Friday, October 7, 2011

I Can't Find My Nuts!

(originally posted September 4, 2011)

As the days progress towards fall, we find ourselves thinking of things like back-to-school (congratulations parents, you made it through another summer!), apple cider, colorful leaves, and squirrels. What? Fall doesn’t make you think of squirrels? It could be said that squirrels really always live a crazed life, but fall is especially busy for these bushy-tailed seed thieves as they prepare for the inevitable winter.

Unlike their close chipmunk relatives, squirrels do not hibernate. They remain active all year, from the hottest days of summer to the coldest days of winter. Their diet consisting largely of seeds, fruit, and insects, squirrels can often have a difficult time finding food in the winter. To survive the winter, squirrels spend a great deal of time collecting and storing food. And when it comes to collecting food, squirrels are masters. They can scramble up and down trees without effort, thanks in part to their incredible hind feet, which can rotate 180 degrees to face backwards so that they can have an extra grip when descending head-first. Besides using their agility and sheer determination to collect wild foods, squirrels are equally talented in acquiring food from us, through our bird feeders. There is quite a bit of money to be made in squirrel deterrent devices and methods, and for every method, there seems to be a squirrel that can defeat it. In my case, the squirrels have found their easy pickings in my compost pile. Darn things chewed right through the plastic box!

After collecting their food, squirrels will bury it underground in spots all throughout their territory. When food becomes sparse in the winter, all the squirrel has to do is retrieve his cache. Sounds easy enough, right? Not really. For every four acorns a squirrel buries, it will forget where it hid three of them. Apparently remembering that you hid your acorn “under a brown leaf by the stick” isn’t a very good strategy. Somehow the squirrels seem to get enough to eat however, and the acorns that are forgotten rejuvenate the forest by growing into new oak trees.

This fall, have fun watching the squirrels go crazy-go-nuts as they prepare for the winter months ahead. Me, I’ll be making preparations of my own as I install some heavy-duty wire mesh on my compost box.

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