[Tweeters] A Three Squirrel Day

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sat Aug 9 08:55:06 PDT 2014


Yesterday morning was the start of a great Port Townsend day - a Sciurid Day!
Sciurid Day? - what's that, you might wonder. Sciuridae is the family of Squirrels, and I saw three species of these perky daytime rodents as I walked through Fort Worden park.
Now, I know that seeing three species of squirrels in a day is not a big deal for many of you, but I have been squirrel deprived in recent decades. In past decades I used to work and play out in great squirrel habitat - forest campgrounds, in particular, are often swarming with the noisy fur balls.So I grew up squirrel rich.
First sciurid of the day was a Townsends Chipmunk - rarely seen in more developed lowland areas I typically hang out in Snohomish county. I've only seen one in north Everett.
Next was that noisy squirrel of the conifers, the Douglas Squirrel , or Chickaree, which, while common in the forest, also doesn't like being in town so much. Fort Worden has a big patch of fir forest they like.
Last squirrel of the day gave me the exciting total of three, but with mixed feelings. That's because it was an Eastern Gray Squirrel - an introduced species. When I first arrived in Port Townsend for my current tour of duty at Alzheimer's Acre, I didn't see any Gray squirrels for months. "Yay!" I thought " them Gray squirrels haven't got here yet!". I was wrong, because after being here a few months I started seeing them around town. Now even in the woods at Fort Worden. Invaders!
So much for ecological purity. When I was a kid, one would have to go to a Seattle city park, with a bag of peanuts, to see an Eastern Gray squirrel - now they are all over! Of course the big beautiful Gray squirrel at Fort Worden, presumably born in Washington state, is no more or less a native here than I am. " Hey anglo, why don't you go home, play with your computer, and leave us animals alone!" the squirrel might justifiably use as a comeback.
With some invasive species, the population control technique of "if you can't beat 'em, eat 'em" works somewhat. Squirrel hunting is popular in the native haunts of the Gray squirrel back east, down south, etc.
Gray Squirrel tastes good! I haven't eaten an Eastern Gray yet, but I have eaten a Western Gray Squirrel.( I should quickly note that this was in California - the species is threatened in Washington state ). That was in Marin county several decades ago, when I came across a fresh road kill and picked it up. Back at the ranch (Palomarin, of the Pt. Reyes Bird Observatory) I carefully skinned it and then roasted it in a little toaster oven. Yummy.
At the time I had just began investigating making study skins, so I stretched the squirrel skin out on a board. Alas, being distracted by my new job as bird bander, and lacking the proper skin prep supplies, I let the squirrel hide dry hard as a board, thus ruined as a study skin. Probably influenced by beer, or whatever, I tossed the squirrel hide to someone at a get together, and discovered that the thing was remarkably aerodynamic - it would sail straight as far as one could throw it.
Thus 'Rocky the Flying Squirrel' was created. Rocky survived a few of my rural moves before succumbing to insect damage and returned to the earth. Maybe the original owner of the skin is still flying around as spirit , or possibly reborn as a new squirrel somewhere without roads.
Jeff Gibsonsquirrelly , inPort Townsend Wa





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