She brought them over, one at a time, hanging from her mouth, like a cat."
Bird feeders beware
Indeed, most of the stories concerned bird feeders, especially how brainy squirrels bested even the most exotic "squirrel-proof feeder." But when the critters branch out to a bigger menu -- tulip bulbs, tomatoes and back-yard fruit -- they can really rile.
Every year, squirrels spend two or three days picking clean the fruit trees in Bill Ferrell's yard in Excelsior, and burying their booty in the woods across the road. He laments that about 200 pears and hundreds more apples will just rot in the ground this year.
More troubling is the incessant, destructive chewing. Squirrels gnaw on lawn furniture, clothes drying on the line, even chain-link fences. Like other rodents, squirrels' teeth grow continuously. If they don't chew, their teeth will get too long to eat. (Pregnant or stressed squirrels chew the most and favor metal, naturalists say.) They'll munch their way into homes, even cutting through window screens to break and enter.
After Leah Lawrence of Minneapolis shooed away a squirrel from a kitchen window one morning, her 17-year-old son called her at work, hysterical. "The squirrel had gotten into the house and had come into his room, climbed up on his bed, walked across his back (while he was sleeping) then onto his head, and then ran out of the room."
These are the behaviors that create a sputtering Donald Duck-like frenzy in people as they reach for their shotguns. But they should stop. They need a license ($20), they need to wait for the season opener (Sept. 15) and they need to remember that it's illegal in most cities to fire a gun. (Satisfy all the requirements, however, and Squirrels in Cream Sauce and other fine recipes are at www.startribune.com/lifestyle.)
Most people don't want to kill little creatures -- no matter how naughty. So they humanely trap problem squirrels and drive them 5 miles away to release them. Not a good idea, experts now say. The squirrels are taken from their nest and family and dropped into new, unfamiliar territory. Not only is their survival threatened, but they also put pressure on the new area's resident squirrels. It's just shipping the problem elsewhere.
"We took him to a park and just as we were letting him go, a woman came screaming at us from the house across the road, livid that we were one of several dozen people who seem to think we can move our squirrel problems into her neighborhood," wrote Michael Lewis Schrock of Minneapolis.
Victims of squirrel mischief shouldn't try for a squirrel-free life (only Hawaii and Australia fit that bill, I'm told). Even if every squirrel in the yard is trapped or killed, the offspring of neighboring squirrels will soon fill the void. So the advice of Marian Ziebell of Minneapolis is to forget trying to solve the problem and just watch them.
That may be best. If these cute, smart-aleck, determined little rodents ever get organized, it could be our worst nightmare. According to a 2005 BBC report, a stray dog in the Russian village of Lazo was barking at squirrels in a tree when a number of them suddenly descended and attacked, killing the dog. The squirrels ran off, some toting pieces of flesh, the report said. The reason the squirrels snapped was the dearth of pine cones that year. They were hungry.
Even after giving into peaceful coexistence, you can try to prevent or at least minimize squirrel damage by blocking their access to your home and garden goodies (see box on E1). But don't be surprised if you're not entirely successful.
Starting early last century, Bell Labs tested deterrents to prevent squirrels from chewing through telephone lines, which cost millions annually to repair. According to a news report, the company tried metal, paint, weasel scent, rabbit repellent and shock devices, everything nonlethal. After 50 years of trying, research stopped. The squirrel always won.
Monday, July 23, 2007
"A few weeks ago, 14 squirrels equipped with espionage systems of foreign intelligence services were captured by [Iranian] intelligence forces along the country's borders. These trained squirrels, each of which weighed just over 700 grams, were released on the borders of the country for intelligence and espionage purposes. According to the announcement made by Iranian intelligence officials, alert police officials caught these squirrels before they could carry out any task.
"Fixing GPS devices, bugging instruments and advanced cameras in the bodies of trained animals like squirrels, mice, hamsters, etc, are among modern methods of collecting intelligence. Given the fast speed and the special physical features of these animals, they provide special capabilities for spying operations. Once the animals return to their place of origin, the intelligence gathered by them is then offloaded. . . ."
Always thought there was something squirrelly about those folks.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Monday, July 9, 2007
Friday, June 15, 2007
Updated: 8:23 a.m. CT June 14, 2007
72-year-retiree dispatches rowdy rodent with a crutch
injured three people in a German town before a 72-year-old pensioner dispatched the rampaging animal with his crutch.
The squirrel first ran into a house in the southern town of Passau, leapt from behind on a 70-year-old woman, and sank its teeth into her hand, a local police spokesman said on Thursday.
With the squirrel still hanging from her hand, the woman ran onto the street in panic, where she managed to shake it off.
The animal then entered a building site and jumped on a construction worker, injuring him on the hand and arm, before he managed to fight it off with a measuring pole.
"After that, the squirrel went into the 72-year-old man's garden and massively attacked him on the arms, hand and thigh," the spokesman said. "Then he killed it with his crutch."
The spokesman said experts thought the attack may have been linked to the mating season or because the squirrel was ill.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Anton Surami, 25, of Ramat Gan was indicted in Tel Aviv District Court Sunday, Ynetnews reported.
The victim, whose name was not released, said he was carrying his pet squirrel in his fanny pack when Surami grabbed it and tried to take it with him. The man stopped Surami and took his pet back.
Later the same day, the victim allegedly received a phone call from Surami in which he threatened to burn down his house if he didn't turn over the squirrel.
Afraid of losing his home, the man complied and met Surami, who allegedly proceeded to shove and slap the complainant, as well as attempt to attack him with a kitchen knife.
The man managed to escape, but two hours later, Surami allegedly torched his bike.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Denver Zoo spokeswoman Ana Bowie said five squirrels and a rabbit found dead on zoo grounds tested positive for the flea-borne disease in recent weeks.
On May 15, zookeepers noticed the eight-year-old hooded capuchin monkey was lethargic, and the next day it was found dead in its enclosure.
Zoo veterinarians sent tissue samples to a state laboratory which determined that the animal died of the plague.
Zoo veterinarian Dave Kenny said the risk of plague spreading to humans was extremely low, but visitors were being urged to avoid squirrels and rabbits.
"There are species in the zoo collection, especially monkeys, that could be susceptible to the plague," said John Pape, an epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Ms Bowie says none of the 17 other capuchin monkeys in the exhibit - or any other animals at the zoo - have shown plague symptoms.
But she says, as a precaution, all the capuchin monkeys have been moved to an inside enclosure and are being treated with a regimen of antibiotics.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
By Leslie GriffyMercury News
Although an animal control official said it's unlikely the squirrel has rabies, the three bite victims may undergo anti-rabies shots as a precaution.
The unusual attack was over in seconds, with the animal - possibly a confused and frightened adolescent - quickly disappearing.
"I think any animal that is cornered is going to do that fight-and-flight thing," operations director of the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley Janet Alexander Thompson said. "He probably didn't mean to come into the classroom."
The door to a portable classroom at Evergreen Elementary School was open to warm weather as the school day started, Principal Kathy Shepard said. Inside the room, 20 first-graders excitedly awaited a field trip to see the musical mystery "Cam Jansen" at the Flint Center in Cupertino.
And then a squirrel came through the open door shortly after 8:30 a.m. Perhaps confused by the cacophony that is the start of the day in a first grade class, the critter ran up the nearest thing it could find, a parent-chaperon's leg.
The parent shook and shimmied to get the squirrel out of her pants. But it just sunk its claws into her leg, Evergreen Elementary School District spokesman Will Ector said. Another parent-chaperon jumped in to help the woman dislodge the squirrel.
The animal also bit the first woman on her leg. It bit the second mom on the finger and arm, Ector said. Then, it darted out of the classroom.
Unfortunately an 11-year-old girl just happened to be walking near the room at that moment.
"He jumped up on her," Ector said. "She had to fight him off. She was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time."
The girl suffered bite wounds on her arm and finger, Muyo said.
The three were taken to the nurse's office and later sent to the hospital. It is very unlikely that the squirrel that attacked them carries rabies, Santa Clara County Vector Control spokeswoman Kriss Costa said. But people bitten by squirrels often undergo a series of shots to ward off the disease.
By the time police, then animal control workers arrived at the school, the squirrel was gone, San Jose Animal Care Center spokeswoman Julie St. Gregory said.
"The whereabouts of the squirrel are unknown," Muyo said.
Ector said the district plans to begin trapping on campus immediately. The first-grade classroom where the initial attack occurred will also be moved away from the squirrel's likely home, the only clump of trees on campus.
And the school district planned to send home a letter with children explaining what happened.
The school, Shepard said, doesn't have a history of problem squirrels, unlike Cuesta Park in Mountain View where three people - including a 4-year-old boy - have been bitten by the furry creatures since last fall.
"For us," Shepard said, "it's so unusual."
Mountain View Community Services director David Muela said officials in that city have trapped and euthanized more than half a dozen so-called aggressive squirrels, spoiled on human food until they lost their natural fear of people.
Since Mountain View ended its trapping program in February, Muela said he's received no complaints of squirrel attacks, but signs discouraging feeding the animals remain at the park.
Ector said that students at Evergreen Elementary haven't been spied sharing treats with the very few squirrels on campus.
The wildlife center's Alexander Thompson suggested that the squirrel in the attack was likely young. It's the season for baby squirrels, she said. And, like human teenagers, adolescent squirrels who go exploring might not always understand the rules and sometimes run into trouble.
Not feeding the animals is one good way to prevent attacks, Alexander Thompson said. For the children, getting over the fear of animals could take time.
"You want to teach them that this is not normal behavior," she said. "That will hopefully start reducing their fear."
There was good news for the first-graders in the classroom where the attack occurred - their field trip scheduled for today went on as planned.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 03.19.2007
Some 13,000 households on Tucson's Northwest Side went without power for more than five hours Sunday after a squirrel damaged equipment at an electrical substation, an official said.
Electricity was restored by 5 p.m. for residents of the area affected by the blackout, which occurred at about 11:40 a.m., said Joe Salkow-ski, a Tucson Electric Power spokesman.
That area roughly is bounded by Tangerine Road to the north, Ina Road to the south, La Cañada Drive to the east and the Tucson Mountains to the west.
TEP crews set up a portable substation to temporarily replace the high-voltage transformer damaged when a squirrel "became entangled" while crawling around in the substation, Salkowski said.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Soldiers: If you find yourself stronger, faster, or tougher to kill than ever before, get down on your knees and thank a hibernating ground squirrel. Because those little critters are proving to be the furry, sleepy hidden thread that ties together many of Darpa's most intriguing performance-enhancement research projects.
The squirrels are amazing creatures. During the winter months, their 300 beat-per-minute heart rate slows to a mere two to ten beats; their oxygen consumption drops to one-fiftieth of normal; their body temperatures fall essentially to zero. Yet, the creatures are able to emerge from that hibernating state in a hurry -- and no worse for wear.
Stanford University's Craig Heller has been fascinated with the creatures, for decades. He used to spend months every year watching how the squirrels and chipmunks operating in their native Sierra mountains. Now in his 60s, the avuncular, bushy-eyebrowed physiologist still goes up to the mountains every year, to collect squirrels for his studies into hibernation.
One of the things that Heller has been trying to figure out for so long is how squirrels and other hibernators manage to regulate their core body temperatures, even as they konk out. Those trials lead to an examination of the human temperature-control system, which lead to a specialized glove-like device, built for the military, that... well, read the article to find out. Let's just say the San Francisco 49ers use the things for a reason. So do soldiers in Iraq.
Heller's partner, Dennis Grahn, leads me down into the basement of the biology center, to check the critters out for myself. He opens up the heavy, metallic doors with a clank. Inside, it's pitch-black. Massive air conditions roar, blowing cold air over the rows and rows of cages. Using a red-tinted flashlight, he opens one up, and pulls out a plastic drawer. Inside, curled in a ball, packed in cotton, is a squirrel. It's cold to the touch, as Grahn picks it up, and places it on my palm. It feels more dead than alive.
That condition interests the military, because if wounded soldiers could somehow be put in a squirrel-like state, their wounds would essentially stop bleeding; even seriously-injured patients could be kept alive for much, much longer.
In Darpa-funded tests at the University of Wisconsin, Madison hibernating squirrels are surviving for as long as ten hours, with 60% of their blood drained. Ordinarily, those wounds are enough to kill a rodent in 30 minutes or less.
Cool stuff. But the problem, explains Hannah Carey, a professor at Wisconsin's School of Veterinary Medicine, is that no one has quite figured out exactly how the critters are pulling it off. Glucose-munching mitochondria, used to operating at very low levels, get all discombobulated, when they get a full meal, again. When oxygen-deprived tissues start getting their 02 again, all kinds of nasty free radicals follow.
Matt Andrews, a Darpa-backed biochemist at the University of Minnesota, Duluth thinks he's found some enzymes in the pancreas -- ones that let the mitochondria feed off of fatty lipids, instead of sugars -- that might be responsible for the squirrels' smooth transition out of hibernation. And it turns out, non-hibernators like us have that enzyme, too. So there's hope for soldiers, yet.
When our tour of the squirrel-freezer is done, Grahn and I head back upstairs, to Heller's suite of labs. There's a small party going on, for a departing grad student. A tiny boom box plays -- what else? -- The Chipmunks, as we knock back beers and nibble on chips. Finally, the student presents Heller with a present: a set of squirrel-themed mugs.
I'm about to make a smart-ass remark about how lame and corny the things are. Then Heller turns to me and asks, grinning wide, "Don't you just love 'em?"
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Friday, March 2, 2007
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
A County Courthouse in Sevier County, Arkansas was the latest site to fall victim the the Squirrel Menace on Sunday, when its electrical power was disrupted by a suicide squirrel which took out the courthouse transformer.
County judge Dick Tallman described the squirrel as a 'kamikaze rodent', reports the Texarkana Gazette.
The squirrel caused a short circuit in the transformer after stepping on it, causing an explosion and a loud bang.
Fortunately, in this case, the squirrel's plot did not fully work, as the courthouse only suffered a slight loss of electricity. The squirrel was eventually removed from the transformer by workers from the local power company, according to Tallman.
'We haven't found any damage. The dispatcher said the computers have been acting funny with the monitors flickering. I don't think it's going to cause a problem unless the flickering makes the dispatcher dizzy and she has a seizure, falls out and hits her forehead on the desk,' he added.
Local people suggest hunger is driving squirrels to extremes
Passers-by were too late to stop the attack by the black squirrels in a village in the far east, which reportedly lasted about a minute.
They are said to have scampered off at the sight of humans, some carrying pieces of flesh.
A pine cone shortage may have led the squirrels to seek other food sources, although scientists are sceptical.
The attack was reported in parkland in the centre of Lazo, a village in the Maritime Territory, and was witnessed by three local people.
A "big" stray dog was nosing about the trees and barking at squirrels hiding in branches overhead when a number of them suddenly descended and attacked, reports say.
"They literally gutted the dog," local journalist Anastasia Trubitsina told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.
"When they saw the men, they scattered in different directions, taking pieces of their kill away with them."
Mikhail Tiyunov, a scientist in the region, said it was the first he had ever heard of such an attack.
While squirrels without sources of protein might attack birds' nests, he said, the idea of them chewing a dog to death was "absurd".
"If it really happened, things must be pretty bad in our forests," he added.
Komosmolskaya Pravda notes that in a previous incident this autumn chipmunks terrorised cats in a part of the territory.
A Lazo man who called himself only Mikhalich said there had been "no pine cones at all" in the local forests this year.
"The little beasts are agitated because they have nothing to eat," he added.
DALLAS -- Nuts can be fattening. But this little, or rather large, squirrel had to learn the hard way.
Most people who deal with wildlife know that animals usually have a good sense of what nooks and crannies they can fit through. So it seemed a bit odd when the caller to 911 Wildlife, a business that specializes in humane wildlife evictions, kept insisting that a squirrel was stuck in a tree on Sunday, said the company’s owner, Bonnie Bradshaw.
When Ms. Bradshaw dispatched senior wildlife technician Joe Warner to the scene in the 1700 block of East Elmore Avenue in East Oak Cliff, he expected to find a squirrel sitting in a hole with “its head poking out, watching the goofy people.”
Mr. Warner, who has been with the company for about a year, said he responds to squirrel calls on an almost daily basis. But no description had been this bizarre.
Sure enough, there was the squirrel, or half of a squirrel, with its bushy tail and hind legs poking from a hole about 8 feet off the ground.
Mr. Warner got a ladder and a handsaw and began to work. For the next 45 minutes, he carefully sawed around the squirrel, picking away at the tree to create enough room to ease out the critter.
Within seconds of gaining freedom, the squirrel quickly jumped back on the tree and scurried away.
So how did the squirrel get stuck? Too many nuts? Mr. Warner’s theory: the squirrel was pregnant. `
Whatever the cause, he now has a posterior shot for posterity.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
STOWAWAY SQUIRREL GROUNDS JET
HONOLULU, Hawaii (AP) -- An American Airlines flight made an unscheduled landing after pilots heard something skittering about in the wire-laden space over the cockpit.
The airline blamed the emergency landing of the Tokyo-Dallas flight with 202 passengers on a stowaway squirrel.
"You do not want a varmint up in the wiring areas and what-have-you on an airplane. You don't want anything up there," said John Hotard, spokesman for the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline.
He said pilots feared the animal would chew through wiring or cause other problems.
"So, as a precaution, we diverted," Hotard said.
Once on the ground late Friday, the Boeing 777's human passengers were put up in hotel rooms and later rebooked on other flights.
State and federal agriculture and wildlife officials boarded the plane, set traps and captured the eastern gray squirrel.
Hotard said the plane had flown to Tokyo from New York before the Dallas flight.
Honolulu, however, proved to be the squirrel's final destination. Fearing it might have been carrying rabies, authorities had the rodent killed.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
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Thursday, January 25, 2007
Many residents of Ringwood are members of an Indian tribe who hunt and fish in the area.
A squirrel contaminated with lead was found there two months ago.
State officials sent out letters advising that adults who eat squirrels should eat no more than two a week, children and pregnant women are told to eat even fewer.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Lansing State Journal
January 18, 2007
In the evolutionary arms race between squirrel and spruce tree, scientists once thought trees had the upper hand.
But it turns out that the squirrels are no chumps.
That's according to a new study by Michigan State University professor Andrew McAdam and a team of international scientists, published in the Dec. 22 edition of Science.AdvertisementSpruce trees have evolved a sophisticated strategy for protecting their seeds from fluffy-tailed predators.The phenomenon is called "masting." Most years, the trees will produce only a few cones, starving the squirrels and giving themselves an evolutionary leg up.Then, unpredictably (to human scientists, anyway), every spruce tree in a given area will produce a bumper crop, too many for the squirrel population to gobble up in a single season.But McAdam and the other researchers, who looked at nearly two decades' worth of data on American red squirrels in the Yukon, found the squirrels are not so easily outwitted.They have learned to predict these bumper crops and respond by having a second litter of pups in those years."What people used to think is that the squirrels and the other seed predators were just sort of following along and being taken advantage of by this clever strategy on the part of the trees," McAdam said."What we've documented here is evidence that the squirrels have evolved a counterstrategy."
McAdam, a professor in the departments of Zoology and Fisheries and Wildlife, is interested in how evolution happens in "real time," not over millennia, but over decades.And what he and his colleagues have found is that squirrels produce their extra litters not when they can, but when it makes good evolutionary sense.McAdam and his colleagues tried providing squirrels with extra food to see if they could induce them to produce second litters. They couldn't.That, he said, is because it's not a question of the mothers having enough food to produce more offspring, but a question of the young squirrels' chances of survival down the road."The short story is the offspring survive much, much better when they're produced in one of these bumper food years, and they survive very poorly in the years following the bumper food years," he said.Extra food in a year without a bumper crop of cones might allow a female squirrel to "produce lots and lots of pups," he said, "but they have nowhere to go."
John Koprowski is a professor of wildlife conservation and management at the University of Arizona and directs efforts to monitor and recover the federally endangered Mt. Graham red squirrel.He called McAdam's finding "extremely exciting.""The complex co-evolutionary relationship that the ... research team uncovers between squirrels and their major food source once again demonstrates the incredible amount of interaction and interdependence between component members of our forests," he said.He added that the study also "points towards our need to fully understand the complexities of the ecosystems that we endeavor to manage and conserve."
Not 'passive players'
McAdam and his colleagues still don't know how the squirrels know when the trees will produce extra cones.They could be getting hormonal cues by feeding on the trees' buds, he said.They could have learned to decode whatever the cue is that allows trees to synchronize their increased cone production.But the simple fact that they know is significant enough."The important message," McAdam said, "is that the squirrels and presumably other seed predators are not just passive players in this game."
Thursday, January 11, 2007
December 11, 2006
By DON BABWIN - Squirrels hit the genetic lottery with their chubby cheeks and bushy tails. It's hard to imagine picnickers tossing peanuts and cookies at the rodents if they looked like rats.
But good looks alone don't get you through Chicago winters. Nor do they help negotiate a treacherous landscape of hungry cats, cars and metal traps.
So how do they do it? And why do they search, huddle, dart, and sometimes forget where they hid their nuts?
Joel Brown aims to find out.
'We're trying to get a glimpse of what your life is like if you are a city squirrel,' said Brown, a biologist at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
He and a team of students will trap squirrels in Chicago and its suburbs this winter, taking skin samples for DNA analysis. They'll strap collars on them and watch what they do. And they'll attach threads to acorns and hazelnuts, then see where the squirrels take them and when they eat them.
While the methods aren't unlike those used to study animals in exotic lands, little attention has been paid to those in human neighborhoods. It is, after all, a lot sexier to track gorillas in Africa than a squirrel on Main Street.
'Our appreciation is least in our own backyard,' said Brown, who is part of a small brethren of scientists around the country who've made it their business to figure out how squirrels go about theirs.
What they've discovered is that the critters are downright crafty.
Start with their attitude toward other squirrels' food. They want it and won't hesitate to steal it.
To ward off thieves, squirrels engage in a shell game: They go through the motions of digging and pretending to jam acorns into the ground, even smoothing out the grass to make it appear as if they're covering their hiding spot, before running off with the acorns still in their mouths.
'What possible purpose could that be for other than fake out somebody watching them bury it?' said Peter Smallwood, a University of Richmond biologist.
Squirrels figure out how to outsmart devices designed to keep them away from food - something naturalist Howard Youth learned the hard way. Squirrels broke into four types of bird feeders in his Maryland yard before he found one that they couldn't penetrate. So far.
'They will try something new and eventually, if one gets it, the other ones will notice and they will figure out a way to thwart the bird feeder,' Youth said.
Brown hopes to get into his subjects' little heads. One way is by setting out hazelnuts that have been shelled alongside those that haven't.
'If they pick hazelnuts with shells it means they're looking more toward the future and not in need of food right now,' he said. If they pick shelled hazelnuts, 'it means they're living paycheck to paycheck.'
Squirrels know the difference between acorns that can be stored for a long period and those that can't. If they only have access to those that can't, 'they will scrape out the tiny embryo and that kills the seed (so) it stores well,' said Michael Steele, a wildlife biologist at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania.
But squirrels have their shortcomings.
Sometimes they forget where they buried their nuts, although Brown said their sensitive noses allow them to sniff out ones hidden by their neighbors.
And while someone once swore to Brown that squirrels look both ways before crossing the street, they're apparently looking for something other than cars.
Robert McCleery, who completed his dissertation at Texas A&M on urban and suburban squirrels, outfitted squirrels with radio transmitter collars and found that 80 percent of them died under the tires of a car or truck.
Still, who cares about squirrel habits besides a small band of scientists?
Lots of people.
Search for 'squirrels' on the Internet and Web sites like 'Squirrel Lover's Club' and 'Scary Squirrel World' pop up. There are sites that allow readers to comment on stories like the one from Russia about a 'pack of furious squirrels' that reportedly tore a dog to pieces.
Another site, 'The Campus Squirrel Listings,' judges colleges by their squirrel populations. The U.S. Naval Academy and the University of California, Berkeley, are among the top schools.
None of this squirrel fascination surprises Brown.
'They are the clowns in your backyard,' he said.
Note: The following link, mentioned in the preceding story, is the best site ever. Not just as a site about Squirrels, but as a site about anything--The Best Ever.
I sort of invited a real fat one over for Christmas dinner and dressed him in a little Santa outfit. My family lives in Sioux Falls, and they don't visit much for whatever reason, so I get a little lonely up here. So, we sat down for some Christmas dinner--this Santa Squirrel and I--and I had some turkey, fixed us a couple rum and ciders and I didn't really have any walnuts or anything, and Squirrels don't eat meat. So this fella didn't want any turkey, which was sort of rude. I don't know if the general population is aware of that, but Squirrels don't generally hunt anything--they forage. Which is something I'm working on with the NUTS (National Unification of Team Squirrel) foundation--our grassroots campaign headquartered here in Minneapolis...actually headquartered in my living room...and I've been having trouble with attendance. Squirrels aren't very reliable--I don't know if the general population knows that.
Anyway, so I fixed this Santa Squirrel a plate of Peanut Butter...and that didn't turn out so well...his beard got all gummed-up and he kept scratching at himself, you know how Squirrels do that, especially ones in Santa suits. But it was like he had OCD or something, like a hummingbird and this peanut butter was getting all over the suit and his fur...his table manners left a little to be desired to say the least...and this was before he got a good taste of the rum...things really went down hill from there and I sort of had to ask him to leave, because he was offending me.
Some years ago, I wrote a letter to the editor in South Dakota's Argus Leader. The letter regarded what I then perceived as an imminent threat to Sioux Falls' integrity as a city; namely, that a Squirrel had, through self-sacrifice, electrocuted himself by diving headlong into a substation or some such thing. The result was that power was lost in about 7000 homes. To my surprise, they printed the letter (in an abbreviated, less dire form). In it, I argued that treating Squirrels as people only encouraged them to act more and more like people, an extrapolation of the concept would naturally result in Squirrels attempting a coup of the city government, I argued. Few heeded my calls.
Several days ago, a squirrel in Roseville, MN did the same thing, though under slightly different circumstances. Therefore, I've revised said letter to issue the warning once again. However, in doing so I met with a few questions unique to our times. For starters, I characterized the Squirrel as a "suicide" squirrel testing our defenses for the good of the whole (worldwide squirrel organization).
Obviously, times have changed. I began to think "Maybe I shouldn't write this? People might read into it as some sort of commentary on the current terror campaign, or suicide bombers in Iraq. What about being sensitive to September 11?" It struck me that my own good humor was being thwarted in the name of some nebulous threat meant to ensnare an already fearful populace, becoming ever more fearful. With the realization, I pressed on, and sent the following to the Pioneer Press--it remains to be seen whether they'll print the shit.
The story in question appeared as thus:
Saint Paul Pioneer Press: A rather "industrious" squirrel rummaging around a Roseville substation caused an electricity outage Saturday afternoon that left 2,422 customers without juice for less than an hour, Xcel Energy said.
The 2:09 p.m. outage was centered in Rosedale Center mall, affecting some businesses, such as J.C. Penney and Don Pablo's restaurant, but not others, such as Macy's, according to officials with the utility, the mall and stores.
No serious incidents were reported, police said, and the mall stayed open. Power was restored 39 minutes later, said Xcel spokesman Paul Adelmann, who said squirrels often cause outages.
"This squirrel was probably doing what squirrels do this time of year: look for nuts," he said.
"We do our best to put in animal-proof equipment, but they always seem to get where they're not supposed to be. They can be industrious, and I suspect this one was."
The squirrel, which caused a short that tripped several circuit breakers, probably didn't survive the jolt, he said.
The Letter to the Editor, entitled: Nuts!
As quoted in the Pioneer Press on Monday, October 16: "A rather 'industrious' squirrel rummaging around a Roseville substation caused an electricity outage Saturday afternoon that left 2,422 customers without juice..."
This so called 'industrious' squirrel took power from Rosedale residents by "falling" into an Xcel Energy substation, causing a short. But to think of the incident as merely a rogue squirrel is fallacy at best, and a threat to national security and our very livelihoods as citizens at worst. There are thousands of squirrels in the Twin Cities area, and our dependence upon this precious electricity the scoundrel interrupted is never so clear as when we must live, even briefly, without. We straddle a thin line connecting us to the so called "grid"--a line more easily walked by the nimble squirrel, but just as simply severed by a purposeful misstep. Don't take the death of this squirrel as a mere metaphor of life...for it was no ordinary death, but a willful testing of our defenses before power is taken en masse, with implications beyond mere energy security.
An Xcel spokesman was quoted as saying "This squirrel was probably doing what squirrels do this time of year: look for nuts." I say, that line of thought is what is nuts, and it's a treacherous road to travel. Squirrels can get into anything, and disrupting our energy supply is a mere inkling of what is to come. The squirrels of this town are plotting against our very freedom as Americans! And so I issue a dire warning: Before the spring comes to pass, the squirrels will take power from the citizenry and our government. Never mind November 7, for all are lame ducks in the face of foul rodents.
I don't know why I issue this warning now. It is already too late. The squirrels have the trees and power lines secured; the higher ground is theirs. They've been watching us for years, and know our habits well. So you may heed my warning, and perhaps save yourself by expatriating to Canada, where the threat has not yet--not yet--sufficiently materialized, but know this: when the squirrels take power, let there be no doubt whose side I will take. All hail the new reign of terror, the squirrel people are upon us!
Note by author: A slightly abbreviated version actually appeared in the newspaper, which serves a region with millions of readers/residents. The masses have been warned.
Last update: November 02, 2006 – 10:32 AM
OIL CITY, Pa. — Barb Dougherty, a 30-year Postal Service employee, said she was attacked and bitten Monday by a squirrel while delivering mail in Oil City, about 75 miles north of Pittsburgh.
"It was a freak thing. It was traumatic,'' Dougherty told The Derrick newspaper. "I saw it there on the porch, put the mail in the box and turned to walk away and it jumped on me.''
She said the animal ran up her leg and onto her back.
"I eventually got a hold of the tail and pulled it off me,'' Dougherty said. "No one was home at the house where I was delivering the mail, but the neighbor lady heard me screaming and came over.''
An ambulance took Dougherty to a hospital, where she was treated for cuts and scratches. The squirrel was killed with a BB gun and sent to a lab to be tested for rabies. Dougherty was given the first series of rabies shots as a precaution.
Postal officials said the attack is extraordinary.
"In about 230 years of postal history, I bet it is not the first, but I've personally never heard of another squirrel biting,'' said Steve Kochersperger, spokesman for the Erie district.
TWO RIVERS, Wis. - One squirrel got a fiery surprise when it apparently got curious about a chimney. The squirrel fell down a chimney at a Two Rivers home and landed in a fire in a fireplace Monday night, said Two Rivers Assistant Fire Chief Gary Shavlik.
The squirrel escaped the fire and ran around the house, Shavlik said.
Firefighters later caught it and called Wildlife of Wisconsin, an agency that helps wild animals. The squirrel suffered from bloody paws.
There was no fire damage and the squirrel is alive, Shavlik said.