Thursday, September 04, 2008

Squirbels

Long ago, when my daughter was a toddler, she developed a fear of Squirbels. For the longest time, I did not understand what animal this was...she was far too young to describe what it was that frightened her so.  But the vision of this fearful creature would keep her awake, teetering on the brink of hysteria.

A few nights passed, with Heidi waking in fear...and as a mother who wanted to help, I became quite agitated myself.  We were all kept awake by an animal I could not identify.


But we finally did.  A Squirbel is a Squirrel.  Relieved, I assured her these small creatures were not to be feared; they were only small animals who made a lot of noise in the Trees. When I was able to point out a Squirrel to her, showing her how small it was, the crisis was over.


Previously, she had only heard the commotion Squirrel makes...and had heard someone tell her, jokingly, to watch out for Squirrels. For a few nights, she took the joke seriously!


Fast forward a few decades...and I am beginning to wonder if my daughter had the right idea about these little rodents.

Squirrels are carnivorous. And they will and have attacked humans, dogs and any other being.


This might be a long post.  I warn you now, should you care to abort.

A friend tells Graham and I...Bambi wasn't a documentary. I understand; yet even so...Squirrels are exempt, aren't they?

All the stories I read to my daughter when she was frightened portrayed Squirrel as a friendly, furry little creature...one who was helpful and industrious, although all seemed to suffer from a slight case of OCD.

This saga begins with the bird feeder.  I understood the repercussions there might be, regarding the animal population, in having one...yet I wanted to understand the bird population in the area.  There are so many Birds here I have not known before.

Along with the many Birds came the predators. But I did not recognize Squirrel as one of them.

To me, Squirrel gave the Dogs a job...that of guarding the Bird Feeder.  It gave them a purpose; therefore, they were happy, even if a little stressed.  Squirrels are cunning...they treated our dogs as fools.  But it kept the two of them busy.


I began to notice, however, some of these Squirrels were a little different from the ones I've known before, on the Island. These seemed...wilder. Bigger. They didn't back down very easily.

I don't know why I'm surprised...everything seems so much bigger in the Cariboo. 


Still, Squirrels are Squirrels.  They eat seeds and berries and nuts...don't they?


My first altercation occurred with one of the biggest of their number.  A grey Squirrel, he didn't take just a few seeds to his hiding place. Every time he visited, he scratched all seeds out of his way, in order to find a nut...he created seed showers.


Greed bothers me.

But when I confronted him, the dogs elsewhere, I was at a distinct disadvantage.  I was ready for a shower and therefore undressed. 

He did not back away.  He stood his ground and shouted, jabbered and shrieked at me, every hair on his body on end. I had a quick vision of this psychotic, true Squirbel jumping on to my unclothed body, and quickly slammed the door.

I felt silly at the time, allowing this Squirrel to intimidate me. But now, I'm glad I heeded the message.

Squirrels were suddenly everywhere.  It was as if Squirbel passed the message...Don't worry about her, she's a pushover.

There was the time Squirbel decided to investigate the house, with the dogs in hot pursuit.  He hid in a heating duct, which had not been covered at the time.  

I placed the dogs in another room, hoping the little intruder would come out. He did eventually, chittering loudly...sending the dogs into an absolute frenzy...going back the way he came. I was very thankful, that day, that Squirbel didn't decide to set up housekeeping in the bowels of the House.

Still ignorant of Squirrel's wild behaviour, still believing their antics, mostly, were amusing and cute, I overcame the aberrant  Squirbel's verbal attack, staying out of his way. I'd decided to live with him and his greed.


After spending a morning shifting Boulders and shovelling garden Soil, which had been delivered that morning, I sat with a cup of Tea, in my usual seat in front of the Bird Feeder.


It was sunny, with a breeze...a great day for working. And for settling down in a shady spot, watching the World drift by.  Twitterings and chirpings from the Birds in the Feeder became background music to the soughing of Wind in the Firs. Life felt benign; peaceful drowsiness reigned.


Squirbel appeared, running along the railing of the deck. The dogs had been on duty all morning; they were taking a well-deserved nap.  I felt bygones should be bygones and watched him, instead of chasing him off.


He was watching his manners this time.  He would take a nut and then run off, depositing it in his hiding place. He did this many times, until I became lulled to his presence.


Drifting off, I watched him run to the Feeder.  I watched him leap gracefully to the edge. And then, I watched him grasp and then bite a small Bird who had been a little asleep himself, in the bottom of the Feeder.

Squeaking vociferously, the Bird struggled in Squirbel's grip.


Shock kept me silent for a second; then my shouting and stamping of feet brought the dogs at a run. Squirbel looked at me, with Bird in his mouth.  I thought for a moment he would not let go, but the dogs changed his mind...and the small morsel flew off...


Squirbel now faced a rare problem; he was caught without easy egress. In full fury, I stood on one side and the dogs had the other areas of flight covered. After much dashing about ensued, Squirbel, chittering madly, got away, but only just.


I did research on Squirrels after this episode.  I could not believe my eyes when it happened. But it appears this kind of behaviour is not that rare...I had only fallen into the trap of believing the happy little books I had read to Heidi.


There are many varieties of Squirrel here, the Red Squirrel being the most common.  Squirbel is not a Red Squirrel.  He is about twice the size and grey. No matter his parentage, he is a Squirrel to be reckoned with.


This was another reminder to me that where I live is wild country.  The animals here are not necessarily afraid of humans. And they certainly don't take my feelings into account as they go about the serious business of survival.


I fell for the outer persona of the Squirrel; I don't believe I'm the only one who thought he was a herbivore. I found quite a number of sites who stated just that...no mention of eating any meat of any kind.


But it looks as if Heidi had an inkling of the dark side of Squirrel...way back when!


Squirbel is a monstrous, ferocious creature, indeed!

9 comments:

  1. My dad swore that he saw a black squirrel in Minnesota, where we used to vacation???
    Do you have chipmunks as well? They are a smaller, cartoon version of a squirrel; much friendlier and they chirp to warn of danger rather than the clicking call of squirrel.

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  2. I generally like squirrels...but by the end of your story I had goosebumps! What a terrifying wee beastie!

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  3. The grey squirrels are dominant over here as they have ousted our native red squirrel, which now only breeds in a few places in the UK. But the big threat to both species is the black squirrel, its even more aggressive than the grey. So far I have not seen one, only read about them

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  4. I had a friend whose home was vandalized while they were on vacation. It looked like a crew of many large men who had done the damage, but an investigation showed that it was one bushy tailed rodent who was still there and had to be removed by animal control.

    I still feed them though.

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  5. Goatman,

    There are black squirrels; they are prolific on the Coast. I have only seen one Chipmunk here, on our property. They would prefer the bushier areas in the back forty, lol!

    After Squirbel, I wouldn't be too sure of the friendliness of any wild creature!

    Susanne,

    I still enjoy Squirrels and their antics. I have noticed, however, that they sometimes hide in the Tree's branches. Just yesterday one of the Squirrels leaped towards a Bird. Didn't get it, however.

    They're wild. And I have to remember that. Survival is uppermost, in their minds.

    Dave,

    I've read about the black Russian squirrels, as well. Apparently, in Russia, pine cones were scarce. As a result, Black Squirrels were starving and would attack for food.

    There are mostly small red Squirrels on our property. But every once in awhile, the grey Squirrel pops up...and he's quite a different kettle of fish!

    Jan,

    I think it might have been Delaware...I'm not sure...but one Squirrel put the whole city in darkness by chewing on electrical wires. I've always known having them nest in the home is not a good thing, just because they make such a mess, and can chew through wires, etc.

    I'm with you, however. I still feed the little critters...I just keep in mind that they are predators.

    Cute predators!

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  6. I have a friend who calls them tree rats. I think that is a good moniker for them.

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  7. Wow, I had no idea squirrels could be so nasty.

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  8. I knew squirrels ate pretty much anything they could get their mouths around but I still think they're cute. I think we tend to edit the less pleasant aspects of the natural world out of our heads - and fortunately the birds are usually alert enough to get out of their way.

    The squirrels have their predators too though. We found one of the local ones (all of them grey) lying dead in the garden the other week. I was too squeamish to look too closely so I don't know what finished it off. I suppose it could have been natural causes, but I suspect a cat. The squirrel must have been feeling sleepy that day.

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  9. My earliest memory is of feeding grey squirrels in a park in Cape Town at three years old. None where I live nowadays.

    Will be wary if I ever come across them again they might be teenage mutant ninja squirbels LOL

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