Lately I have noticed an unusual number of squirrels scampering around my yard. A whole lot of them. Now I am not sure that the population density of squirrels in my yard is necessarily more significant than similarly situated yards in my neighborhood, but there just seems to be way too many squirrels around this year for my liking. And I don’t like it.
As everyone knows, squirrels eat acorns. But they also eat a variety of other types of nuts, seeds, insects, small amphibians and even birds. When their food supply is abundant the population of squirrels explodes, but this is usually followed by an inevitable crash. For example, in 1967 there was an abundant crop of acorns in the eastern United States that led to an explosion in the squirrel population. This led to what is known as “The Great Squirrel Migration of 1968”. I kid you not. There was also “The Great Squirrel Apocalypse of 2018” when millions of squirrels died in New England. And way back in 1933 there was an extensive migration of grey squirrels in Connecticut when 1,000 or more swam across the Connecticut River between Hartford and Essex. Why? To get to the other side.
What I also find unusual is the behavior of the squirrels in my yard. They constantly chase each other around, up and down trees and even across the top of a wooden privacy fence in my backyard. They also run back and forth through holes at the base of the fence where the wood has rotted. Why? I have no idea. I am not sure what they are trying to accomplish. I understand that squirrels bury their food in small caches and often forget where they buried some of it, but most of this squirrel activity doesn’t appear to be related to finding and hiding food.
Some of the squirrels also sit up straight on the lawn or on top of the woodpile and stare at my house. Sometimes I’ll be looking out the window and I’ll make eye contact with a squirrel staring at me…as if they are purposefully observing me. Why would they be stalking me? Are they planning a coordinated squirrel attack? OK, perhaps all of this squirrely behavior is making me paranoid. Either the squirrels are nuts or I am.
Squirrels actually have been known to attack humans on occasion. In July 2017 a squirrel bit five people near the entrance to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY, over 3 days. Six people were bitten by a squirrel in Santa Cruz, CA, in July 2019 and two people were bitten by a squirrel in Houston, TX, in January 2020. On the bright side, even though squirrels are capable of carrying rabies they are rarely found to be rabid. The other day I was walking in my neighborhood and I came across a dead squirrel at the base of a tree. This squirrel was laying on its side and its eyes were open. I almost felt sorry for the poor little bushy tailed rat but then I remembered that squirrels can have fleas with the plague bacteria. I ran away screaming.
Since squirrels are rodents their front teeth never stop growing. That would seem to be really annoying but not as annoying as a squirrel gnawing their way into your house or getting into your attic through an opening in the eve. In 1987, a squirrel gnawed on a power line at the NASDAQ computer center shutting down stock trading for over an hour. Apparently squirrels cause thousands of power outages each year. The American Public Power Association maintains a “Squirrel Tracker” that tracks power outages caused by squirrels.
Squirrels even have their own holiday. January 21 is officially “Squirrel Appreciation Day”. Christy Hargrove from Asheville, North Carolina started Squirrel Appreciation Day on January 21, 2001. Christy is a wildlife rehabilitator in North Carolina, and is affiliated with the Western North Carolina Nature Center. I once created a holiday called “Chreaster”. “Chreaster” combines Christmas and Easter into one day of celebration that takes place on February 29 so you only have to get together with your family once every four years for the holidays.
If there is anything interesting about squirrels it is probably their “ninja” acrobatics. They are nimble climbers and jumpers. So much so that they seem to have a knack for raiding bird feeders no matter how carefully they are placed to prevent squirrels from getting to them. Recently a former NASA and Apple engineer built an eight-part “American Ninja Warrior”-style obstacle course for squirrels to protect his bird feeder. Some people have way too much time and ingenuity on their hands. Unfortunately, I have too much time on my hands and no ingenuity. After all, I am writing about squirrels.
Copyright 2020 “The Welcome Matt”