Praised Today, Prey Tomorrow

By , May 27, 2017

“The squirrel—” Michelle’s outrage and alarm choked off her sentence, unfinished.

“What could it be doing now?” I thought.

It had to be something far worse than what it had just been doing: drinking out of the hummingbird feeder (see The Queen Must Die). After that, it scrambled around in the top of the cherry tree. At first, I thought it might be chasing the hummingbirds that gathered around another feeder there. Squirrels apparently raid bird nests to eat baby birds. As feisty as hummingbirds are, it wouldn’t surprise me much if squirrels hunted them.

Then Michelle gathered her composure and explained what she had just seen: the squirrel was eating the cherry blossom buds!

Things escalated quickly. Just a day or two before, Michelle complained about the squirrel’s activities (probably drinking from that feeder). I asked if it might be time to kill the current queen of our yard. She said “yes” first, then reconsidered, and decided she could live. Not if she’s eating cherry buds, though!

Since then, I hunted the squirrel with my pellet rifle, backed up by a pellet pistol for a quicker second shot. The squirrel kept an extremely low profile—she might have been nest building, or even nursing young—and escaped elimination for a couple of weeks. I had too many other projects underway to spend much time hunting her. Instead, I kept the guns loaded and took a circuit of the cabin exterior three or four times a day. Her habit of hanging out around full propane tanks also restricted my shooting opportunities.

The pellet guns failed me. After knocking the squirrel out of a tree three times without apparently even breaking her skin, I switched to one of my .22 rifles. I did so reluctantly; pellets tend to bounce off buildings and other backgrounds. A .22 will cause a bit more collateral damage if not used judiciously. She favors one perch when she eats, behind which there’s nothing of value, so that’s where I watched for her most.

On Thursday, I got her. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a clean shot. I certainly crippled her, but she escaped somewhere I couldn’t find her. I doubt she lived long. A scavenging mink or ermine will likely pick her up—nothing goes to waste here.

This represents the practical, unromantic side of homestead life. I’m fully aware of the irony here. Not many posts ago, I rhapsodized about sharing the space with this same squirrel (see A Squirrel’s Breath). Within days, she became prey, a pest to eliminate. Praised today, prey tomorrow. We cherish nature here, but we have to act when it interferes with our food or belongings (see Trap Napper). We constantly strive for balance in this regard (see Mess With Our Strawberries, and I’ll Go ”
Farmer McGregor” on Your Ass!
and Blood Lust).

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