SpotlightThe Great Outdoors


Photo by G. Dewey Powell
I heard a report on TV recently that squirrels are getting fat. With the report was a picture, a photo, of two obviously fat squirrels sitting on their haunches. They were facing the camera and each had its forefeet together on its bulging belly. They were fox squirrels, the same species as the squirrels that come to the bird feeder outside my study window, orangish-gray on the head and back, orange on the ears, feet, bushy tail, chest and fat belly.

My wife would have called those squirrels “cute” but she wouldn’t have liked them. She didn’t like any squirrels. Whenever a squirrel got on my bird feeder and she saw it she banged on the window and scared it away. We put birdseed out for birds, not squirrels. Besides, squirrels occasionally raid bird nests and eat eggs and nestlings.

There’s a squirrel on the bird feeder outside my study window now, a fox squirrel, and there’s another on the ground nearby. The one on the feeder shelf is stretched out, not even sitting up, sunflower seeds under and around it. To me it looks content but it doesn’t look fat.

I’m not banging on the window. As far as I’m concerned, those squirrels are as entitled to the seeds I put out as the chickadees and nuthatches and titmice, the cardinals and blue jays and woodpeckers and other birds that take advantage of my feeder fare.

Squirrels have been of interest to me as long as birds have which is as long as I can remember. As a boy I watched squirrels and birds. Fox squirrels. They were common in the neighborhood, in the town where I lived and grew. They were also common in the woods along the river where I often walked when I got old enough that Mother and Dad allowed me to wander on my own.

My grandfather had the patience to stand under a big box elder tree in the neighbor’s yard, hold out one hand with a nut until a squirrel finally climbed down a branch close enough to take the nut. With time the squirrel began to take nuts as soon as Grampa offered them. Others followed suit. Eventually the squirrels got to recognize Grampa and whenever he went outside and walked toward that tree the furry little moochers gathered.

Fox squirrels are tree squirrels. That’s not an official classification but it does separate those squirrels that make their homes in trees from squirrels that live in holes in the ground. Other tree squirrels are gray squirrel, red squirrel and flying squirrel.

Squirrels are all welcome at my feeder though they must at least double the amount I spend for bird seed.

Neil A. Case

Neil A. Case

I have always liked the outdoors and birds and am a conservationist and an environmentalist. I don't write specifically about conservation but mix my opinion in with stories about a bird, a mammal, a plant or other outdoor subject. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer