Monday, September 16, 2019


Squirrel at bird feeder

Author Beatrix Potter may have been enchanted with squirrels when she wrote The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, but she did portray Squirrel Nutkin as saucy and badly-behaved and almost had an owl eat him for his misbehavior. I readily agree with Potter’s portrayal of Squirrel Nutkin since an army of such ill-behaved tail swishers have invaded my backyard and sit underneath our new bird feeder waiting for sunflower seeds to fall from heaven when it’s filled daily. The feeder has a black baffle to keep them from climbing the pole, but I’ve heard they can chew through metal.

These bushy-tailed rodents are a nuisance, and I’m thinking of finding a Mr. Brown, the owl, to eat a few of them, or at least for the owl to use its talons to pull the squirrels’ tails in two when they try to scamper away (as reported in The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin). I know that I’m at risk of being called an animal hater, but we’ve worked hard at ordering a bird feeder, putting it together, and furnishing it with the right kind of seed to attract the birds we thought a Merlin hawk had done away with several weeks ago. However, the squirrels love to make the nuthatches and titmice scatter when they come to feed, and I’m not sure they don’t sometimes catch and consume the tiny birds.

After all, these critters are just rodents, and I don’t like the sight of them sitting under the bird feeder, frightening my feathered friends away. Thank goodness we don’t have any flying ones in the backyard… just big-eyed critters that come down our oaks head first, ready to pounce on our birds, long incisors bared.

I’ve never hankered after squirrel stew, but I know that James Beard has a recipe, and in south Louisiana, it’s been a favored dish (Cajuns, they say, will eat anything. Consider the mudbug!). My mother was known for stirring up a squirrel stew in a black iron pot she placed over a wood fire in the living room fireplace, thinking this arrangement made the dish more authentic and tasty. I never dared to taste it and am glad I didn’t. Nowadays, those stews are banned because squirrels are often exposed to toxic waste and in some locales have been known to cause certain types of dementia.

Thank goodness, we don’t have a colony of white squirrels in the backyard. These unusual critters often frequent university campuses because students bring them in, touting that the albino squirrel brings good luck — campuses in Texas, Kentucky, and Ohio, to name a few. So far, only gray squirrels seem to have taken up residence on the Sewanee campus,

Although squirrels symbolize energy and socialization, and orphaned ones who’ve been raised by foster human parents will return to their parents. I can’t imagine taking one in to raise. I do know my backyard squirrels aren’t Cajun immigrants because they don’t like cayenne pepper, garlic, and black pepper — perhaps because they sense that those seasonings are always used in a tasty stew or gumbo of which they may become the chief ingredient.

Photography by Victoria I. Sullivan

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