I came home recently to find a squirrel had left a small, half-eaten potato on my porch. He ate the fluffy inside but left behind the skin and a thick layer of potato meat. He’d apparently tried to eat the skin, too, but must have found it unsatisfactory because he kept spitting it out, leaving behind a spattering of peel that looked like confetti.
My husband, Bruce, said he was walking by our neighbor’s house last spring when a bagel came flying out of the sky and clocked him in the head. He then heard the distinctive cackling of a squirrel in the tree above.
“At first I thought maybe he dropped it,” Bruce said. “But I saw he had taken a bite. He obviously didn’t want the rest of it.”
Our friend, Patti, says she found half-eaten pizza bagels in a basket on her porch three days in a row.
The squirrels have always been pests. But in the last few years, it feels like they’ve been terrorizing our little town. They dig up the bulbs in spring. In the summer, they pluck tomatoes right off the vine at their peak ripeness, they take a bite, and then chuck them. In the fall, they’ll gnaw right through pumpkins and eat the kernels off of decorative Indian corn. And last winter, I’d left a box of home-made Christmas cookies on the porch of our friend, Joyce, who was out. When she returned, she thanked me but said she wasn’t sure what I’d given her. All she found was an empty box, a few scraps of tissue paper and a raisin.
I recently saw a squirrel feasting on someone’s garbage. Actually, all I saw was his derriere. He had savagely ripped open the garbage bag and had his head so far inside as he gorged himself that all I could see was his furry moon-shaped bottom. He was so busy, he didn’t see me until I was almost upon him. At that point, he pulled out his head, dropped the large yellow-stained something or other from his mouth – he had so mutilated it, I couldn’t tell what it was — and then ran.
To date, most of my interactions with squirrels have been predictable. I’m bigger than they are so they ruin my stuff when I’m not around, but as soon as I appear, they run. But last week, I encountered a squirrel that made me wonder whether the squirrels may soon have their day here. I was pushing Eddie in his stroller on the boardwalk when it began to rain, so we headed back into town to go home. I knew there were a few places along the route under which we could seek shelter in case it started to pour. Sure enough, it began to rain, and so we tucked ourselves under an outdoor wooden staircase at a church. The space under the staircase was shaped like an arch, and it was beautiful to peer out from under it. The lawns and bushes were glistening green with water. All the foliage was bushy and lush from days of rain.
As I looked out at the grass, I saw a squirrel slowly heading toward us. He was about 50 feet away. I pointed him out to Eddie, who is awed by anything that moves. I watched the squirrel inch forward a bit, and I kept still so that he would get closer, enabling Eddie to get a good, clear look. The squirrel did get closer, and closer, and closer, moving within 15 feet of us before he stopped. He moved in another couple of inches and then stopped. He moved in another couple of inches and then stopped. And every time he’d stop, he’d stand high on his hind legs giving us a clear frontal view of his gristlywhite belly and his front paws and long black nails that would just dangle in the air. I’d never seen a squirrel’s body and paws so clearly. They’re usually moving around a lot, and it’s all a blur. This one showed himself in all his rodent grandeur, and he seemed to have an arrogance, like he was saying, I’m not afraid of you. I will come over and bite if I want.
When he was about five feet away, he suddenly took a left and ran up the trunk of an oak tree that stood right in front of us. He started to move up the trunk on the far side but then swung around to the side nearest us and stopped. He then glared at us. I took a step toward him, stomping my foot on the ground as I moved forward. I expected the squirrel to run up the tree, but he just stood there. I took another step closer and then lunged my body toward him. He didn’t even flinch.
I saw a photograph in the newspaper the other day of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speaking to the country’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, and in it, Putin is leaning in toward Medvedev, and Medvedev is leaning backward, like he was trying to get away. The caption read, “Medvedev is Russia’s president, but Putin holds the power.” I felt like Medvedev.
I took one more step toward the squirrel and pretended I was about to run toward him, but he didn’t flinch. He not only stood his ground, but he moved a couple of steps toward us. I turned to Eddie, and said, “Let’s go,” and I grabbed his stroller and ran out into the rain before the squirrel attacked.
A few days later, I was walking the baby near the spot where we had seen the squirrel when I bumped into a friend. As we stood talking, a squirrel started to move toward us.
“Have you seen these squirrels? They’re crazy!” I said.
I watched as the squirrel moved toward us, completely unafraid. It was unnatural.
“See that? ” I said, pointing at it. “They don’t run away. Do you think they’re rabid?”
“Rabid?!?” she laughed. “Nooooo! People feed them all summer. That’s why they’re not afraid.”
It’s hard to distinguish sometimes between friendly and crazy.