Bunnies and Squirrels, Oh My
June 24, 2008
We didn’t think much about different races of squirrels. But note that the squirrels in the city are gray.
When we moved to our country estate, consisting of five acres of mostly alder woods and had a house built for us, I asked the contractor, “Have you ever built such a small house before?”
Alders are to woods what dandelions are to lawns.
The contractor replied to my question, “Yes, but it was somebody’s weekend vacation home; not the home people live in year round.”
(The contractor was not being sarcastic; he is a very nice guy who did a good job; he was just answering my question in a factual way.)
I said to my wife, “My dear, we are now landed gentry.” She beamed proudly.
Squirrels and chipmunks are our nearest neighbors. The Friendly Neighbor shoots rabbits but feeds his squirrels. The squirrels have a lot of nerve. If he doesn’t feed them right away, they run up his pants leg and stick their heads into his pockets looking for nuts. He stores the supply of nuts in his workshop. One day he didn’t close the workshop door all the way. The next day, most of the nuts were gone. Guess where they went.
Mrs. Random doesn’t feed the squirrels. Our bird feeder has a baffle. Every day the squirrels run up the baffle hoping they can get through solid metal to the bird feeder. Squirrels are very smart, but often they are as stupid as people. The squirrels also scold us every day for being on their property and for not feeding them, even though they spend all day eating the seeds that fall out of bird feeder because the birds are sloppy eaters.
The squirrels that live near us and the neighbors are red. Even though they are pests, Mrs. Random considers them to be “OUR pests.”
One day, I heard my wife fussing and scolding with considerable forcefulness. I went downstairs and asked, “What’s the matter?”
She was looking out the window. She said, “I just saw two gray squirrels!”
It turns out that gray squirrels are sort of the starlings of the squirrel world. Just as starlings drive out other birds (even those that are pest birds, like English sparrows), gray squirrels drive out other squirrels. Apparently there are hierarchies of pests.
I asked, “Do you want me to shoot the gray squirrel?”
“Yes! Yes!” she said. “Don’t go out on the porch, you might scare them away. Here I removed the screen from the kitchen window. You can rest the rifle and aim better.” [This is more foreshadowing.]
One of the squirrels ran into the woods. The other, a piggy squirrel, too greedy to flee, continued eating fallen bird seed
I cocked the pellet rifle. I aimed. I have bad eyes and thick glasses; it is hard for me to see through the scope. I shot. I missed. The squirrel ran away. A few minutes later, it returned. For very smart animals, squirrels sure are dumb. I shot four times and missed. A few minutes later, my wife said, “It’s back.”
This was a REALLY dumb squirrel.
It was at the very back of the cleared area. A borderline distance for me, though six feet is borderline for me. I aimed carefully. The squirrel thrashed for a second and then lay still. I put on my shoes and went out, carrying the rifle, to examine it. Often I don’t kill my prey on the first shot. I don’t like to make the animals I shoot suffer, so I kill them as quickly as possible if I just wound them.
It’s hard to make a kill shot with a tiny pellet, so I usually have to finish them off.
On examination I could see that I had hit the squirrel in the head and it was very dead. I tossed the squirrel in the woods for the coyotes or crows. (Another terrible example of my not eating the animals I shoot, which in some people’s eyes might provide at least a little justification.)
I returned to my wife and told her the gray squirrel was now an “ex-Squirrel.” She uttered words of delight and praise.
The next day, the Friendly Neighbors were over on an errand. Mr. Friendly Neighbor said, “I heard you killed a gray squirrel with one shot. Pretty impressive.” My wife had apparently bragged about my shooting prowess to the friendly neighbors. Apparently she had provided information in a selective fashion.
I said, “Well, I completely missed the squirrel four times before I got it.” I thought, A stopped clock is correct twice a day; if Mr. Random shoots his pellet rifle enough times at a very dumb pest eventually he will look like a great white hunter.