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Wildlife Whispers:

Black Squirrel

by Dee Walsmley, 
Clever's Nature Writer


He scared the hell out of me on our first encounter. I was filling up bird feeders in the wooded area behind my home when this black animal. The size of a small cat, he flew out of the tree and off into the bush.  It wasn't long before he was back robbing the sunflower seeds from the birds and surveying his new territory.

Black squirrels are actually grey squirrels. They are known for their foraging frenzies. They eat their way though a neighborhood leaving little behind for other squirrel species, and, for their love of sharing human’s habitats, particularly warm attics. Squirrel’s teeth continually grow, which accounts for much of their gnawing behavior, and surprisingly enough, they can even  chew their way through aluminum soffits to gain entry for denning.

So upon seeing this black critter in my trees, I was filled with mixed emotions. He was obviously hungry. His coat a lusterless charcoal, lacked the glossy ebony of a healthy squirrel, his ribs vibrated against his thin body as he hungrily consumed the tasty morsels from my bird feeder. I decided to let him eat his fill and hoped in my heart that he would move on and find a new territory away from my resident Douglas squirrel and bird-feeders.

As I retreated back into my warm home I thought about that poor black squirrel. His chances of surviving the winter were minimal. This was a new territory for him, and he had no winter's cache, no hollowed tree nest, and had only a food source shared by twittering juncos and scolding Douglas squirrels. Perhaps if I left a few peanuts in the feeder just inside the forest where I first spotted him he would be content and not invade the others' territory.

The autumn leaves were wearing their fall colors of crimson, burnt orange, yellow and cinnamon. Some had all ready given up their last hold on life as they released themselves from their branches and floated to the forest floor. Others hung on precariously, waiting for the next wind, which would whirl them up into the air before they too came to rest, rot, and give new life.

I watched and waited for sightings of that black squirrel, but there were none. Somewhat relieved I felt that he had moved on, hopefully to greener pastures. Winter came earlier than usual. I awoke one morning and there it was in all its glory. The ground was covered with a blanket of white snow, sparkling in the sunlight like crystal. The trees, their branches bent under the weight bowed towards the ground as they paid homage to the new season. And there, under the bird feeder he sat ~ ebony black, his shiny thick coat absorbing the sun's rays and snow's luster. He had survived.

I saw him a few times over the winter, on a couple of occasions he visited the feeders nearer the house and then, in spring the bulldozers destroyed his new habitat. He was seen flitting through the rubble, digging in the soft dirt, and running along neighborhood fences. Workers started bringing peanuts for the homeless vagrant which he scooped up and squirreled away into a nearby cedar hedge. He soon won the hearts of the construction crew on his daily visits. Many  tidbits were stolen from unguarded lunch boxes, as the burly men watched with delight while pounding nails into fir trusses and plywood walls.

The black squirrel had found his niche at last. He had friends, food and across the road, an old maple provided him shelter. Sadly, crossing that road, black tires from a speeding car met with the shiny ebony body taking the life out of the little creature and the joy from the construction worker's hearts. I know this because my neighbor watched as the car’s driver deliberately chased the little fellow down the road until he could no longer escape the oncoming car. She brought me his lifeless body, which I buried under his birdfeeder on the edge of the forest along with a small cache of peanuts.



Dee Walmsley is Clever's nature writer. She would love to hear from you.

To contact Dee: deew74@shaw.ca

 

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