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2006 05 17
Angle of Incident - 4
By Gary Michael Dault

Like a small gray
coffee pot
sits the squirrel.
--Humbert Wolfe, “The Gray Squirrel”, 1924.

In the case of this particular black squirrel, I’d say less a coffee pot than maybe a tea cozy.

The creature, by the way, isn’t ill—just sleepy. He has spread himself along a bough outside my study window (or she has spread herself—how can you tell? My partner, a woman herself, calls all squirrels “she”). He was leaping and springing about just a few minutes before I snapped him. I’m going on about this because I wouldn’t want anyone out there to think I had slipped him a mickey or anything, because he does look pretty dozy, I realize.

Poisoning squirrels is on my mind because they’ve been eating our tulips and we’re tired of it. Well, actually no, they don’t eat them; it’s even uglier than that: they just snap the blossoms off and leave them lying on the earth beside the now decapitated plant.

I mean, what’s the point? Is there perhaps some delicious sap-like liquid, irresistible to squirrels, coursing through the hollow drinking straw of the tulip’s stem?

So if Tom Lehrer can write and perform a gaily improper song about poisoning pigeons in the park, I can at least harbour demonic ideas about poisoning the vandal squirrels in our backyard.

I wouldn’t do it of course. I really like the little buggers. Although this particular close-up squirrel looks a tad unkempt and off-puttingly boneless, its eye a little less focussed than one would really have liked, they do seem awfully cute, in that darting, perky, glittery-eyed way we tend to think of as representing vitality and resourcefulness.

My partner, as friends have carefully pointed out, has encouraged their familiarity with our house and garden by feeding the squirrels all winter with chunks of not very stale organic breads and other delicacies far too good for them. I never felt the they showed much gratitude for these midwinter feasts, but it was fun to hear her refer to them all as “her” and “she”, as if there were some real understanding among them: “Oh look!” she would exclaim happily, pointing out one of her especial favourites, “she’s back for more!” She and all her girlfriends.

So we’re sort of stuck with all these Club-Med-like squirrels, lounging about and looking flint-eyed if we fail them. And in the meantime, they lop off our tulips.
These days, my partner is laying down a magic circle of Cayenne pepper about our flowers and that seems to be helping a bit. Somebody told us about using blood-meal, which the squirrels do not, apparently, like much, but we haven’t managed that yet.

I googled Squirrels in Toronto the other day, and turned up thousands of items about how the city was infested with what several writers called Tree-rats—all of which seemed self evident, if a little shrill. What I was looking for, in fact, was some idea of how many squirrels there actually were in the city—approximately anyhow—but nobody could give me the numbers. I figure you could do it by extrapolating from the squirrels in our backyard, and multiplying by the number of backyards in the city, adding in the public-park figures at the end. I figure it must come to a trillion or so.

[email this story] Posted by Gary Michael Dault on 05/17 at 02:04 PM

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