January 8, 2004 (Ira Pilgrim)


squirrely adj. U.S. and Canadian slang Somewhat crazy

Reader's Digest Dictionary

Whoever invented the word "squirrely" must have spent a lot of time watching squirrels. I have been watching the beasts (Western Gray Squirrels) for several years and I can testify that they are, as the dictionary says, somewhat crazy. I would go further than the dictionary and say that they may be crazier than the wackiest people.

I have a feeder that gives sunflower seeds to both birds and squirrels (See Photo). Even when acorns or conifer seeds, their natural food, are present, the squirrels that come to the feeder prefer the sunflower seeds. I buy the seed in 25 pound bags and a bag lasts for less than a month.

At about 2:30pm I put about two cups of seed into the feeder and put some on the deck. Then my wife and I relax by the window with a glass or bottle and watch the wild animal show. In a matter of minutes there is a squirrel at both the feeder and the seeds on the deck. I have never seen two squirrels at the feeder, or the pile of seeds, at the same time. Sharing is not in the squirrel's vocabulary; for a squirrel it's all or nothing. If another squirrel comes to the feeder, its occupant either runs away, chases it away or they fight for possession and the winner takes all. That is, until another challenger comes along. Occasionally a chickadee manages to snatch a seed and fly away with it. The small bird wouldn't dare challenge the much larger squirrel.

The agility of a squirrel is amazing. It thinks nothing of leaping into a tree, catching on to branches that I would think couldn't bear its weight. They can also move fairly fast on the ground, but they prefer the trees.

Neither of my cats have ever caught a Gray Squirrel, although they did manage to get lots of flying squirrels. The flying squirrels are nocturnal and I have never seen a live one. All that I have seen are a number of tails, and one head. The cats would eat everything but the tail. I stapled the tails onto what I called the cat's trophy wall. At one time we had more than a dozen tails.

Of the few squirrels that had some distinguishing mark that would enable me to identify them, it was obvious that some were fighters, while others would always yield the feeder without challenge. Among the fighters, I was never able to identify winners versus losers because I can personally identify only a few squirrels. Give me a few more years.

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