Squirrels – The Next Generation

Left: Spikey on our little wooden walkway
Below: Loonie feeding
All photos by LGS

One early spring day, I was sitting on a small lawn chair on my tiny wooden boardwalk just outside the entrance to my subterranean Hobbit-like dwelling place. It had been a long winter but now most of the snow had melted or was melting and there was a lovely sunbeam right on where i was sitting. Suddenly, I heard some thing fall on to the boardwalk behind me like sand and pebbles dropping from a height. I lazily looked up and I saw two fresh looking furry faces looking back at me, peeping out from under the eaves.

They were both golden colored like their mother, Loonie. I was thrilled to see them and they seem quite amused at the greater world which they were perhaps viewing for the first time from the safety of their high vantage point. My wife and I named them Goldie and Blondie. I know, I know. Not very imaginative. Still it was a thrill to see the offspring of Spikey and Loonie, the next generation.

On another warmer Spring day, I was again on my little foldable lawn chair on my boardwalk when Spikey appeared and went all round me checking things out. Normally, he would then head for the peanuts stacked in piles on the boardwalk. This time he disappeared back into one of the evergreen bushes near the wall but when he emerged, he had his two girls in tow.

Spikey came to introduce his family to me. The shy girls would follow close behind him wherever he went. You could see that he was teaching the girls that it was okay to come near this giant creature and take the peanuts. I was beaming.

Parenting did not come easily for Spikey. He struggled to control some of his instincts. On this occasion for example, he showed Goldie a pile of nuts. However, when Goldie tried to eat a nut, Spikey reacted by using his front paws and pushing down on Goldie’s face until she dropped the nut. This happened a few times until Goldie stopped trying to take a nut from the pile. Spikey then sat down and started eating his nuts but Goldie persisted by putting her face right up next to Spikey’s. Eventually, Spikey relented and actually handed the nut in his mouth over to her. He then hopped off and left the pile of nuts to Goldie. Ah, the sacrifices that parents have to make.

Another interesting thing happened just a couple of days later. The two girls appeared on the wooden boardwalk by themselves. Without Spikey there, they seemed less certain about approaching me and my pile of nuts. They sat a safe distance away and looked at me. I tried to entice them by throwing nuts at them but as they eat the nuts, slowly draw them nearer by throwing the nuts closer and closer to myself. This was working until one stray nut bounced along the wooden walkway and jumped out into the freshly growing grass, just a few centimeters away.

This seem to perplex the girls. They went right up to the edge of the boardwalk but refused to step on the grass. Instead they paced excitedly up and down, keeping an eye on that peanut morsel just a short distance away. Finally Blondie tried to get the nut. She dug her hind claws into grip holds in the wooden platform and tried to stretch her body as far as possible over the edge of the boardwalk without touching the ground. She succeeded and got her peanut reward. I purposely threw a few of these peanuts into the grass. Each time one of the girls took up this stretching posture to retrieve the nut. I then realised that they had not yet been taken by Spikey or Loonie onto the grass. They felt safe on the wooden boardwalk but they were not sure about the grass.

I found this amusing and so surprising. I would have thought that grass would have been something natural to squirrels but it would appear from my observations, they had to learn about it.

Although the girls would later not be as regular as Spikey in visiting, I always felt a particular thrill when they did come. It was almost like having grandchildren!

2 thoughts on “Squirrels – The Next Generation”

  1. Ah! Calvin … you are an astute observer of these beautiful creatures you so obviously love …

    … why is Spikey’s colouring so dark, is it a phase?

  2. Graham,
    Thanks. The Eastern Grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) naturally has two colorations. The majority have grey fur interspersed with some reddish hair but there is also a black (melanistic) variety. They squirrel ranges from Georgia in Southern USA up to Canada in the north. Interestingly, the melanistic variety is totally absent in the south of the range but increases to very significant numbers in the northern part of their range. Some speculate that the darker coat helps them keep warm in the colder north. My own theory is that they are remnants of escaping slave squirrels smuggled through the underground railway from the Confederate states to freedom in Canada. 🙂

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