I want to share a story, which blog post I was tempted to entitle “Animals Never Forget” (at least when it comes to food anyway). That statement makes me think of elephants which reportedly never forget … that’s not just for peanuts, but there are many heart-warming tales I’ve read about baby elephants rescued by humans in the wild, then they forevermore trail after those people, lumbering along, occasionally grabbing onto them with their trunk, like a friendly handshake or a loving gesture.
Now, I don’t interact with elephants, but I do so with squirrels and birds on a regular basis, as anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows. These stories were not at Council Point Park, but at my house.
It was a mid-afternoon in May when I opened the front door to check the mail. Our eyes met and though it was approximately 25 feet away, there was a flicker of recognition on both our parts. I continued watching this stranger for a minute or so, who then went back to nibbling on a slice of pizza.
Suddenly, there was a move reminiscent of the videos that went viral of “Pizza Rat” (the rodent that dragged a slice of pizza down a set of stairs in a New York subway and then in this video along a street grate. (Click here if you missed it.)
I watched this wiry little black squirrel dragging a humungus slice of pizza across the street and then handily depositing it on my City property. It then stood on haunches and eyed me again. I finally opened the screen door to check the mail and that squirrel made a beeline for the front porch.
You may recall I fed peanuts to a passel of critters every morning on my front porch for several years. I had quite the following, many pair of critters, not unlike Noah collected for his Ark. There were two Blue Jays, two Cardinals, two Eastern Gray squirrels, two Black squirrels, one Fox squirrel and one poor squirrel that had no fur, not even on its bushy tail, the worst case of mange I’ve ever seen. I gave that poor soul the moniker of “Willard” as it looked like a rat. I wrote about and photographed my collection of critters, especially Grady, one of the gray squirrels, who was especially cute and incessantly begged for peanuts. Then, in the span of a few weeks’ time in Spring 2020, all of these squirrels were gone. I asked my neighbor, whose workplace was closed due to COVID and he was logging lots of TV time at the front window, if he’d seen “my squirrels” and he told me a Coopers Hawk was often across the street in a big tree and no doubt my squirrels had become his prey. I felt sick to my stomach about their horrible demise and stopped feeding everyone immediately.
Because Willard was completely furless, I never knew what species of squirrel it was, but it was exceptionally tiny, especially with no fur on its body or even his tail. I’m convinced this black squirrel is Willard, who escaped the talons of that Coopers Hawk and just like the story about the “Ugly Duckling” Willard has emerged into a beautiful little squirrel. I’ve been feeding it daily and had to stop checking the mail in the afternoon as it scoped me out, licking its lips while scrambling down the tree thinking “yay, Linda put out more peanuts for me!” I wouldn’t get time to open the mailbox lid before this little nipper was at the porch in begging stance.
I’ve named this cutie pie “Two-Tone” for obvious reasons.
Sure, Two-Tone is sleek with shiny black fur …
… but that bushy golden tail looks like a bottle blonde two months into the pandemic, sporting ugly black roots. 🙂
I think it’s a female, but I’m not sure. This recent picture I got in a tree seems to indicate it’s a nursing mom. Two-Tone never stops long enough for me to really check him/her out. In the driveway it gives me wide berth and makes a beeline to the bushes, then to the porch for peanuts. I continually witness this cautious behavior of going to the porch via the cover of bushes which gives credence to the theory it IS Willard, i.e. perhaps Two-Tone saw the fate of its friends rushing out in the open to get their share of peanuts.
I’ve only got two photos outside; the rest are from the front door. It’s scared of me, but braver when the screen door separates us. I have to laugh as Two-Tone is hanging out near the front door every morning when I open it … it wants to get a jump on the Cardinals and Jays who once again have returned for their fair share of peanuts.
Meanwhile, last Monday morning I was checking for storm damage after severe weather Sunday night. I walked into the backyard and saw a hairy gray critter with a white face. I immediately recognized an opossum but we both looked at each other like “who are you and what are you doing here?” I was taken aback, instantly regretting I didn’t have my camera handy, as I’d only dashed out to check the A/C grille for tree debris from the storm so I could turn the A/C on. Of course I was tempted to assign him/her a name … “Oscar the Opossum” or “Petunia the ‘Possum” – no, I decided on neither, as I really don’t want to encourage it to hang around, even if an opossum eats 5,000 ticks a season and we have a tick infestation due to the wonky weather.