By Deborah Canterbury, 2014
As I have nothing better to do than stare out my window into the back yard, I have been highly entertained by the two squirrels who frequent my bird feeders and scoff at my futile attempts to deter them. So I did some fact finding to assure me that I am smarter than a squirrel and that I still know how to read and research.
Fact #1: They Were Brought into U.S. Parks Intentionally
Squirrels can be pests around your property, but did you know that they were introduced to American nature parks intentionally?
After the Industrial Revolution, squirrels were mostly absent from cities. In order to liven up city parks (like Manhattan’s Central Park), the city reintroduced squirrels to the area.
It was believed that a bit of nature in the city was crucial to maintaining people’s well-being. Additionally, feeding the squirrels became a leisurely activity for children and adults alike. So the presence of squirrels in parks actually benefited the human population mentally, but it also had the unfortunate effect of contributing to infestations later down the line.
Fact #2: Squirrels Have an Expert Sense of Smell
You know they love to bury acorns (and my pecans not filched by crows) for winter foraging. Squirrels will typically bury their nuts around a memorable location, like next to a large oak tree. To protect their stash from birds, they bury them under only ¼ inch of soil. They are able to use their keen sense of smell to detect the nuts they buried, even if they have been covered in a foot of snow.
Fact #3: Squirrels Mislead their Scavengers
Not only are squirrels adept at tracking the nuts they buried, but they use misdirection to trick the scavengers who want to steal their nuts.
Squirrels have been known to tamper with soil and cover it with leaves, even when they haven’t buried a nut there. They make it look like they buried a nut there, in order to trick scavengers.
Fact #4: Squirrels Are Experts At Finding Mates
When mating season arrives, female squirrels in heat begin emitting a scent that male squirrels can smell from up to a mile away. During this time I hear numerous males hot-footing it across my roof. It’s worth noting that squirrels do not mate for life. Rather, a female squirrel will go to great lengths to avoid mating with the same male twice.This allows the squirrel population to stay genetically diverse, minimizing the risk of mutations and makes female squirrels very self sufficient.
Okay, four “Did-ja-knows” are enough. I need to stop and let the dogs out to pursue for the umpteenth time today their futile attempt to chase the long-tailed rodent currently draped around my newly filled feeder onto the roof where it can mock and tease them.