Sunday, February 22, 2009

A crisis for squirrels

(By Lucinda Fleeson -- Published in the Washington Post, January 17, 2009)
Some call them tree rats. At times the Capitol Hill squirrels are rapacious and naughty, digging up my bulbs and throwing dirt around. I've threatened to shoot them. But their antics of running along the utility wires like tightrope artists, or chasing each other round and round, up and down tree trunks, have endeared them to me. I guess it's not surprising that these medium-sized rodents, in the family Sciuridae, subspecies politico, would be a tad more aggressive; they populate a neighborhood with more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed former student council presidents than any other on the planet.
So when the news emerged that oak trees produced no acorns this year, I worried.
Usually at this time, the squirrels dig holes with great diligence, all over gardens, tucking away acorns by the hordes. None of the forest or wildlife experts offer any reason for the acorn drought. They warn of runty animals and predict that the squirrel population will be decimated, slowly starved. Many might make a case that we actually could do with a population reduction. But a squirrel famine has repercussions all up and down the food chain. Fewer squirrels means fewer prey for hawks and other carnivores. (continued at:

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