I’ve been flipped off by a raccoon before. It stood on the fence with a mouthful of my grapes, ignoring my scornful scolding from my second floor window. The fat raccoon simply raised the middle finger and winked. I’m used to this kind of treatment from vermin and rodentia. In my last residence they walked from the walls and onto my pillow. We have a relationship.
We have battled and I have tried many techniques to control or influence them. I even blasted the Rush Limbaugh Show in the daytime at a family of nocturnal raccoons that refused to budge from the space above my ceiling. It didn’t work and they seemed to multiply under the sonic barrage.
I’m used to this kind of thing. I had to do things I’m not proud of to evict a shrew from my kitchen. The shrew tried my patience by outmaneuvering all my compassionate trapping methods and brazenly skittered around the kitchen floor, disappearing into nooks, cheeks-full of crumbs and debris I could swear I’d cleaned up.
Right now it’s pine squirrels. Are they trying to bother me? I hear their mocking laughter from a long way off. This time of year the chittering of the pine squirrel is accompanied by a rain of pine cones and pine needles and branches. Then more chittering. Are they throwing things at me?
This distracts my dog, Chooch. He’s part cocker spaniel, part poodle and a little bit shitzu. They told me at the shelter that he’s a shitz-doodle. I think the pine squirrels might be after my shitz-doodle as he has taken a couple of pine cones to the noodle.
It must be the season because both squirrels and chipmunks have moved into high gear. It’s like they are getting ready for something because they are busier than beavers with all the chittering, cone dropping and skittering. It’s nuts.
As offensive as the pine squirrels are they are no match for the “least chipmunks,” who are low to the ground and very annoying to my dog. Chooch sees one up on the trail and goes ripping after it, only to loose the little weasel in the underbrush. Chipmunks are quick-munks.
I’ve noticed that those little least chipmunks like dandelions. They shred the flowers, fill their large, fur-lined cheek pouches with seeds and leave a pile of dandelion debris for someone else to clean up. I often come across these chipmunks along the trail, sitting on hind legs, holding a flower in the front paws and nibbling like they are eating an ear of corn. It’s messy.
We have to live with it for now. Once the snow flies most of these critters either lie low and spend their time under the snow. They spend much of winter in a torpor, living off the fruits of their efforts, waking up only once in a while to gorge on the cached stash of pine and dandelion seeds. Lazy.
Least chipmunks are not true hibernators. Sometimes they are like pine squirrels, chilling out in a state of torpor from which they occasionally arouse to feed on seed.
Most of those rowdy cone-tossing pine squirrels will go for subnivean living in the winter, moving under the snow where they can hide from Woodsy Owl and other predators while enjoying the relative comfort of a constant 32 degrees.
Male pine squirrels are all single. When they find a female on her one day of estrus, a gang of males will fiercely compete with one other for the opportunity to mate. Her ladyship may choose one or more of the lucky macho male chitterboxes to ensure fertilization. She doesn’t want to waste her time with casual pursuits.
Last week I walked along the Fraser River Trail in Old Town Winter Park. I heard the familiar rustling, chittering and cone dropping associated with a busy pine squirrel. I put on a poker face, kept my impassive gaze straight ahead and walked on by. Strolling back up the trail I heard the chickaree working, but what was that rustling? Something bigger. I turned my head to the left and saw a seven-foot-tall moose sauntering toward me. I didn’t have the dog but I froze in fear for a moment. Time stood still as the moose towered over me. I backed away.
On my last walk through the woods above Redstone I was admonished by a pine squirrel and just missed getting bopped on the head by two freshly sheared pine cones. Walking home along the boulevard I spied a chipmunk that Chooch could certainly catch. It was flattened by a vehicle. Something I like to call a sail-chipmunk. We crossed the street, and although Chooch pulled at the leash for a closer look, I made him heel.
For now, I’m willing to put up with squirrels and the chipmunks with stripes under their eyes. They can laugh but the joke’s on them. Winter’s coming and they have to stay outside. They can knock, but they can’t come in. I’m just happy I live in a place where they don’t challenge me inside the house, on my pillow and in my kitchen.
Steve Skinner thinks we should live and let live, but be nice. Reach him at email@example.com.