Field of Science

Fat Bushy-tailed Tree Rats

These are not our favorite animals as their functions in life seem to be 1. eat everything, 2. chew on everything, 3. dig up everything, and mostly in that order. This is the largest squirrel native to N. America, the so-called fox squirrel, and everyone but gardeners think them cute and handsome. Our estate is home to a dozen or so individuals at any given point in time. Often anywhere from 8 to 18 can be seen here and there around the gardens. If you have any that are fatter than these you'll have to prove it because it may not be possible. These are midwestern corn and squash seed, along with sunflower seed fattened squirrels. This particular fellow is disposing of stale, ancient raisins, so they do have some trivial uses as food disposals. If times ever get too tough squirrel stew will be on the menu. One of our residents this year has 3 or 4 prominent whitish scars that look as though they were caused by talons, a close call with a red-tailed hawk perhaps. The worst thing they do is chew the bark from tree limbs to get at the inner bark, and many of the limbs that fall show evidence of such limb-damaging or limb-killing girdling activity. Even worse than the bun-buns, the bark gnawing takes place way up in the canopy, so no caging will help. And they are not fast learners; they'll eat a magnolia flower bud, find it distasteful and move to the next as if the outcome might be different, and one year they chewed all but one flower bud on a big-leaf magnolia, and about then you begin thinking about squirrel stew again. They do provide diversion, a sort of cat TV entertainment for the kitty-girls. We had a big, big cat who seemed to delight in treeing squirrels and then hanging around to listen to their shrill scolding. Does your wildlife need to be diversified?  Let us know.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I have to say but the picture is quite cute. Anyway, thanks for your introduction to let me know more about them.

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