rotating banner

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Species Spotlight #11: Eastern Gray Squirrel

Yet I assume you don’t share the same animosity with squirrels that you do with rats, do you? … But they’re both rodents, are they not? And except for the tail they even rather look alike, don’t they?
– Colonel Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds

This past weekend, I found myself walking down a forested trail at the local birding hotspot Mason Farm when suddenly I heard a rustling in the dead leaves to my right. My immediate instinct told me to find the source of the sound because it was probably a bird, right? No, of course, it was a squirrel, an Eastern Gray Squirrel to be exact. And then I heard rustling to my left – a second squirrel, and then a third along the trail in front of me and a fourth calling from a limb overhead.

That’s four squirrels in less than twenty feet’s worth of trail! These Eastern Gray Squirrels are by far the most common mammal in North Carolina, and you can find them pretty much anywhere, rural or urban. But why are squirrels so successful? I mean, as the shrewd Colonel Hans Landa put it, they’re basically just glorified rats with bushy tails. But there’s really more to it than that – squirrels are rodents more or less specialized for an arboreal lifestyle, and there are a lot of trees on the east coast. More so in the past than now, but squirrels appear readily adaptable, and have taken to urban living just as well as they did to their forested homes of yore.

Make no mistake - behind that blank state is a devious mastermind of an animal...

This particular squirrel was photographed by James coming to our bird feeders at home. In the winter, the squirrels will often feed alongside the towhees, juncos, and other ground-loving birds. Unfortunately, the squirrels will also find many innovative ways to break into our carefully guarded bird feeders, no matter the precautions we take. And perhaps that’s why they’re so successful – like most humans, or my dog, squirrels stand paramount among the mammals as an animal willing to travel great lengths to obtain food. No matter if it’s a trash can, a bird feeder, or an oak tree flush with acorns, a squirrel will find food even if it means competing with three other squirrels to find every morsel along a random trail in Mason Farm. It's really too bad they're so common –aside from that, they're actually pretty cool when you think about it!

No comments:

Post a Comment