Monday, November 14, 2005

phoebe vs the squirrels

I helped Phoebe spy on the squirrels on Saturday and now she thinks I should be out there all the time….. We have red squirrels which seem to me to be more rodent-like than the grey squirrels I’ve seen in more northerly regions. I don’t know how smart they are, but they seem to love teasing my dog, perching on the birdbath or in the leaves, just out of reach and leaping to safety at the last moment. It drives her crazy. She’s almost cat-like in her patience but has only killed one that we know of. She spends most of her waking hours watching and waiting for them.

It’s a poor year for pecans; hardly any on the tree in our front yard (or the rest of the neighborhood) so the squirrels are extra-active in the oak trees. It’s not the bumper crop of acorns that we saw last year but there’s a good supply. We have a single oak tree in the back yard so it’s easy to watch the squirrels doing their balancing acts while they select the tastiest acorns. Often there are 3 or 4 at a single time, pillaging in all corners of the tree. They have defined trails – they’ll run along the low skinny branch over to the wood telephone pole, then up and over the electrical transformer where they scurry along the wires to the next house. Or they’ll take the higher branch which has so much sway that it gives the air of a trapeze artist in motion as the squirrel swings down several feet and leaps over to a branch extending from the neighbor’s tree.

There are a lot of dead squirrels in the streets. Some of them may have fallen from their wires or branches but the majority have probably been hit by cars. During their seasons of high activity you can see squirrels darting back and forth across streets, playing “tag” with other squirrels, chasing off intruders, pursuing the opposite sex. They have a peculiar habit of running into the street and if a car is coming they freeze for a moment, act as if they will keep running, and then pivot and run back the way they came. As someone who’s nearly killed several squirrels, I can tell you this is a driving challenge. There’s hardly any way to avoid hitting the squirrel unless you can stop immediately. Hard to do that unless you’re on a residential street with no traffic.

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