Monthly Archives: December 2017

Companion squirrels

Disclaimer: I’m not a fan of keeping wildlife as pets. I just report the squirrel news…but sometimes I disagree with it!

A man rescued a squirrel during Hurricane Matthew, and has since kept the squirrel as a pet. His landlord wants to evict him for keeping an exotic animal. The tenant is now claiming the squirrel is an emotional support animal.

In Auburn, WA, a young squirrel was found in a high school student’s locker. Apparently the squirrel was the student’s pet, and students were reminded not to bring pets with them to school. Perhaps the student should have claimed it was an emotional support squirrel.

Other interspecific interactions

The stories I report are often focused on squirrel-human interactions. But sometimes other species get involved too!

This squirrel wasn’t going to let some little chipmunk walk all over his food source. Apparently if you provide a squirrel with a weapon, they will use it. Check out the video.

Squirrels seem to know how to stay just out of the reach of their predators. This squirrel gives a kitty a run for his money, and escapes unscathed.

After an uptick in grizzly bears killed by trains in Canada, researchers looked for the culprit and found – squirrels were responsible. High populations of red squirrels near train tracks leave “middens,” or piles of food. Given that the bears’ natural food sources have been less plentiful, they’ve been increasingly attracted to the tracks – at their peril.

Pig meets squirrel – so what?
These two buds enjoy a meal together at the Animal Place Sanctuary in Grass Valley, CA.

A dog had to be rescued by firefighters after chasing a squirrel up a tree, and getting stuck.

A face-off between bird and squirrel – all over a snowball with a nut inside. Bird 1, squirrel 0.

Science corner

My friend Pizza Chow recently published her study looking at how well squirrels could remember a puzzle – two years after they had first encountered it. Lo and behold, the squirrels were almost as good at problem-solving as they were when they had last solved the puzzle!

Ground squirrels hibernate, and when they do, changes in their brain allow them to survive long-term despite low blood flow. Scientists are trying to apply these changes to stroke patients – as a short-term “hibernation” could provide brains with protection while they recover.

The Kluane Red Squirrel Project, lovingly known as "squirrel camp," is a laboratory studying a multitude of interesting questions about squirrels – such as where they are burying their food and who is having sex with whom. They’re also using cool technology – like accelerometers, to track the squirrels’ activity. They recently found that momma squirrels who can anticipate a bumper year of nuts before the trees actually produce that abundance have more surviving offspring.

Finally, I published a little squirrel research of my own this year, exploring the decisions squirrels make when they are given “mixed nuts” – and interestingly, they cached nuts in a manner that suggested they were organizing nuts by type, even when they received the nuts in random order! You can read about it here!

 

 

Glamping -- it's not just for humans

People went "nuts" when they saw this squirrel stealing toilet paper at a campsite. Glamping? Or just fluffing up her nest?

Squirrel and cars -- Can they be friends?

A man in Michigan heard a strange clicking coming from the hood of his car…and pulled over to investigate. Inside were…hundreds of pine cones. He was pissed, but imagine how the squirrel feels.

If you’ve ever run over a squirrel with your car, or like me, have come close to a squirrel-disaster while on a bicycle – you might wonder – why do squirrel seem to hedge when they’re trying to cross the road? Rather than darting back and forth, why can’t they just commit and make a run for it??

Well, a likely explanation is that this zig-zag behavior is helpful when avoiding most of their predators, such as owls. It doesn’t work so well with cars, but hey, squirrels didn’t do most of their evolving around automobiles.

Tomorrow: Bringing in the New Year with my fifth and final installment of the squirrel roundup! It will feature the CUTE CORNER and squirrels in history!

Squirrels and sports

A squirrel interrupted the second quarter of a football game between the Eagles and Dolphins, setting Twitter on fire. Presumably a different squirrel got in the mix during a game between the Calgary Stampeders and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Not to be outdone, this squirrel SCORED A TOUCHDOWN during a Lousville-Kent State game. For the record, this video is AMAZING.

A squirrel was running wild at the start of a Manchester soccer game, but was scooped up after causing an 8-minute delay and biting one groundskeeper.

A squirrel interrupted Jason Day’s golfing warm-up, and a squirrel thrilled the audience of a cycling race in Norwegian with his branch-scampering antics.

Squirrel Rampages

Back in July, a Brooklyn squirrel went on a “three day biting spree,” and claimed at least five victims in Prospect Park (including one man who was bitten while jogging) before mysteriously disappearing.

Squirrels in New Orleans had similar plans, attacking at least four people, including a pastor and two women who were leaving Sunday mass at a local Catholic church. The city was looking for “two squirrels of interest.” One squirrel was seen climbing a man’s leg in New Orleans just hours before other attacks.

Indiana University sent out a warning asking students to beware of squirrels: “If they don’t get food…” they “…may attack.” Washington State University also sent out warnings after squirrels starting biting at people’s shoes as they walked by. The Pasadena police blotter reports that “A strange squirrel was seen to be chasing students” in addition to “A black Toyota Camry was heard to be revving their engine in Lot 5 level 4D.”

A man in Logan, UT was bitten after he chased what he first thought was a “moving dog toy” inside of his house. A baby flying squirrel had snuck into his home, and when the man tried to catch the squirrel with a towel, he got a chomp on the hand. The man expressed interest in keeping the squirrel, but instead the squirrel was brought to the humane society for typhus quarantine.

A woman thought a squirrel was cute and started recording his antics, which included leaping at her face moments later.

Although squirrel bites are fairly common, the CDC has no record of a fatal squirrel attack. EVER.

Squirrel celebrations

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Longview, WA hosted the seventh annual Squirrel Fest, which featured over 50 vendors, live music, a beer garden, a 5K race, a zipline, and a parade. Oh, and thousands of squirrel lovers.

On the other side of the country, Bentonville, AK and West Virginia had their own version of the “Squirrel Fest,” where squirrels on a plate were celebrated. The World Champion Squirrel Cookoff featured tamales, gumbo, and pizza with squirrel meat. The Virginia Squirrel Fest featured squirrel gravy, the “best gravy of all the gravies.” You can also find a recipe for “Squirrel with Herb Dumplings” in the news story.

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Squirrels ruin the holidays

Squirrels ruined holiday displays in 2017. Sea Girt, NJ found its holiday display in tatters after a squirrel was busted severing wires. A squirrel in Queen Anne, WA stole over 150 bulbs from one woman’s Christmas display.

This year, Keene, NH prevented squirrels from repeating last year’s antics of eating the top of the city’s Central Square Christmas tree. Scented soap and a humane trap have kept the squirrels at bay.

A New Jersey family routinely places out small gifts for their mail carrier and other delivery workers. They were shocked to find that the basket of candy, lip balm and tissues had been raided – but the thief was only taking the GOOD STUFF – the chocolates. They set up a remote camera and discovered the culprit was none other than a chubby squirrel. The chocolates have since been placed in a secure glass jar.

It's not all bah humbug for squirrels -- one squirrel got into the holiday spirit by decorating her nest with a Christmas stocking.

 

 

Tune in tomorrow for the science corner and squirrels hanging out with other species!!

Squirrels and crime

I’ve previously reported about Jon Barbour, the man who shot his neighbor in the buttocks after a dispute about Barbour’s squirrel-feeding habits. Barbour claimed that squirrel-feeding allowed him to commune with his deceased parents. In August, Barbour was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the incident.

Another squirrel feeder in trouble, Gaylord Sigland (who I reported on back in July), was cited for feeding wildlife, possibly violating a city ordinance. A neighbor was unhappy with the squirrels gathering peanuts from Sigland and then burying them in his yard. City council eventually voted 5-3 to exempt squirrel- and bird-feeding from the ordinance, and the charges were dropped.

A British man was arrested after dragging a dead squirrel around from door to door to convince people they had a rodent problem and needed roof repairs. He has since been charged with fraud.

 

Whenever I think about gun control laws, I think about stories like the one about the woman who was “high on something” and pointed a gun at a squirrel outside a coffee shop. And pulled the trigger three times.

You think you're just grocery shopping, and then you see an abandoned cart with five severed squirrel heads in it. Well, hopefully this has not happened to you, but it did happen to someone in Ontario, Canada. The local SPCA is investigating and asking for folks to come forward (confidentially) if they have any information.

A man was behaving suspiciously and walking around wearing emoji-pajamas carrying a baby squirrel in a pink washcloth. Next thing you know he is in lockdown, biting a police officer’s arm and getting tasered in the butt. The squirrel was taken to animal control. Police suspect that he was casing houses for burglaries.

Police blotter

Folks in Lexington, MA called the cops because a squirrel had gained entry into his home.  Similarly, in Wisconsin Rapids, a man called the police because he needed help getting a squirrel out of his home.

Car accidents

A 16-year old girl in Pewaukee, WI crashed her car into a tree after swerving to avoid a squirrel. A man in Charlotte, NC drove into a brick wall when he tried to avoid hitting a squirrel.

Pizza squirrels

Squirrels were spotted eating pizza in Washington, DC, Lakewood, CO, Michigan, Atlanta, and St. Petersburg, FL.

Squirrels were also seen indulging in cookies and potato chips.

 

 

Squirrel rescue corner

As self-sufficient as squirrels may be, they often find themselves in situations where they need a little help from their human friends. This Boston squirrel got his head stuck in a hole at the bottom of a dumpster, which required a soap treatment to get him slippery enough to get out.

A squirrel in Georgia got stuck in a bird feeder, although it’s unclear if the man who discovered the squirrel also helped the squirrel out, or just recorded his plight.

 

A Canadian squirrel got his head stuck in a Dairy Queen cup, but a good citizen was able to set him free. A squirrel in Connecticut got stuck in some spray insulating foam when a man was sealing his roof. The foam quickly rendered the squirrel immobile, but a wildlife rescue was able to clean her up and keep her until she was ready for release.

 

Turns out that police commonly rescue squirrels – officers in Sparta, WI and Portsmouth, VA helped baby squirrels make their way to safety.

And if you rescue a squirrel, you may end up with a friend for life. A family saved Bella, who had been attacked by an owl. They raised her until she was ready to be released into the wild. But for the last eight years, Bella comes by daily for treats, and to model tiny squirrel hats.

Cinderella story or Jon Benet Ramsey of squirrels? Theodora was found in the gutters of a family’s home. Since then, they’ve been caring for her, taking her to McDonald’s for fries, and dressing her up in costumes.

Do squirrels dream of nuts?

This rescued baby squirrel is dreaming of something. Nuts. Yes, I think nuts.

Tune in tomorrow for squirrels and sports, squirrel celebrations, and SQUIRREL ATTACKS!!

When you neglect the squirrel news, it adds up. I'll be ending 2017 with a few posts letting you know what my favorite rodents have been up to. Let's go!

Power Outages and Fires

Squirrels started brush fires in West Richland, WA and Mississippi, after shorting an electrical circuit, caused a vacant building to burn in Pennsylvania, and inadvertently set fire to a golf course in Anaconda Hills, Montana. Another squirrel burned down 40 acres in Pelion, SC. A squirrel also started a fire in a cheese factory in Canada, causing 20,000 gallons of milk to spoil, and finally, a holiday was all but ruined when a squirrel was found responsible for a house fire in Menlo Park, CA. Squirrels also caused some $1500 worth of damage to the library in Hopedale, MA, where “They’re not welcome if they’re going to chew on the electrical wires.”

Few states avoided the wrath of squirrels. Squirrel related outages occurred in Mitchell, South Dakota, Oklahoma City, Prescott Valley, AZ, Midland Park, NJ, Chattahoochee, FL, Casper, WY, 100 Mile House, Canada, Statesville, NC, Canton, OH, Idaho Falls, York County, PA, East Memphis, TN, Grand Island, NE, Janesville, WI, Auburn, CA, Stamford, CT, Sidney, NY, Louisville, OH, Findlay, OH, Wake Forest, NC, Orleans, Ottawa, Altus Air Force Base, OK, Lincoln, NE, Centralia, WA, Altus, OK, Lafayette, AL, and Mableton, GA.

According to reports, a squirrel in Island Park, ID “sizzled” ‘til he was “medium rare.” A squirrel also shut down the power and the classes at University of Michigan. Christmas Eve wasn’t so fun for thousands in Pasadena who were left without power for over an hour, thanks to a squirrel: “The condition of the squirrel was unavailable.” In Dadeville, AL, a squirrel shorted power lines, causing the lines to fall on the ground and leave marks that some thought were crop circles left by aliens. Finally, one particularly powerful squirrel left over 45,000 people without power in San Diego.

Squirrel-related school lockdowns

School officials thought they heard a gun firing and locked down the elementary school in Beloit, WI. Turns out it was just a squirrel blowing out the transformer.

 

A man in Cocoa, FL put a school in lockdown when he pointed a BB gun at a squirrel that was in his attic. It led to a call to 911, and after the hub bub the man decided he didn’t want to shoot the squirrel after all! For some reason, the news article features several photos of the gun-wielding individual in just a beach towel.

A 74-year old man in Michigan sent a school into lockdown when he was hunting squirrels on school property. Children were rushed inside, and the man was citing for firing a firearm within city limits.

Hunting corner: More squirrels and guns

A man in Amherst shot through three walls of his neighbor’s home with a .22 while aiming at a squirrel. 71-year old Zbigniew Stanley Puza was charged with a misdemeanor crime for discharging a firearm within city limits. No one was injured.

Roger Hoeker was charged with involuntary manslaughter after killing a 13-year old boy. The man was squirrel hunting, the boy was on a hunting trip as part of the Christianity Outdoors mentorship program.

A man in Tiffin, Ohio was shot in the chest by his hunting buddy who was aiming for a squirrel.

A man in Newcastle, Wales, shot his neighbor’s cat while aiming for a squirrel. The squirrel was scaring birds away from his bird feeder, leading John Charles Quinney to seek out the ultimate punishment. Sadly, the cat was seriously injured and had to be euthanized. Mr. Quinney was required to pay a fine.

A Christmas morning squirrel hunting trip in Bristol Township, Ohio led to the discovery of human remains. The human skull and other remains were believed to be almost a year old, and likely belonged to a man. No word on whether the rest of the hunting trip was fruitful.

Tune in tomorrow for even more squirrel news, including squirrel crime and squirrels eating pizza.