Squirrel Dark Ages Descend

By , July 8, 2017

Evening begins to envelop a small farmstead when the princess—weary, sobbing quietly fearfull—stumbles into the protection of an outbuilding porch.

Unseen, nearby, cold and calculating eyes follow her furtive movements.

Overhead, a black form slips silently down from the sky, materializing in an inky figure that seems draped in funereal robes. It lands on a branch in a nearby tree, where it stares—totally focused and hungry—on the princess, oblivious of the other watcher. It stands in complete silence—a hunter, a warrior, wholly absorbed by the movements of its intended prey.

The princess cowers against the covered machinery in the porch, waiting. The watcher on the ground grunts, or moves, or betrays his presence in some other way, sending the hunter winging away into the gloom.

Had she just been rescued? Hardly. The watcher turns and walks away to fetch his weapon. He, too, wants the princess dead, only slightly less than the hungry black hunter.

Things sure got out of hand quickly, friends!

Since our last post on squirrels (see Praised Today, Prey Tomorrow) our dooryard has become as overwrought as the prose above. On many mornings since that day, a squirrel has greeted the dawn with a loud, shrieking trill outside our bedroom window, asserting her claim to the newly queenless territory. Shortly after that, she dies suddenly, and another comes down from the forest to take her place.

I worried this might happen. The first squirrel to die this season did so because of her fondness for our cherry blossoms. I warned the family and myself against falling into the habit of eliminating all comers as they moved in to claim the vacated realm, but it appears I am just as caught up in the hunt as anyone else. More so, perhaps.

While I went to Juneau to help friends move, Michelle and Aly set rat traps in the tunneled roots of the big tree between our bedroom and the shed. Past squirrel queens excavated these warrens and filled them with spruce cones for food each winter. It reached the point where Michelle worries one of us will slip on the piles of cones and petals, and injure ourselves. She baited the traps with peanut butter, an irresistible treat that soon had squirrels caught in the trap jaws.

These traps are excellent, designed to kill an almost unkillable rodent with one quick snap of its ratty neck. Most of the squirrels sampled the peanut butter and died happy, barely registering that anything might be amiss. A few got their legs caught, which required Michelle to pump, load, and fire my air pistol to dispatch them. She didn’t like that much.

For my part, I cleaned my .22 rifle and put it away. I’m not so worried about squirrels that I feel it necessary to shoot the newcomers. I do watch the traps, though, and keep my pellet rifle and a slingshot handy, just because.

One day, Aly and I went to the shed for something, and spooked a big raven that had been on the ground near the cabin. It had found a dead squirrel in one of the traps, and had tried to pull it out. I removed the carcass and laid it out among the roots.

But it’s not just ravens, as I found out in grisly fashion.

I heard the latest squirrel early one morning, the fifth in succession by my count, then heard nothing from it the rest of the day. By the next silent morning, I figured something had gotten it.

That afternoon, when I checked the traps, I found one of them jammed mouth-first into a warren tunnel. I pulled it out, and found a squirrel’s head inside the trap. Something had pulled it into the tunnel, and ate what it could reach.

That evening, as I told the tale to Michelle, a mink appeared on the beach beside the veranda. It made its leisurely way up to the cabin and around the bedroom side. Looking for something particular, I assume.

Since then, Aly found another aspiring ruler decapitated in a similar way. “Off with her head!” as one might say in these and similar instances . . . .

Since then, the progression proceeds at a slower pace. We go whole days without the trill of territorial claim. I still take potshots at the newcomers when convenient. Perhaps the minks and ravens are feasting well on intervening days.

This rapid advance and dispatch of royalty, with its lurid details, smacks of medieval Europe to me; a Dark Ages drama that has yet to play out completely before we settle on the inevitable newcomer who will make our land her home and kingdom for a while, until fate intervenes once again.

2 Responses to “Squirrel Dark Ages Descend”

  1. Angela says:

    My husband has been on an endless “squirrel patrol” these past few weeks. You get rid of one and three take its place. Why they don’t stay in the woods surrounding our house is beyond me. The last straw was when I went outside to find my potted herbs and peppers with most of the soil dug out. The rat trap with peanut butter is a new idea to us and one we will definitely be trying! 🙂

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Angela, that’s bad news that they’re digging up your plants! Our big concern at the moment is that our strawberries are ripening. I didn’t know it when I wrote the post, but Michelle has been resetting the traps.

    She also says that she’s caught a few in unbaited traps set across the openings of the root warren where they’re stashing cones.

    Good luck!

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