Monday, July 13, 2015

Who doesn't hate squirrels?

 
Photo courtesy of Janet Rausa Fuller

   On Tuesday, the Northbrook Village Board is considering whether to ban the practice of setting out food for wild animals. While that is the typical thumb-twiddling leaders here engage in rather than doing anything productive, I understand the concern. The idea that people would set food out for squirrels and skunks and such just baffles me. It's like planting weeds.
     On the other hand, unless they're going to ban bird feeders—and no politician could do that and hope to be elected, it would be like banning toddlers—the effort is futile, since squirrels so readily climb them and eat the poor hungry birds' lunch (though not in my backyard, since, after years of trying, I have finally baffled them, quite literally).
     Anyway, I would say table the vote and consider more important things. But the effort did bring to mind this column where I declared my feelings for squirrels. 

     Squirrels scare me.
     Squirrels have, on occasion, menaced and attacked me. I hate them. Which makes it doubly ironic that, in my new home in the deep forests of Northbrook, I am surrounded by squirrels. I can feel their small, hard, coal-black eyes upon me.
     Normally, I would be too embarrassed to mention this. You probably love squirrels. You probably collect little china squirrel figurines and keep them in a special cabinet. How nice.
    But I'm trying to make sense of the other day, which turned into my Big Squirrel Day.
    It began with my oldest boy, gazing out the bedroom window. Suddenly, he shouted, "Call the police! Call the police!" I ran to the window. "What?" I asked. "Squirrels!" the 4-year-old said. "On the garbage can!"
    Indeed, there were two big ones, boldly perched on the lid, planning their next crime.
    Not two hours later I was visiting my pal Judy at WGN. "I have something in my office for you," she said, during a commercial break. My mind reeled, pondering expensive presents. You know how they pay these radio people. Someone had given her a Harley-Davidson. She had no use for it . . .
    What she had was a press release from the Squirrel Lover's Club. This week is the first "Squirrel Awareness Week." Joy.
    Ever look closely at a squirrel? They twitch as if they're about to explode, or have some terrible disease. I glanced at the release, put out by a fanatic in Elmhurst, filled with cold-comfort trivia such as the number of teeth squirrels have (22), including "chisel-shaped incisors in the upper and lower jaws."
    Of course they do. A squirrel once tried to chew its way into our bedroom. I heard my wife shrieking and there was a tremendous gnawing and scratching at the plastic accordion section around the air conditioner. A peep through the window confirmed that it was a maddened squirrel, trying to get us. The next few moments were like something out of a horror movie. This was not an isolated episode. On vacation, my family was eating around a picnic table at White Pines State Park when a squirrel charged up and tried to strong-arm our food.
     The thing terrorized us, hissing and spitting. My poor boys were upset, and I had to manfully fend off a squirrel in front of them. I defended our meal, if I recall, with an unopened can of baked beans.
     After trying to read over the ballyhoo for Squirrel Awareness Week and despairing of the subject, I stood up to stretch and gather my thoughts.
     So many squirrel lovers and people who get all squishy at the mention of any animal. Not worth antagonizing them, I decided. And to what end? To score points against squirrels? It's not as if they're going to change their ways.
     I turned toward the City Desk, and looked at the TV monitors bolted to the ceiling. Squirrels, and lots of them. Various critters and poses, touting Squirrel Awareness Week.
     "Squirrels," I said. "I hate those - - - - - - - squirrels."
     One of the hard cases at the desk agreed. "Blanking squirrels," he said. So it isn't just me. There are at least two of us.
      Buoyed by this sign of solidarity, I returned to my desk, and read: "In some circles . . . squirrels spelled doom on a house."
     This dislodged the most disturbing squirrel memory of all. A few days after we bought the house, I was walking out front, along the hedge. Just as I turned the corner, into our yard, I saw a squirrel pulling itself toward the house with its front paws, back legs dragging uselessly behind it.
     I had never seen a paralyzed squirrel before, and couldn't imagine how it would happen -- a fall? A terrible illness; the things are silly with disease. It was a haunting sight.
     There is one consolation, however. Winter is coming. The miserable beasts sleep, right? They hibernate, don't they? Good Lord, I hope so.

   —Originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 5, 2000

24 comments:

  1. I dislike squirrels as well, but more worthy of my dislike is what you described. Government entities fiddling while Rome burns. Residents put garbage out, no? The birds, raccoons, opossums, crows, etc., ravage those 4 millimeter bags like no bodies business. Do they mandate galvanized aluminum trash cans with animal proof lids to prevent such horrors? No. Too unsightly on our grassy parkways. And yet they can find time to nominate the pumpkin pie as Illinois' official state pie. Go figure.

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  2. Advocate of the Anti-ChristJuly 13, 2015 at 6:27 PM

    I love squirrels and feed them. And nothing can stop me.

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  3. Winter is coming is never a consolation for anything. I detest squirrels from the time as a kid they'd eat fruit off our trees. And it's amazing anyone is stupid enough to put food out for skunks?

    We have our bird feeder on a metal pole and squirrels can't get to it. Plus, in our newer subdivision the trees are small yet. So no problem there.

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  4. Some of those village hall people are so smug and think they are so important. Usually it's a clique.

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  5. Yes, squirrels can cause damage indeed. They got into my father in laws attack and he had to pay plenty to get them out. They can bite too.

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  6. Skunks are worse, if they ever spray ones dogs in ones backyard. And they have rabbis.

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  7. This is what we call a "first world problem". Amusing, but please...

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    1. Yes, it isn't about starvation in Africa. Nothing here is. If you're looking for that, you're in the wrong place.

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  8. My Dad told me when I was five to beware of squirrels because they could be rabid. I've stayed as far away as possible since then.

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  9. I'm fond of squirrels, even though they infested the attic of the first house I owned and wouldn't leave until I scattered mothballs in the attic, but my wife hates them, not because they'll eat anything. I fact, they're very picky, but they'll take a bite out of anything, spoiling at least half of whatever she's growing out there in the back yard.
    John

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  10. Physical therapy is a useful tool for overcoming phobias. Next time you see a squirrel point your index finger at it thumb up, bend your thumb at a 90 degree angle, and say psssh. It works for me!

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  11. I still love squirrels, and no, they don't carry rabies! They almost never get rabies and have never been know to transmit rabies to humans.
    Although I love them, it's not in a "bunnies and chickies" kind of way. It's more like "live and let live"; they're not hurting anything any more than those precious birds that we feed. While the birds deserve food while the squirrels deserve nothing but scorn?

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  12. Maybe because birds are beautiful and symbolize freedom, and squirrels are first cousins to rats?

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    1. Seeing as how we're second or third cousins, I wouldn't get all high and mighty about that, Gary. ; )

      I agree with Marsha. I like squirrels, too, and given the limited nature of my interaction with any of them, pretty much in a "bunnies and chickies" kind of way...

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  13. Jak, no, we aren't 3rd cousins to squirrels. And hard to believe some poor in the hills would eat those, including Lincoln as a kid.

    But we may be closer cousins to chimps.

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    1. People still eat those fuzzy tailed rats. There's hundreds of recipes, and the DOC gives instructions on how to clean and cook them. Some wild game dinners even serve squirrel. I tried it years ago, and I don't recall any freaky taste or anything. Like nutty rabbit, I guess.

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  14. I hope, NS, you called animal services to come get that injured squirrel.

    No, thanks, Nikki. And I won't eat rabbit either.

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    1. Well, I'm not exactly jumping at the chance to eat it again, but it's good to know the the gag reflex won't kick in if I have to have it. You know, in case of zombie apocalypse or complete Republican control of the country, which just might be the same thing.

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    2. lol, good one

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  15. I'll take squirrels over raccoons and possums any day.

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  16. I live in a western suburb. Late last fall, my truck was dead in the driveway on my way to work in the morning. I flagged husband down, but no amount of jumping it would start it up. I called in to work and called a tow truck. 4 hours later I was told that squirrels had been building a nest in my truck on a ledge, leaving some nuts and stuff there. The bastards had chewed through the wiring. Cost me almost $500 to have it fixed, not to mention the money I lost not getting to work that day. That, combined with the fact that they decimate our garden and our fruit trees, means I hate them with a special passion that hopefully consigns them to the lowest, most painful level of Dante's Hell. Fiona from Wheaton--Hi Neil!

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  17. An elderly relative who shall remain unnamed may have been known to nail the varmints with a pellet gun. But this is purely hearsay, of course.

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  18. Why do these critters need feeding anyways? Doesn't their chosen longtime habitat come with food?

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