08 March 2011
Squirrels behaving badly
Talk to any avid gardener or overly protective homeowner and they'll swear that the squirrel is the Charlie Sheen of the wildlife community: A squirrel engages in public mating with reckless serial abandon, has a penchant for crack, particularly when the crack is carefully aimed at the outer coating of addictive acorns, nuts and other hard-shelled yummies. And they dig up dirt. Lots of it. Often on a well-groomed lawn and lovingly planted garden.
Let's not even talk about bird feeders, the seedier side of their long rap sheet.
The squirrel scores "Two and a Half Points" for popularity in some people's playbook. Never mind causing the cancellation of a hit TV show; a squirrel, with a well-aimed chomp of those finely honed teeth, can throw an entire metropolitan area into a sea of blacked-out powerless void. Now that's cancellation power!
OK, so their manners aren't exactly Disney or Beatrix Potter. But remember, even Martha Stewart, with her seemingly impeccable manners and teacup-proper taste, ended up making her exit in a hand-knit prison poncho.
Besides, you don't see many squirrels plastered in full color on the covers of the supermarket tabloids, wearing string bikinis, too-small thongs and oversized, obscene tattoos. You don't see them declaring defiantly, in 42-point headline type: "I don't know the father of my last litter of 8 but I'm keeping them anyway!" or "I'm not sure who gave me mange but I know it's curable!"
Does anyone think to thank them for aerating garden soil with those tiny paws, or for planting the world's giant forests by cracking (and then leaving) all those acorns? How many hours of sweet laughter have resulted from sitting on a Sunday morning watching their treetop antics, especially the young ones first finding the balance in their "tree legs."
They're not perfect but in some eyes, they're pretty close. Squirrels ride high in the trees but have just as much appeal when they're showing their down-to-earth side. They lived on the planet before us and will likely - if we don't destroy the planet - outlive us too. Sorry, Charlie. Say what you will about their naughty antics: The sheen will never be off the squirrel.