Slices of Life...Feeding Earl
I've been feeding a squirrel. Please note the singular tense. Squirrel. Not squirrels. People don't typically feed squirrels. They feed birds and try to keep the squirrels from getting at the bird food. That's how it goes, usually.
I’ve been feeding a squirrel. Please note the singular tense. Squirrel. Not squirrels. People don’t typically feed squirrels. They feed birds and try to keep the squirrels from getting at the bird food. That’s how it goes, usually.
So I don’t feed multiple squirrels; I feed just one. He lives in my yard. I named him Earl.
I guess I’m not so much feeding him as attempting to train him to understand that when he sees a bright red bowl on the patio it contains scrumptious morsels. I use the same bowl, in the same spot, at the same time every day. When I walk outside with the bowl, I make a clicking sound to alert Earl with the message: “Food - incoming.” It’s my own attempt at classical conditioning. Like Pavlov with his dogs, except my dog is a salivating squirrel. I was a behavior analyst in another life. True story.
I provide just a tiny bit of food because I don’t want Earl to be dependent on me. He still needs to hone and rely on his survival instincts. I’m no meals on wheels, more like a snack benefactor.
Besides, I don’t want to feed all the squirrels in my yard. They’d probably tell their friends and pretty soon I’d have a squirrel overpopulation situation. Plus I don’t have any desire to be known as the squirrel lady.
I chose Earl over the others because he is the cutest. He frolics in the yard - there’s no other fitting description. He hops and digs and digs and hops with a glee not typical of rodents. I get a kick out of the way he holds his food in his little front paws. (I realize all squirrels do this, but Earl is especially adorable.) And he is black, so I am able to distinguish him from his gray cousins. Earl is my boy.
Except, I don’t know if he is a boy. You have to get really close to a squirrel to determine its sex. In other words, Earl could be a girl. But I’m not letting a detail like that get in the way of my science.
When I started this experiment, I was under the assumption that squirrels ate peanuts. They do, but there’s a problem with this practice. In a squirrel’s world, peanuts are the nutritional equivalent of cheese puffs. They are junk food, plain and simple.
So I decided to attempt to enhance rather than sabotage Earl’s diet. It’s what a friend would do. Google taught me squirrels are vegetarians, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Each day I’ve tried something new - in combination with a beloved peanut or two. I put a couple of grapes in his bowl. He nibbled on one. I tried a cherry tomato. Earl buried it. I gave him a big treat of a strawberry. He took one bite and tossed it aside. Corn was also discarded. Ditto that for a slice of cucumber and piece of banana. Today he rejected carrots, even though the Internet warned against letting squirrels gorge on carrots because most of them love carrots that much. Earl is not most squirrels.
He is a junk food junkie and wants only peanuts. Little stinker.
He’ll eat one and then bury the other. He’s got them scattered throughout the yard and I guess plans to dig them up come winter. This is plausible. According to my research, squirrels are quite adaptable, which equates to intelligence in the animal kingdom. They have the ability to envision 3D maps of the locations where they’ve buried their nuts (and in Earl’s case, a tomato). They can access this information days and even months later to find supper. I don’t have the brain capacity to create 2D maps, so Earl’s got my respect there.
Now if only I could get him to eat his vegetables.