“I just need green. I need to wake up and see grass and squirrels. I don’t want to see skyscrapers.”
— Andre Leon Talley, American Fashion Journalist
Every day near the curve in the driveway the fox squirrel sits on his haunches. If I stop, he sits there staring as I stare back at him. I wonder if he has an acorn in his mouth but I can’t quite tell. I wonder if he wonders if that’s a coffee cup in my hand. As long as I’m still, he is still. If I move, he scampers across the mowed grass to the woods. His favorite haunts seem to be the singular pine and the old oak tree. This is his season to prepare for winter, gathering acorns, pecans, and pine seeds. He will eat some of his foraged goodies and he will bury others. It is said the squirrel will remember every acorn he has buried and where it’s buried. Some say that is simply not true. Fox squirrels are mostly solitary except during breeding season. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen two together unlike gray squirrels.
Gray squirrels are half the size of a fox squirrel. The gray squirrels enjoy being social. Outside the second-floor bedroom window we watch what I call the “squirrel highway.” It could be a highway or it could be a circus. The gray squirrels run from treetop to treetop across the canopy. Then there’s a bit of a leap from one tree to another. We watch as the gray squirrels chase one another then leap to the next tree hopefully grabbing hold to the distant limb. The squirrel will bounce a bit then scramble on his way to the next tree top. We have yet to see a gray squirrel fall. We have never seen fox squirrels travel or play in this fashion.
Some folks do not appreciate squirrels and refer to them as “rodents.” Rodent is such an unattractive word for the little furry fellows. The official definition of a rodent: a gnawing mammal of an order that includes rats, mice, hamsters, porcupines, and squirrels and their relatives, distinguished by strong constantly growing incisors and no canine teeth. They constitute the largest order of mammals-from the Oxford Languages Dictionary
Our squirrels mostly keep to themselves. They are daylight creatures and spend their time foraging food. They also eat insects, roots, flower buds, fungi, sometimes bird eggs and certainly dine at birdfeeders. During the night they rest in tree homes made of leaves, especially in warm temperatures. In the colder seasons they often move to a hollow in a tree. They can also be quite loud at times barking, quacking, whistling and chattering.
The squirrels’ teeth continue to grow for their lifetime and need to be kept at a proper length by chewing. Squirrels have been known to chew on such things as porch furniture, cables, and wiring. Last week there was a news report of a squirrel that hid 175 pounds of black hickory nuts in a Chevy Avalanche pickup in North Dakota. Apparently not for the first time. Okay, so this could be a downside.
Shannon Bardwell is a writer living quietly in the Prairie. Email reaches her at [email protected]