30 April 2009

Statues raise the stature of squirrels

Irish sculptor Barry Wrafter had been trying to give clarity and form to Britain's tension between the native red and interloper grey squirrels in a big way.

A very big way: Working on commission, he crafted a grey squirrel that stands 8 feet tall, and its rival red somewhat fewer feet in height. He dubbed the duo "Squirrel Quarrel," to dramatize the native reds' struggle against the encroaching Eastern Greys.

Both squirrels, however, almost became victims of another sort. After the developer who'd commissioned the work pulled out of the deal, they found themselves displaced - a not-uncommon situation for squirrels of any size or stature - and they both were facing destruction (also a not-uncommon fate for unwanted rodents).

That is, until recently. The Irish Times recently reported these two mega-squirrels have become the beneficiaries of a bit of wildlife rescue that tops them all: The 8-foot rodent and his feisty counterpart have been purchased by a couple who own an estate in Cork. Rather than be demolished by their creator, they are going to find refuge in the wilds near a castle on the couple's grounds.

The "Squirrel Quarrel" has been resolved - at least for these two statues.

Britain's simmering rivalry in its treetops, however, may have a way to go before it can reach its own happy ending quite so handily.

21 April 2009

A dose of daily genocide

A recent Associated Press story that received prominent play in Washingon State newspapers recently reported that the city's parks officials are detonating a propane-fired device to collapse the burrows of ground squirrels on the grounds of the Finch Arboretum. Officials consider these animals problematic because of destruction they are supposedly causing.

OK, let's get a few things straight here: People who visit the Finch Arboretum are nature-lovers, and supposedly so too are the folks operating the arboretum. Presumably the government stewards are themselves are respecters of all things wondrous and beautiful in nature, caretakers of the natural world who are intent on creating a kind of earth-centered cathedral that pays homage to what graces our planet.

I think not.

Enter the nuclear warhead. Or rather, enter what must seem to be the Armageddon Machine to the small creatures living underground in their world beneath Spokane. Their world is being blown to bits and they are being suffocated.

Those of us who remember the Cold War recall the "duck and cover" drills that were supposed to give us an elusive sense of security when The Bomb hit and we can only shudder at this scene. In truth, whether you ducked and covered - or not - there was nowhere to hide.

And those of us who don't remember living with the threat of the bomb from those days can still relate to the notion of sudden annihilation by some powerful nation somewhere. Simply for the crime of being on the planet and having an agenda that didn't agree with someone else's agenda.

Shame on the people of Spokane for allowing this.
And shame on anyone who continues to visit the Finch in the name of appreciating nature. Anyone who pays for an admission ticket to this place has the blood of this tiny nation of squirrels on their hands.

13 April 2009

Please don't feed the squirrels?

A recent Associated Press story reports that the state of Wisconsin is asking visitors to stop feeding squirrels at the state Capitol because children visiting the area may have peanut allergies and this puts them at risk.

Please stop now, say the officials in Madison. Please stop so that schoolkids visiting the state buildings on classroom tours don't have an allergic reaction that could kill them.

Allergies are pretty serious matters. Children and adults can die from such reactions. And the warning is definitely well-intentioned but, I fear, it is off the mark.

First of all, people should indeed stop feeding the squirrels peanuts.

Peanuts are NOT a natural food for squirrels anyway - any more than Cheez-Doodles or Pop Tarts are a "natural" food for humans. Just because a creature likes a snack doesn't mean they need to make a steady diet of it. If people insist on feeding the squirrels, a handful of walnuts will do.

But better still, feed the squirrels something more helpful: a healthy dose of wariness of humans. Why encourage friendliness in wild animals by feeding them? The humans could risk an inadvertent chomp on the hand.

And the squirrels face an even worse fate: they begin to trust humans. Especially near a government building, is this kind of trust a safe thing? These innocent squirrels are milling about in close proximity to politicians.

Picture a state lawmaker luring a squirrel over with a juicy nut, and then handing the poor creature some campaign literature! If squirrels eventually get the vote, no one in Wisconsin will ever be able to unseat their state legislator even if they wanted to! The squirrels would outvote them!

Think about it, folks! Keep squirrels wild, for democracy's sake!

04 April 2009


In Britain, they're known as Y-fronts.

But in one Colorado community, they may as well be called "Y-Not?" fronts. They're squirrel underpants, something we have written about before on this blog, but never quite like this: The undersized undies have been designated as a local public radio station's prize as part of its current fundraising effort. KRCC-FM in Colorado Springs, in fact, hopes the rodent knickers, sold by a West Coast novelty company, will inspire listeners to reach deep down into their own pants.

Well, just as far down as their pockets.

Station staffers were apparently inspired to do this after taking care of a young orphaned squirrel - caretaking chores that, presumably, did not include serving as fashion consultants.

Loyal listeners who sign over more than merely peanuts will have the option of choosing the "squnderwear" or, in the alternate, a pass to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, a noble cultural institution that, according to its web site, strives "to be a cultural and economic anchor, providing innovative, world-class programming to an ever-expanding audience."

Smart money rides on the skivvies.

Remembering Nero

It could be argued he was never meant to make it, after all. And it could be argued that we were wrong for taking him in and giving him the six additional years he had, especially when, by following the laws of nature, he would likely not have had six more hours on that July day in 2003.

But we rescued the neurologic young adult squirrel from the front lawn in a nearby community after an elderly homeowner, concerned for his safety, trapped him beneath a large flower planter. And we brought "Nero" home, finding him to be gentle and charming. He was also a little loopy, owing likely to some head trauma that knocked him forever off kilter from his course in life.

He never recovered his balance and would always tip over if he got too active but he lived stress-free with us, in the company of other, healthier squirrels who would come and go over the years on their way to freedom. And he looked forward to the times we would come over to his cage offering a nut, a piece of fruit, or one of the nutritional biscuits we often feed the youngsters when they are first weaning off formula.

At night he would tuck himself in tightly - wrapping his T-shirt around him, secure in his nestbox.

He was not in there on the morning of March 31. I found him dead, quite unexpectedly, beneath the ramp of his double-decker hutch. He had already rigored. He had not been visibly ill, though the day before I did note he had a curious, somewhat glazed look in one eye. Perhaps his time was through and that long-ago head trauma caught up with him at last.

It could be argued we should have simply let nature take its course so many years ago when predators were threatening him on that July day, prompting one man's care and concern. Ultimately, nature did run its course, just not that way.

I would like to think we did the right thing.