Possumhaw: What about these squirrels?


Shannon Bardwell



"No matter how few possessions you own or how little money you have, loving wildlife and nature will make you rich beyond measure."  


Paul Oxton, conservationist 




The birds we love empty the feeders about every half hour, with a little help from the squirrels. Once we had no squirrels, but lately there's been a buildup. They're cute little things, swishing their tails, barking and standing on their hind legs, showing off their pristine white bellies. There's two squirrel-proof feeders, but the birds don't like those as well as the blue plastic and the gunmetal gray. The squirrels shimmy straight up the shepherd's hook and latch onto the feeders, sometimes with two feet on the hook and two swinging on the feeder. 


It was a Sunday afternoon. I was sitting on the porch watching the birds and naming off the crew -- an Indigo bunting, a prothonotary warbler, a bluebird, a rose-breasted grosbeak, a small woodpecker, a male and female cardinal. A jay bird sat on a tree limb and a few doves waddled over.  


A gang of cowbirds descended, which I hate to even mention because the one time I said something semi-favorable toward the iridescent coloring of the cowbird I received some ever-so-slight hate mail. No one likes the cowbird and, bowing a bit to peer pressure, I am getting a little tired of the way the cowbird hogs the feeder and scares off the other birds. The mighty cardinal will flit away and let the cowbird have his place. Sometimes the female cardinal is not so generous. 


Cardinals are a pleasure to watch when it's just the two of them. The birds feed each other seed. I think I can safely say cardinals are sweet birds. 


An emerald green hummingbird darted back and forth between the wild cherry tree and the hummingbird feeders. The hummers don't seem to mind if we sit on the porch while they feed.  


First one squirrel and then another arrived, helping themselves to the fallen seed from the feeders. One squirrel sat back on his haunches, looked at us, then while holding the seed with both "hands" stuffed it in his mouth.  


Sam asked, "What are we going to do about these squirrels?" 


This is not an easy question, and it's one that's been asked often. I said what I usually say, "I'll put a trap out and catch them." I say this, even though I have never caught a squirrel -- a hundred or so other critters, but never a squirrel.  


Considering squirrels feed in the daytime, I put the traps out the next morning. I baited with pecans. Soon I had a squirrel eating pecans like it was popcorn. Then the squirrel started burying the pecans, one by one. This could take forever. First a foot away, then gradually up to 20 feet away. You have to be a little impressed by his forethought. An hour later, a squirrel was in the trap. Throughout the day he dug up all the earth under him. Maybe I could plant some zinnias in the little bed he was making. 


After a day of fishing Sam returned home.  


"Guess what?" I said. "I caught a squirrel."


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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