squirrels

Squirrels Ruin Christmas

I think squirrels just might be my totem animal. Although I am prone to Grinch-like qualities when it comes to the holidays, I have never stolen any Christmas displays. I cannot say the same about my furry rodent friends.

See, Christmas falls right around the time when squirrels have been burying a lot of food, and holiday light bulbs are strangely acorn shaped. To that end, there have been several reports of squirrels stealing and burying Christmas bulbs. One squirrel in Seattle stole over 150 light bulbs in 24 hours, and even Boston Common’s Christmas tree was affected by squirrel thefts.

Canada could not escape the influence of rodents this holiday season, and in Keene NH, a Christmas tree was blown out by a gnawing squirrel.

Karin Brulliard at the Washington Post wrote a great summary on this very topic (and I’m excited to say I got to chat with her about it).

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I did say that I don’t think squirrels have a vendetta against Christmas, but perhaps they just wish everyone would say “Happy Holidays?”

Squirrels might have ruined Christmas, but Christmas saved one squirrel. When a squirrel got stuck down a chimney, a home owner provided him with a string of Christmas lights to shimmy his way to freedom.

Power outages and fires

Twenty customers in Kansas City lost power thanks to a squirrel, but squirrels recently left over a thousand folks without power in the UK. Squirrels caused fires in Fairbury, Nebraska and Allentown, PA (subsequently leaving 7000 folks without power).

Squirrels caused outages in Odessa, TX (trigger warning: a dead squirrel is visible in the photo), Exeter, NHWallingford, CT, and caused a grass fire in West Fork, AK.

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Stuck Squirrels

This German squirrel was too large to sneak out of a manhole. Even olive oil wasn’t enough to slide this guy out, although he was eventually rescued and treated for hypothermia.

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And in Boston, this squirrel was too large for the dog bone he stuck his head into.

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This squirrel got into a squirrel-proof bird feeder, but then could not get out.

On Wiggum Drive, in Leesburg, Virginia, animal control was called to help a squirrel who got stuck in the motor of a dryer.

Finally, a couple thought they had run over a squirrel. Turned out he got stuck under the car “bonnet” and took a several-hours long ride. The squirrel was rescued and did not appear to be harmed by the hitchhiking incident.

Squirrels and the law

A squirrel scratched and bit a contractor who was working on a home in Virginia. The man has since sued the home owners for $90,000, claiming that the squirrel is their pet and that they are responsible for his behavior. The home owners claim no such ownage of the squirrel.

A few years ago, a New York lawsuit over a "squirrel slam" (basically, a squirrel killing, I mean hunting, contest) was dismissed. But recently, the state appellate court determined that Justice Punch violated the plaintiff's rights when he dismissed their case. The squirrel slam is going back to court.

Police blotter

A man got mad at his brother, and then taped a knife to his hand. Apparently intending to stab his brother, he instead went outside and stabbed a squirrel. He was charged with animal cruelty. And I can't make this stuff up!

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A mutilated squirrel was left on a Rexburg, VA doorstep, and a man was caught burning a squirrel with a propane torch in South Dakota.

One squirrel came down a chimney and couldn't find his way back out. While inside, he destroyed some Christmas lights and chewed on a Fender guitar. He burrowed into a loveseat, rendering it useless. The squirrel eventually went back outside.

When this guy took his Lexus in for a tune-up, he got more than he bargained for. A squirrel was kind enough to leave him several walnuts under the hood.

A concerned citizen contacted police in Nevada to report a squirrel who was acting very oddly before it died. There were also calls to police regarding "Christmas lights from a house ...blinding drivers passing by," "someone drinking whiskey," and that someone's "crazy girlfriend was at it again, acting up and throwing things around."

A squirrel has been brazenly walking into a convenience store and helping himself to chocolate Kinder and Crunchie bars without paying. Attempts to retrieve stolen goods by chasing the thief were not successful.

It's not clear if squirrels are deliberately trying to harm humans, but they are gnawing on trees along a freeway in Ireland, which caused several branches to fall in front of cars as they drive by. The treacherous situation led officials to cut down several hundred trees. The resulting stumps have left locals less than thrilled.

A bar in Manchester, England has been a victim of a robbery - two lamps featuring taxidermied squirrels were recently stolen, and apparently the waiting list for replacements is four months long. The owners fear the lamps (or rather the dead squirrel bodies) will be too damaged to repair.

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As promised, I'm back with the rest of the LATEST in squirrel news.

Squirrels and crime

Jon Barbour got in a dispute with his neighbor over feeding squirrels, which he claims help him stay in touch with his deceased parents (I reported the backstory here). He claims his neighbor tried to fight him, and then he shot his neighbor in the butt. Barbour must stand trial, charged with attempted second-degree murder and assault. Barbour since has pled not guilty, and the trial will begin in April of 2017.

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Portland’s police chief shot a friend in the back while squirrel hunting, and tried to saw his friend shot himself. That didn’t go over so well with the friend, and now the chief is stepping down.

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A couple went on vacation, and returned to find their home in a state of disarray. But it turns out the potential burglars loved…nuts. They “arrived back home to find papers and other items strewn about and bowls of nuts throughout the house completely emptied.” The squirrel was caught and set free.

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Apparently, some squirrels enjoy hanging out with the police so much they will jump on their cars and pose for pictures. Maybe they like donuts?

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Squirrels frequently interfere with forensic evidence…by chewing on bones? Yep, it’s true. “The damage rodents can cause and tooth marks they leave, sharp as knife strikes, can both confound and inform crime scene investigators.” These chew marks can make the bones hard to identify, or even obscure signs of trauma.

You can read the scientific article, The Taphonomic Effects of Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) Gnawing on Bone, published in the Journal of Forensic Identification, here.

An Irish community trying to prevent baby red squirrels from being squished by cars is despondent over the loss of two “Caution: Squirrel Crossing” signs. The theft is believed to be the act of pranksters.

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How a squirrel saved a man

When the power company was called to a man’s house to resolve a squirrel-related power outage, it turns out that the man was unconscious in the road. The workers were able to use an automated external defibrillator and CPR to revive the man. The squirrel has been credited with saving the man's life.

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Thieving squirrels

A squirrel broke into a seed display at a Lowe’s store, having a snack, and then taking off before getting caught. Seeds were all over the place.

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And a British squirrel broke into a butcher’s shop, helping himself to some sausage

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No baby’s snacks are safe in the bottom of a stroller. This squirrel proves it.

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Dead squirrel causes chaos

A principal had to call parents when a student showed up with a dead squirrel in his backpack. “Hilarity ensued” (for everyone but the squirrel). Turns out the kid wanted squirrel dumplings for dinner.

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Squirrel scam

A squirrel scam in Dallas has targeted the elderly, with scammers claiming they will remove a squirrel from someone’s attic in exchange for large sums of money. The scammer returns with a dead squirrel (apparently not from the attic), and demands thousands of dollars.

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Squirrels and sex?

A man who runs both a squirrel sanctuary and a sex club on the same property claims cops targeted him and shut the sanctuary down because of the sex club.

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Nursing home attacks

Earlier this month, a nursing home was sent into chaos as a squirrel came in, biting and scratching several residents. The 911 call reveals the state of panic: “It’s still in there and the people are bleeding.” One victim was “bleeding a little uncontrollably.”And an injured woman said “I feel lightheaded. I don’t feel good.”

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When the squirrel returned the next week, a staffer took matters into their own hands, and shot and killed the squirrel with a BB gun.

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Squirrel rescue

Squirrels helping themselves

Firefighters were called to save a squirrel hiding in a car’s wheel well, but the squirrel took off.

And a rescue mission was aborted when a squirrel saved himself. Folks called the fire department to report a squirrel stuck atop a telephone pole, but it turns out he was just chilling.

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But this squirrel was happy to be saved from the dashboard of a car, where she had hidden behind the glove compartment.

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And this squirrel was digging in the dumpster and got his head stuck. The squirrel was anesthetized and rubbed with lots of Vaseline and was eventually twisted out of the small opening in the dumpster.

It’s raining squirrels…hallelujah

More than 200 baby squirrels were blown from their nests during a storm in Virginia

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A squirrel was literally stuck to a fence in Boulder, CO. Luckily the squirrel only suffered superficial injuries and was freed.

A pet squirrel caused a traffic jam in London by getting loose and consequently trapped in a vent under a passenger seat.

And this time a DOG needed rescuing…after chasing a squirrel and falling into the sewer.

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A community divided

A squirrel named Cyril has caused controversy in a British housing development. Turns out some folks love Cyril and feed him nuts, and other folks resent Cyril entering their flats and digging up their plants to bury said nuts. Pest control was called to kill Cyril, but over 5000 people signed a petition to save him; the estate management firm agreed to let Cyril live.

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This week in cute

A squirrel was confused by squirrel statue that had bread on it. I’d be confused too.

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Squirrel meets cat AND a stuffed animal? Is that a cuteness overload?

This squirrel was busy playing with a stuffed animal, when the family cat jumps into the mix.

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A baby squirrel and a bunny don’t seem to know what to think of each other. A lot of hopping ensues.

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He wants IN

bowlofnutsThis squirrel could see the bowl of nuts inside; just open the window!

 

 

Welsh ravers put endangered squirrels at risk

raveI’ve always found ravers kind of annoying…this time they held a giant three day party with loud music right near a colony of red squirrels. Locals are worried that the loud music might have stressed out the endangered rodents.

 

Photobombs

A news reporter was filming a big horn ram when a ground squirrel made a brief appearance.

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Another squirrel showed up in a couple’s engagement photoshoot.

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Who let the nuts out?

Some campers in Canada brazenly left a container of nuts laying around. Perhaps the whisky impaired their judgement, as the nuts were an easy target for a local squirrel.

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History corner

In 1918, Californians were sent on a mission: eradicating the ground squirrel. Even children were enlisted in this failed, $40,000 dollar project, that beckoned residents to “Kill the Squirrels.” What brought on this mass hysteria? Squirrels eating farmers’ crops.

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Basically, I blink and two months have gone by and I have NOT REPORTED ON SQUIRREL ACTIVITY! In case you'd like to know what I have been up to, some shameless self-reporting here:

feldmanI recently spoke with comedian David Feldman about...cats, cats, and more cats.

 

 

 

 

 

And the Berkeley Newscenter recently interviewed me about my research on the food-storing behavior of squirrels.

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The squirrels do not find studying squirrels to be an adequate excuse for not reporting on squirrels.

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Power problems

poweroutAlthough I’ve been too busy to write about squirrel antics, it doesn’t mean they have been laying around doing nothing! As usual, power outages have been reported all over the country! Squirrels may have knocked out your power recently if you live in the following places: North Maketo, IAComstock Park, MIRedding, CTSpringfield, MAWauwatosa, WIGrand Rapids, MIKinnelon, NJMountain Home, IDKalispell, MTConcord, NHMonroe, CTAshville, NCCape Girardeau, MOMilwaukee, WITalahassee, FLSunnyside, WANew Orleans, LA, and for the third time in one month: Bay City, MI.

Squirrels went international with power outages in Vancouver, and Kelowna, British Columbia as well as in Brazil. And journalists can't get enough of  cyber-squirrel attacks, with recent features about squirrel related power outages in Slate, as well as how independent microgrids limit the damage squirrels can do.

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You can’t make this stuff up

sqshootIn Colorado, a dispute arose over whether a man should be feeding local squirrels. Folks in the community were apparently concerned about the fact that he was feeding peanuts to the squirrels, which could be problematic to local children with nut allergies. These concerned neighbors posted flyers, and at some point a tete a tete between the squirrel feeder (Jon Barbour) and a neighbor occurred. Things escalated, the men accused each other of being “white trash,” punches were thrown, and Barbour consequently shot the neighbor in the buttocks. He called police to turn himself in, was arrested, and now faces attempted murder charges, and from 8-32 years in prison.

But the story doesn’t end there. Barbour defended his squirrel feeding frenzy (apparently leaving “pounds of peanuts” out for our twitchy friends) by explaining that feeding squirrels was how he communed with the spirits of his dead parents. I’ll be following this case, as the preliminary trial happens on June 9th.

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I have really fallen behind on my squirrel news reporting responsibilities, and there has been SO MUCH squirrel news, that this week will require two posts to catch up. Today, a lot of power outages, squirrels and food, and squirrels in schools and squirrel rescue. Stay tuned for Part II, which will feature A LOT of squirrels and crime, squirrels and sports, this week in cute, and MUCH MORE!

Annoying squirrels for science

slateI'm very excited that my research examining fox squirrels' responses to a frustrating task has finally been published. This was my first study in graduate school, and although my research questions have changed a lot since then, I had a lot of fun with this one! I spoke with Rachel Gross at Slate about my study, you can read all about it here!

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Appetite for Destruction

Squirrels turn off the lights

Squirrel related power outages were reported in: Greenfield, WI, Danbury, CT, Muncie, IN, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Tulsa, OK, Glenpool, OK, Lee County, TX, Columbia, SC, and Pinewood, Ontario.

But it’s not just squirrels

Other wildlife may be to blame, including possums, racoons and even the occasional bird that gets into a power substation.

Why do they do it?

Attraction to warmth and lack of traffic (which presents less of an obstacle) are factors that lead squirrels to the wires.

Fire starters

A squirrel started a fire in a garage in Traverse City, MI, losing its life in the process; and burned down a home in South Nashville.

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2 Comments

I'm all for the celebration of rodents; we just had Squirrel Appreciation day, and now today, we (sort of) celebrate another rodent, the groundhog (who happens to also be a squirrel!). I think it's cute, like everyone else, that somehow people are obsessed with the folklore (originated in the 1800s) that somehow a rodent could see into the future and predict the weather.

On the other hand, in this day and age, where people still question whether evolution is real and if the earth is flat, does Punxatawney Phil just encourage more pseudoscience?

GH2 ...continue reading

BLMI don't know if there's anyway to tastefully combine Martin Luther King Jr., Day - a day of activism and to contemplate the state of racism, privilege, justice, and equality in our country - with cats and squirrels, but I'm going to try. Kudos to the activists who shut down the Bay Bridge on Monday in a non-violent protest.

 

 

Okay, now to the cats and squirrels!

January 21 was Squirrel Appreciation Day! What's to appreciate? To me, a lot. Hopefully in 2017, I can give them props for helping me earn a PhD. But squirrels help propagate the growth of trees by carrying and burying (and sometimes forgetting) their seeds to areas where they can sprout; they are smart, adaptable, hard-working, and persistent creatures who can inspire the public's interest in animals and science. Oh, and they are pretty darn cute.

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Today (January 22) is Answer Your Cat's Questions Day. What do you think cats want to know about humans? It may sound silly (and in fact it is). But in my work as a cat behavior consultant, I spend a lot of trying helping folks understand their cats' needs better, and its easy to see that humans do things that might perplex cats - like not providing them with adequate scratching, climbing or toileting options, and then getting angry when cats scratch, climb, or go to the bathroom on other things. We expect cats to love new cats, we expect them to sleep when they are bored, and to let us pet them and hold them even when they don't want to be petted or held. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US HUMANS? No wonder cats need their questions answered.

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