December 29, 2006

A Squirrel is Eating my Outside Christmas Lights

Swear to God–saw them doing it. The chewed up, blue plastic led-bulb cover was abandoned on the porch beneath the cut wires you see in this picture. And this is the second string of lights they have ruined. They sampled several of the bulb covers on the first one (after nipping each free of the wires), perhaps hoping to find a ripe one–much as they used to sample and discard each of the young pomegranates growing out back before I trained our orange cat Timmy to sleep on the shed roof right next to the tree.


Cindy and I have a long history of arguments about these bushy-tailed rats. She objects to my doing anything at all to keep them from eating my whole garden, and whenever one pauses on a window sill, looking in like a little professor in brown tweed, she names it. Christ. There are Millions of them around here, and cars are the only predators. I tried once to trap and relocate some of the more savy ones, but that didn’t make a dint in the population and then Cindy found out and said I had probably caused whole nests of baby squirrels to starve. So I don’t do that anymore, although I am thinking about treating some of them with hair dye to make them look like skunks. Timmy is better than the plastic hawks people put up the scare them away. He will chase them but has reached the point of conserving energy even when they bark at him from a few feet away. I wouldn’t mind sharing the fruits of my garden with the squirrels, but they don’t want that–they want it all, and they want it when it is green, and they don’t like it green, but they move right on to the next green possibility (or blue, in the case of the lights). I gave Cindy pause recently when I hit upon the splendid argument that she — a vegetarian — only gets all of those fruits and vegetables because somebody has solved the pest problem for her. But, a good observation only goes so far, and truth be told — I felt bad about pointing that out. I’m thinking of taking up falconry, though. And I hear that Pine Martens prey on squirrels. I wonder if they could be induced to take a fancy to warmer climates, where oak and pecan trees are no doubt much easier to climb….


  1. Deron Bauman on December 30th, 2006 at 12:49 am

    I see the two of us in black toboggans sporting breath-right strips silently scanning your backyard for signs of the little critters until startled by the sound of Cindy’s sneaker stepping on a twig slowly making her way — broom in hand — toward us.

  2. John Buaas on December 30th, 2006 at 8:01 am

    On a related note, while I was visiting my mother in Austin, the American-Statesman had a fairly lengthy blame-the-victim story (with illustrations) about how squirrels can (and often do, to the tune of about 700 times a year in Austin) short out transformers.

    Those squirrels. If only they had better schools, or at least advocates for them like those for birds who got the power companies to make sure the insulation around their wires didn’t shock perching birds. I hate to be thought of as infantilizing any victimized group, but: perhaps they are, or should be, the Urbanites’ Burden.

  3. Lynn Bauman on December 30th, 2006 at 8:52 am

    Ah, Daryl, the perennial arguments between “hunters” and “gatherers.” Good luck! LB

  4. Cindy Scroggins on December 30th, 2006 at 9:51 am

    I would never wear sneakers.

  5. Sheila Ryan on December 30th, 2006 at 10:10 am

    Squirrels. Transformers. On my rural property is one of those honking-big ‘security lights’ that passes for a street light out here in the sticks, and one day its transformer sure did short out a squirrel. A guy from the Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association revived the transformer but not the squirrel, whom, incidentally, I held blameless.

  6. Cooper on December 30th, 2006 at 10:42 am

    When the squirrels in Austin short out the transformers [and, presumably, your Christmas strings, Daryl], do they also short out themselves? Is this activity a kind of suicide on the part of an allegedly small-brained rodent?

  7. Daryl Scroggins on December 30th, 2006 at 11:45 am

    Sheila: Egyptian–as in B F Egypt?

    Coop: My Christmas lights are the low voltage sort, so the squirrels just jump a little when they bite through and then get right back to work. Like Sheila, though, I have seen them go instantly cartoon black on a transformer, with nothing but a little ascending smoke ring left of them. A couple of years ago they tried to get into our attic through the little hole that the air conditioning unit wires go through. Apparently the wires were in the way, so they fixed that, and it cost me $300 to get them replaced. (Hint: put steel wool in such small holes and squirrels will back away from that path.)

    I’m interested in the thought I often encounter that the squirrels = Nature and humans = the artificial. The squirrels have just exploited an opportunity that we have made for them (ample food, good shelter, few predators), and their population explosion is similar to our own in many ways. I’m privately very pleased when I see “wild” animals stealing into town and setting up camp to feast on our wasteful abundance. So far, here in Dallas and 5 minutes from the center of the city, I have seen: squirrels (!); rabbits; opossums; racoons; a weasel; a Coyote; some Very large rats; a gray fox–and that’s just some of the mammals. Lots of birds and reptiles you might not expect as well. I think some of these animals might well outlast the human species.

  8. Sheila Ryan on December 30th, 2006 at 11:58 am

    Well, yes, Daryl, as a matter of fact. Very much so!

  9. John Buaas on December 30th, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    Coop: the article not-so-delicately described the squirrels as “crispy” upon shorting out the transformers, so that’s a second of Daryl’s comment.

    Daryl: I read somewhere, years ago, in an article on some animals’ adaptability that, if people could be trusted to leave them alone, black bears would make out quite well in the Borough of Manhattan.