The Squirrel Alarm

Dear Tyler, (writes Ferdy Johns of Ely MN)

I’m not an early riser by inclination, but the last few mornings, I’ve been awakened by a tiny red squirrel who shows up at sunrise to throw pine-cones onto my roof. I’m far enough out in the country that nobody would be bothered if I just shot the little rascal, but he’s awfully cute and I’d hate to do that. Do you have any other suggestions?

Ferdy,

Two things tell me that you must be new to rural life: that you’re not an early riser, and that you hesitate to shoot a squirrel, even if it’s a cute red one.

First, face facts. Your days of sleeping in are over. Your furry neighbors aren’t in the habit of wasting daylight, so even if you dispose of this pest, some other creature will pick up his fallen standard and charge onward, onward, under the motto, “Wake up you lazy slob!” If nothing else, you’re certain to eventually collect one or more dogs and/or cats – it’s kind of the same theory as whales and barnacles — and they’ll have tasks for you to perform early in the day, involving food, water, play, and doors.

To a city dweller, squirrels and other wildlife are generally rare and innocuous enough to be treated as a novelty (though I know lots of people in the suburbs who wish they were allowed to shoot deer in their yards). But squirrels in particular are rodents, with big gnawing teeth, and they’re a menace. You understand, there are probably hundreds or thousands of squirrels living on your property. Imagine what would happen if they teamed up.

Squirrels get good press; it’s possible they’ve pooled their resources to hire a good PR firm (though it’s not easy to find one that takes payment in acorns). But when you come right down to it, a squirrel is exactly the same as a large rat with a bushy tail.

The tail is a big part of their charm, and the other part is their name. As an exercise, right now, use your best baby-talk voice and say, “Ooh, look, a squirrel!” How did that sound? Plausible, right? Okay now, same voice, but this time say, “Ooh, look, a rat!” Hear the difference? Would you believe that was said sincerely? Based simply on its name, a rat cannot be cute while a squirrel can. But in fact, they’re members of the same union, and guess which one is more likely to chew through your siding so it can live (and poop) in your attic along with its extended family.

The fact is, there’s an ongoing, age-old battle between squirrel and man. The squirrels all know it. If you don’t, it puts you at a disadvantage.

So, go get your .22 rifle if you’re so inclined, but in the long run it won’t make a bit of difference. There are far worse things that squirrel could be doing than throwing pine-cones onto your roof. At least this way you know where it is and what it’s up to.

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