Monday, September 10, 2012

Captain Death

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What: In college I started Ye Olde Lovable Li'l Scamps Feeding Clubbe (Y'olls FC). We collected stale bread from the dining halls and spent lunch hour on the quads hand feeding the squirrels. After a few days we could easily recognize one squirrel from the other by personality as well as by physical scars on each animal (more than not had some sort of visible scar on its face). It turns out squirrels lead a pretty tough life. One in particular, who we called Captain Death, had a large scar cutting diagonally down across his face. He was certainly the most skittish, but once we earned his trust he was the one that would approach first and stay the longest. Each time a new person joined us, Captain Death had to be won over again.

Many of the females had ragged ears or other signs of the hazards of living. Males with aggressively court females and defend access to them (see my post from May 7 for more on that). I assume that many of the scars on the squirrels were from squirrel-to-squirrel interactions during breeding season. Once we had the chance of watching a red-tailed hawk swoop down and steal a squirrel off the ground. The hawk was successful and we then watched it eat the squirrel. I imagine that not every attempt ends this way and that many a squirrel lives to climb another tree, hide another acorn, a scar as wide as a talon bears witness to the fact that squirrels are prey.

Well this morning my mom, Callan, and my sister were outside when they spotted this sad little earless squirrel. He was happily (well, as happily as he could have been) cleaning the husk from a walnut from the shell. I've been finding walnuts hidden everywhere around my backyard. The gash runs from his eye (barely visible in some of the photos) back towards his left ear (you can easily tell it's a male in the photo below), which is noticeably absent. The wound looks fresh and I haven't seen this scar before so I'm assuming it happened in the last couple of days (there's no blood on the fur, so it at least had a chance to clean that off).

Ecological notes: The squirrel was eating a walnut from our tree. This has definitely been a bumper year for walnuts and a red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) has been fiercely defending it, trying in vain to fend off the grays from stealing a snack.

Where: We spotted the squirrel on one of the wonders of the modern world of Latham Ct (the Silver Maple in my driveway).

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