Nuts About Squirrels

By Lenore Skenazy

June 4, 2020 4 min read

This is not a column about antibodies, cops, COVID-19, killer wasps, missing bees, vaccines, ventilators, The New York Times, politics, protests, deer ticks, flour shortages, meat shortages, yeast shortages or shortening bread shortages (which, as far as I know, don't exist).

It's a column about squirrels.

Because sometimes, you just got to write about something small and furry and, to many of us, insanely cute.

If you happen to go outside this time of year, and you live anywhere in the vicinity of earth — or maybe even if you are jammed into the SpaceX capsule — chances are you will see a squirrel or two. To some, this is an event worthy of a shrug. To some, it is worthy of a, "Get off my lawn!" or even, "Get off my fawn!" (because those are pretty ubiquitous, too). But then there are those who see a squirrel and can't stop wondering, "Why can't I be a squirrel, too?" And perhaps your columnist is one of them.

Not that I would enjoy an all-nut diet, but in fact, though squirrels LIKE nuts, they are actually omnivores. In fact, one thing that some of them eat (warning: I have just read a LOT of websites about inamabilis sciurus) is rattlesnake skin. After chewing it up, the squirrels lick themselves, and voila, no one invites them over to watch the game anymore. But that's OK because first of all, there are no games anymore. But it's also OK because no predators who were hunting by smell will pounce upon them either. Because now we ... er ... the squirrels smell like poisonous snakes.

What other clever things do squirrels do, you ask? (Oh, you didn't? Are you sure? I'm pretty sure I heard someone say, "Clever ... squirrels do," and there's no one here but us two. Or us three, if you count my other me, who is a squirrel.)

So, sometimes a bright-eyed little guy will busily dig a hole, put "something" in it and then fill the hole very, very carefully so no one will EVER come looking to steal what is obviously a VERY VALUABLE treat buried there except ... FOOLED YOU! It's all a shell game. There is nothing in that hole, and you can just imagine me ... er ... the squirrel giving a very furtive smile, knowing it has just pulled off the bushy-tailed equivalent of "Ocean's 14: This Time It's Tufted."

Another squirrel pastime is gnawing. In fact, squirrels' front teeth grow 6 inches a year, which is why if they ever stopped gnawing, they would look like tiny walruses. Rodents get their name from the Latin "rodere" which means — you guessed it (yes, you again) — to gnaw. So, that's what squirrels do, and in the process, they often gnaw through electrical lines. This has resulted in hundreds of power outages over the years, including two shutdowns of the Nasdaq stock market, in 1987 and 1994.

Impressed by us NOW?

There are 200 kinds of squirrels, ranging from the tiny 5-inch-long African pygmy squirrel to my tubby brother-in-law ... I mean ... to China's red-and-white giant flying squirrel, which can grow up to 3 feet long. It is hard having him to the tree for Thanksgiving.

But perhaps the most amazing fact I dug up (expecting to find a nut) is that in 1856, it was so unusual to see a squirrel in my town of New York City that a group of folks gathered to gawk at a gray squirrel in Central Park. Cities brought the urban squirrel population back from near extinction by introducing them back to the parks.

Thank goodness they did, or I wouldn't be here today.

Lenore Skenazy is president of Let Grow, founder of Free-Range Kids and author of "Has the World Gone Skenazy?" To learn more about Lenore Skenazy ([email protected]) and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: 631372 at Pixabay

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