O Thou Thieving Squirrel!

September 23 – You may remember the stories I have written about the squirrels that make an easy living off the Fairchilds out in the country. For a quick check-up, I’ll remind you of the cute and smart little animals who seemed to smile whenever they came up from the woods to have a filling breakfast with the blue jays, cardinals, and nut hatches at the bird feeder.

As the months rolled by, however, we began to look at them as crooks, cute ones, yes, but still stealers of the bird food Dale so faithfully put out every morning. Finally, after seeing how quickly they made off with all of the choice morsels like sunflower seeds, while not even touching the millet (too cheap for them, I guess), we decided that something had to be done.

Dale fixed up a big trap—a wire screen propped up with a stake that would let the trap drop when he yanked the cord hitched up to the stake. Very soon, there was a pretty squirrel with a bushy reddish tail inside the trap, complaining loudly that we were not friends of his! His chatter and strange noises continued as Dale transferred the trap to the truck. Then the trap and the trapped sat in the back while the trapper pulled out of the driveway and followed the country road till he found a good place in the woods to release the squirrel. Happy to be free, the animal scooted across the road and off to safety.

Flat squirrel looking for left-over bird food

Flat squirrel looking for left-over bird food

How I wish I could say that was the last encounter with squirrels. A couple dozen squirrels later, Dale had taken all of the captives he could find before winter. Yet this year early, the squirrels returned. “Too much bother,” announced Dale. “I’m not going to bother this time.”

So these cute (at least when they chase each other up and down the tree trunks and off into the branches, or just take time to play) little animals ate all they wanted with no one even bothering to chase them away. Why? At first, when I opened the garage door and yelled loudly, that succeeded in getting rid of them for a few moments. I thought we were pretty smart! But as the days went by and I yelled and screeched, those little guys would look up at me and continue chewing what they had taken from the birds.

When we decided to stop putting out the sunflower seeds, a favorite of many of the birds, and obviously, of the squirrels, we were no longer plagued by those rascals. They did not like millet! Well, at first they didn’t, but when they couldn’t find their favorite, they checked out the millet, and though they had to scrooch along the ground on their bellies in order to get enough of the small grains, they soon mastered the process and were satisfied. Can’t remember why, but Dale decided he would start putting out sunflower seeds again. Didn’t take long for the squirrels to forget the millet and to go back to their favorite diet.

Chestnut still in the burr

Chestnut still in the burr

So what are they eating now? A few weeks earlier as Dale was sitting in front of the big window reading, he looked up to find a squirrel rushing around with something in its mouth. “Come and see this, Chris,” he said. “What does he have?” “Looks like a nut of some kind,” I answered.

As the squirrel rushed here and there in the front yard, we thought he must be trying to find a good place to bury the nut. Ok, with us, until we finally figured out that he had a chestnut in his mouth! Now that was the last straw!

The nerve; stealing one of our delicious, tasty chestnuts from trees Dale had planted here about ten years ago. They started bearing just several years ago, and we enjoyed them so much – why did the squirrels have to find that treasure too! Going over to the first tree (the second hasn’t had any ripe ones yet), we found many of the chestnut burrs on the ground. Sure, lots of them, but nothing inside the opened nut. Why should a squirrel bother to try to pop the burr open when he knows he can’t?”

Empty burrs ready for the trash

Empty burrs ready for the trash

Those guys just pop back and forth till they find some nuts that have fallen out of the burrs right on the tree, and when they land on the ground, the chestnuts pop out! Not only do they steal the nuts, but WE are the ones who have to clean up the remaining mess under the tree. We have to wear very thick gloves, then gather the burrs and cart them off to the burning pile. Both of us have had the hard prickly bits of the burr come through the gloves, and do they itch and burn! – CHRIS

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