Turning Point: Going Squirrelly

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Squirrel #5, captured from columnist Beth Irvine's home.

You know my feelings about squirrels? Well, wasn’t it you who sent me that delightful birthday card with the photo of a little red squirrel playing peek-a-boo, with “Enjoy little surprises every day” written inside?  I chuckled.  You had read my column in the winter, when I worried that the neighbourhood cats might put an early end to the critter that was slipping around the yard on the ice.  And thought, as I recall, that my affection for the creatures was weird.


I had another misconception about squirrels at the time: I thought they hibernated in the winter. So I’ve known for a long time now that they don’t just sleep off the cold months. No, they find a cozy nook to nestle into and raid the nearby bird feeders. Don’t they cheer up the yard? Like winter robins, pert and vivacious!


Another thing I didn’t know: since you see squirrels from a distance, they all look the same, and it’s easy to lull yourself into believing there are only one or two living in the big maple. When they are tame enough that you can inspect them at closer quarters, squirrels have significant differences in colour of coat, size and voice.  Because they tend to socialize in groups of two, though, it’s rare to see them side by each and they scurry so, that making comparisons is tricky. They are about the size of a Barbie doll, with an airy plume of tail instead of a big-hair-do and a manicure so dainty you would have to use a magnifying glass to admire. Even without the props that Nancy Rose* uses in her photographs, they are adorable, and saucy!


When I saw them using the slender branches that arch over the brook like a bridge, an alarm should have sounded in my head. It wasn’t until I heard footsteps overhead and opened the attic door to see Mr. Squirrel peering down at me . . .  It would have been better if the footsteps had frightened me into thinking of ghosts—you can learn to live with ghosts.


I found out that squirrels can be “taken at any time”* if they are causing damage to our home. A hole chewed through the roof would answer that qualification nicely, wouldn’t you agree? Seems the big black eyes and delicate little paws belie a rodent’s gnawing dentition.


The live trap is a spacious compartment with a hair trigger and, so far, there have been six of the saucy things.  Squirrel #6 looks a lot like Squirrel #5, so we made an attempt to daub some tole paint on its head. I managed to swipe its ear and there is a broad yellow streak on the left flank. Squirrel #6 was released much further afield than the others, but we will know it if it returns. We would be glad of a report of a sighting and if you hear rumour of a giant chipmunk, don’t dismiss it utterly. Keep an eye out, won’t you?


 WEBLINKS:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/nancyandwayne/sets/72157633065941974/show




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