My daughter got me a “squirrel-feeder” for my birthday last spring.
“Squirrel-feeder” makes it sound fancier than it really is.
It’s a piece of wood with a 4 inch square shelf on it with a wood screw drilled into it to anchor an ear of field corn.
My gift also came with a big bag of field corn.
We saw little action from the bushy-tailed rodents but discovered that Blue Jays like field corn.
So, when the cobs get “de-kerneled”, I attached another.
Finally, In February, we noticed a squirrel dashing up and down the fence that the “squirrel-feeder” is attached to.
Then we saw a second squirrel on occasion.
That would mean since we have more than one critter, it would qualify as a “scurry” or “dray”.
But they seemed oblivious to the corn.
They would rather pick up what the birds scratched out of the feeders.
Judged by what’s left on the ground, the rodents didn’t want black sunflower seeds.
But, it’s impossible to find any cracked corn or peanuts.
Now even the Blue Jays seem to be ignoring the field corn.
One of our squirrels has a really long and bushy tail; the other, not so much.
But squirrel tail length or “bushiness” apparently has nothing to do with their gender.
I’ve yet to see which restroom they use but that might not be a true indicator anymore either.
Since moving to Indiana from Ohio more than 25 years ago, it seems these Hoosier-types are slower that the Buckeye brand.
I base that on the number of road kills I’ve noticed on my 7 minute drive to work.
Then again, maybe Hoosier drivers are faster.
Did you know in Olney, Illinois, albino squirrels actually have the right-of-way?
In 2002, they held a “100 Year White Squirrel Celebration”, erected a monument to albino squirrels and even had a priest conduct a “squirrel blessing”.
Brevard, North Carolina has a yearly “White Squirrel Festival”.
That’s nuts, you say?
Did you know President Warren G. Harding had a pet squirrel named “Pete”?
In the 1700’s and 1800’s, squirrels were one of the most popular pets in our nation.
But squirrels evidently took a liking to parts of the country to the point that they caused widespread destruction of farm crops.
It was so bad that in 1807, the Ohio General Assembly demanded Ohioans not only pay their taxes but also submit a MINIMUM of 10 squirrel pelts to their town clerks when they filed.
Today, squirrels seem to be fixtures in the parks of our cities but it wasn’t always that way.
In the late 19th century, “urban reformers” introduced Eastern gray squirrels, starlings and sparrows to city parks.
Etienne Benson said squirrels were a “novel and much-commented-upon feature of the American urban scene”.
The squirrels have stayed in the parks.
The sparrows now hang out near fast-food places where they can find dropped French fries and the starlings…well, they seem to have found my winter bird feeders.
Squirrels are acrobatic, intelligent and adaptable critters.
They are one of the few wild animals that will actually take food from the hand of a human.
I often use the word “darting” to describe the actions of a squirrel.
That zig-zag pattern they follow while running helps them to avoid predators such as hawks, owls, foxes, coyotes and others.
Not so much trucks and cars, though.
Their front teeth never stop growing since they’re constantly gnawing.
(Did you ever try to open a hickory nut?)
As a matter of fact, the L:atin word for “rodent” comes from “rodere” which means “to gnaw”.
We can thank forgetful squirrels for many of our forests since they may “lose” up to 25% of their buried foods.
Remember I said they’re intelligent?
They “squirrel away” nuts according to type.
They will sometimes pretend to bury nuts and other goodies to throw off food thieves like birds or lazier squirrels.
It’s called “deceptive caching”.
If it was hockey, that would be a “deke”.
But, squirrels can find their buried treasures, even in a food of snow.
In Greek, “squirrel” means “shadow tail” (“skia” and “oura”).
They live everywhere except Antarctica.
I told you they were intelligent!
With 4 toes on their front feet and 5 toes on their back feet, they are one of the few mammals than can run down a tree.
Double-jointed hind legs help make that happen.
They communicate with high-frequency “chirps” and tail-twitches.
Might be why some Iranians claimed 14 squirrels they were watching near their borders in 2007 were spies.
Maybe that’s because squirrel eyes are positioned in a way that they can see behind themselves.
Pretty suspicious with all that chirping, twitching and looking at Iranians behind them.
In the 2005 remake of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, real squirrels were used but it took trainers 19 weeks to train them for a single scene.
So they’re not into espionage or acting.
Pretty durable, though.
They can jump 20 feet and survive falls of nearly 100 feet.
They also have to eat a lot of “stuff” because, while they weigh only about a pound and a half, every week they need to eat their weight to keep warm in the winter.
If all this has left you in the dark, consider this.
The Brookings Institute says squirrels have taken down the power grid many more times than hackers have. They’re the most common cause of of power outages.
So, I’ll keep field corn on the feeder in case my squirrels develop a taste for it.
Otherwise, I’ll just watch them, scurrying and twitching, trying to figure out what they’re spying on.