Nuts to the red squirrels

Red squirrels are a fascinating part of the outdoor life. They also can be an intentional nuisance to your pet dog. We often watch Red, the red squirrel that inhabits our backyard, as he torments Avalanche, our Siberian husky, daily. Red also steals the peanuts we put out for the magpies. Although the red squirrel is a normal everyday creature, it is not wise to try and handle one of them, nor get too friendly with them. Number one, they can give you a nasty bite. They can also pass on just about every bug known to animal life, including ticks, fleas and mites.

The red squirrel can be found across North America, from the Arctic watershed down through to Mexico. As far as its diet, you name it and you will find it on the dinner plate of a squirrel. They’ll eat everything from nuts and eggs to grass and bark to insects and meat. I had the good fortune, in my former work life with Winchester Arms , to have traveled throughout the continent to see many species of animal. The squirrel family always caught my attention.
Prior to working with Winchester, I had the good fortune to be a conservation officer in Ontario. There, I became most familiar with members of the squirrel family. The woodchuck is part of such a family and I had one such creature decide to excavate her house right in my backyard. That gave her access to the garden. She often sat beside my foot as I pulled carrots, waiting for a hand out.

Sixteen (l-o-n-g) years ago when Lisa and I got married, we bought a new home out in the country in central Ontario. In the early morning, in the field beside our house, we would see seven to 10 deer. By the afternoon, that was replaced by a flock of about 20 or so wild turkey. The drive down a winding road to our house in the bush was a sheltered haven for many types of birds, black or grey squirrels and flying squirrels. The garden was basically a restaurant for rabbits and raccoons. When sitting out in the backyard eating some peanuts, a friendly black squirrel would hop up on the arm of the chair and look up at me while sitting on her hind legs. Of course, you can not feed squirrels but should a peanut accidentally slip from my hand and land on my lap or the ground, Blackie would hop down, pick up the peanuts in the shell, sit once more on the arm of the chair and pick away at it. I remain grateful to Blackie for keeping our yard clean.

The most amazing squirrel, of course, is the flying squirrel. We had many on our rural property in Ontario. It is an amazing little creature to study. Unlike red squirrels, whose only interest is in the mating season, flying squirrels live as a family group. We once weighed a newborn and I was amazed that such a small creature, weighing less than half an ounce, could actually survive. Within a couple months, young Flying Squirrels learn to glide from one tree to the other.

Although most members of the squirrel family focus on nuts, the flying squirrel is fast to make a meal of insects, young birds, eggs in nests and sometimes even full-grown bird that has slipped off to sleep. As to the flying squirrel’s nest, take care when you are cutting down a dead tree. Flying squirrels are known to make their nests inside of dead trees. A dead standing tree may have no sign of life, but it provides a home for creatures like the flying squirrel.

So we close with a quote that is well worth repeating: ‘The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest of intentions.” Khalil Gibran 1883-1931 novelist. Khalal Gibran, born in Lebanon, moved to the U.S.A. early in life. His most famous writing was The Prophet.

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