|Fox squirrel: photo by Jonathan Schechter|
The annual squirrel wars at my bird feeders are underway. The leading combatants in their race to quick death because of their risky gluttonous behavior at the feeder are gray squirrels and fox squirrels. For those not in the know on squirrel names, the gray squirrel is usually gray but may be solid black. Gray squirrels are the nut-crunching, tree-dwelling, leafy nest master builder squirrels that chattered down from great unbroken oak forests as Daniel Boone wandered west, the squirrel-eating colonists got uppity (and acquired a love of squirrel stew) and the British navy set sail. The orange-hued fox squirrel - like the one waiting paitently to leap for the feeder from the top of my country porch - is a common visitor to urban feeders and well adapted to our ways.
And why is their seemingly insatiable gluttony at the feeder so risky? My behavior makes it so. So does yours. When you or I put out food in unnatural abundance - and that is what a bird feeder does - creatures that munch on seed gather. And in large numbers. And lose caution. The list is long: birds, mice, meadow voles, rabbits, squirrels, turkeys (guess we will call turkeys BIG birds) and of course deer. I find deer tracks under my feeder almost every dawn. (DISCLOSURE: I try warn the deer the feeder is not for them with a DNRE ban on deer feeding.)
And here is the risk: Predators rapidly adapt to unnatural gatherings and what better place for a coyote or fox or the neighbor's free-roaming bird-killing cat, or a keen-eyed red tailed hawk to wait for a moment of opportunity and then snag a fattened furry squirrel entree in the closing days of December. Or January. Or February.
The fox squirrel perched in the top photo is not in the least aware of what may be soaring overhead. And the 'Got to eat it all till I burst!' gray squirrel on the spillage pile is so self absorbed in his pleasurable, "This must be manna from heaven" thoughts that he has become easy pickings for the predators. All of this is just another chapter in the ways of nature --altered by man.
|Gray squirrel: photo by Jonathan Schechter|