Anarchy in Squirrel Land

By , September 21, 2015

Last summer, a neighbor told me a bit about the cultural life of our local red squirrels. He said that among this tribe, single females hold territory. This information explained our recent experience; many bits of information clicked into place, making sense of what we’ve seen lately.

In the past, we and the local ravens purged our compound of red squirrels (see Blood Lust). We didn’t kill them all; one that we spared was a skinny little waif of a squirrel. She seemed to live somewhere beyond the Power Point, the rocky ledge that holds our wind generator and solar array. We often saw her furtive forays into our yard from our window.

Some years passed, and she grew into a beautiful adult. She also established our yards as her territory, apparently. Most of the time, while we often saw other squirrels on the periphary of our compound, this one seemed to be the only resident. Our neighbor’s explanation revealed why that seemed so.

That worked fine for us. She didn’t bother anything. She never raided our gardens (see Mess With Our Strawberries, and I’ll Go “Farmer McGregor” on Your Ass!). She didn’t make a whole lot of noise, compared to other squirrels. She didn’t bombard us with spruce cones (see The Squirrels are Going Nuts!). We rather enjoyed hosting her as mistress of our holdings in Squirrel Land.

That is, until she crossed a line.

Exhibit A for the Prosecution (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Exhibit A for the Prosecution (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Our squirrel loves mushrooms. She harvests them and sets them to dry in many places. This added an amusing element to her presence, as we tried to predict where we might find the next stashed fungi. Unfortunately, she hit upon a storage solution we could not tolerate.

Our shed developed a strange smell recently. At first, it smelled of new mown hay or other freshly cut forage. The smell morphed from pleasant and earthy to downright stinky! At that point, we began to fear that our squirrel might have made a nest somewhere inside the shed.

Michelle investigated. She discovered that our little squirrelfriend had gnawed holes in the shakes on the shed wall. She then deposited her mushrooms inside the holes, filling the spaces behind. Many of these mushrooms dried, so we didn’t notice them. Others molded, creating the smell that tipped us off.

We couldn’t allow her to damage our property. This, after all, set off the previous purge! We couldn’t teach her not to chew holes in the shakes. Our only reasonable recourse was to kill her.

I watched for her with my air rifle, and did what I felt I must. It saddened me; we liked our gentle neighbor, and but for this one trespass would gladly have allowed her to live out her years with us.

Ironically, as I laid her little body out for the ravens to find, I lamented a silent future, one in which we wouldn’t be surprised and gladdened by little encounters around the yard, meeting our small friend as we each went about our business.

I needn’t have worried.

This little kingdom, this Squirrel Land, sank quickly into squirrel anarchy. A pair or more of new squirrels moved in that same afternoon.

These newcomers, these usurpers lack the diplomatic skills of their predecessor. They’re loud, they’re rambunctious, they particularly love running round on the outside cabin walls! They even yell and scold late at night, which I never remember hearing before.

Perhaps all the racket helps establish one of them as the new holder of the territory. Maybe the anarchy will die out, and things will quiet down soon.

If not, the term “quick succession” may take on a particularly dark meaning in Squirrel Land.

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