The Case of the Curious Sciurus

"Squirrels are amazing climbers." I know this statement is true, because I saw it on a poster in my granddaughter's room.

She had done a fourth-grade research project on squirrels, which according to the poster are among her favorite animals. She has plenty of opportunity to study them first-hand, living as she does in a neighborhood where oak trees spread a lavish squirrel-friendly buffet of acorns on every street corner.

I also know the statement is true because I have seen it myself. A squirrel can scamper up the post to our second-floor deck and dash across the railing to the bird feeder faster than you can say, "That bushy-tailed little varmint is out there again!"

Squirrels are amazing eaters, too. In only a few minutes, the one that raids our bird feeder can stuff its furry little face with enough sunflower seeds to have fed the chickadees and finches for a week. For a critter without opposable thumbs, it is certainly efficient at shoveling in the calories.

The family name for squirrels, sciurus, comes from the Greek words skia, or shadow, and oura, or tail. A squirrel, then, is a creature who sits in the shadow of its own tail.

Our bird-seed pillager, however, would need a little hair-weaving or at least some serious backcombing before its tail could cast a broad enough shadow to cover it. We have a photo of the squirrel, taken from behind as it crouches at the feeder. The only possible caption for the picture is, "Does this winter coat make my backside look big?"

An honest answer would be, "Yes, it certainly does. You're well-fed, squirrel. Face it, you're fat. Why don't you put yourself on a low-carb diet? I'm sure the Atkins plan for arboreal overeaters would work well for you. By the way, it doesn't allow any stolen sunflower seeds."

To the frustrated owner of the bird feeder and buyer of the vanishing sunflower seeds, this has become war. He already captured a previous munching moocher in a humane trap and hauled it off to a different part of town. It was a sweet victory—at least until two days later, when the replacement squirrel and current occupant showed up.

The trap is back out on the deck. By request, I even brought home a bag of acorns to serve as bait when I came back from a recent visit to the grandkids. So far, it hasn't worked. The squirrel seems to be more interested in sunflower seeds than acorns. Which makes sense, after all; they're probably much easier to shell.

But when he does catch the squirrel, maybe we could ship it off to my granddaughter. I'm sure her parents would believe us if we said it came from Santa Claus.

Categories: Wild Things | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “The Case of the Curious Sciurus

  1. Frank

    When we were living on our farm,our old neighbor, Joe Harmacek, was death on squirrels as his farm was next to Bull Creek, a haven for squirrels with all the trees, ear corn in cribs, but no nut trees. Those cute little creatures are distructive as they are forever chewing into something, and in this case, Joe’s graneries, which caused them to let the contents run out all over the place. Joe contrived a death machine for them. Picture this: a heavy cast iron wheel propped up with a stick, an ear of corn under it tied to a string. The squirrel grabs the ear, strart to depart and the string, tied to the prop, pulls it down, and SPLAT!, down comes the wheel on the squirrel. Joe Czech accent and he called them skiveerels.
    Ginny and I always called them that and to this day, when I look out and see the little beasts carrying all kinds of loot and burying it in my yard, I think of Joe and his skiveer killer.

  2. Kathleen

    The cast iron wheel certainly must have been effective, if a bit messy. It probably would be too heavy for our deck, anyway. Though I think he’s about ready to try something like that!
    But I like the “skiveerel” pronunciation.

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