“Every once in a while, the squirrels get out of hand, and we had to shoot them all.” So read the “owner’s manual” the family who built our homestead wrote for whoever bought their property. We’ve kept that in mind, but for almost five years have lived peacefully with the resident red squirrels—with notable exceptions.
Not anymore. Our population has steadily grown until we have too many squirrels running around, stealing insulation out of the buildings, building nests in inconvenient places, teasing the cat to distraction, practically underfoot at all times. We’re beginning to get flea bites working in the yard and garden, it won’t be long till that problem moves indoors if we’re not careful.
Oddly, it came to a head Saturday morning, a day when blood lust seemed to be in the air. Our bight buzzed with activity, sea lions patrolled, a pair of whales cruised slowly through, eagles chattered in the tree tops. I’d just put new line on my favorite fishing rod, and bent on a hot pink buzz bomb, the lure that seems to work best for Dolly Varden. Our neighbor, passing in his kayak, told us of new herring shoals along the beach. All of our community was on the hunt, and that enthusiasm extended to finally addressing the growing squirrel problem.
Now I’m armed whenever I step out the door, ready to shoot squirrels on sight. I even go to the outhouse with my air rifle slung over my shoulder.
My success, so far, has been mixed. I may be getting more than I think, as some are only wounded, and continue to flee. They move awfully fast, and blend in so well, it’s rather tough.
It’s hard to say yet if the squirrels have connected the unexpected deaths in their company or the mysterious impacts near them to me. Probably not, I don’t think they’re that smart. But, a mostly shredded spruce cone left in the middle of the doormat Saturday after I started shooting did seem like someone was trying to send a message. It’s so hard not to anthropomorphize, particularly with bright eyed, cute and fuzzy critters.
The problem becomes what to do with the kills. Red squirrels are a fraction of the size of the large gray squirrels my grandfather hunted as a young man in the midwest. Many of our locals are young, and even smaller than their adult counterparts. Skinning them for food seems hardly worth the effort. Around here, someone will eat them, if not us. I laid one kill out on a rock on the beach until I decided what to do with it. A raven came and picked it up, but as it flew off, a young bald eagle swooped down on it. The Raven barely made it into our windbreak, where it finished its meal in peace, while the eagle sat on the beach and watched for it to re-emerge. The raven’s mate came and chased the eagle away, eventually.
As I say, blood lust.