Friday, January 11, 2013

The Year of the Squirrel

They seemed friendly, which was a good thing because my backyard population of squirrels was very large.  The squirrels appeared to be cute and harmless at first, but Courtney and I gradually began to notice that these swarms of squirrels were a force to be reckoned with.

The warning bells starting ringing in my head when I saw them hanging around the little shed in my backyard last fall.  The squirrels were preparing for winter and had decided that the colony would spend the winter months in my shed.  The fastened door and window was no obstacle to these fluffy tailed rats.  They chewed two squirrel size holes in the front of the shed for easy access.  After the holes had been chewed out, these enterprising squirrels invited their extended family to join them in the comfort of my shed.  

The shed was built right alongside a fence, and the top rail of the fence lined up perfectly with the hole that the squirrels had made.  Courtney and I began to watch with horror as the top rail of the fence became a super highway for all of the neighbourhood squirrels.  I briefly thought about painting a centre line on the top of the rail to prevent any head on collisions.  

Going in the shed quickly became a bit of an ordeal.  At first, the squirrels would scamper out of the shed as soon as I opened the door.  I could have lived with that.  As time passed, the squirrels must have sized me up and realized I was no threat to them.  When summer rolled to an end, the squirrels would no longer leave the shed when I walked in.  They merely stared down from the rafters at me with their beady little eyes and made threatening screeching sounds.

It was clear that I was no longer welcome in their shed.

At the end of the autumn season, I tidied up the shed for the advent of winter.  The squirrels watched me malevolently from their perch up in the rafters.

The winter passed by quickly, and I didn’t see the squirrels quite as much.  They would venture outside on the milder days and scamper around the backyard looking for anything edible.  I noticed that they were looking very well fed.  Could it just be their new winter coat?  By March, the squirrels were noticeably fatter and were not able to pop through the squirrel holes with such ease anymore.  I concluded that they must have stored a lot of food up in the rafters of the shed.

Spring finally arrived.  One early spring Saturday, I ventured out to the shed to pull out the lawnmower.  The grass was getting green, and I wanted to get the lawnmower ready by cleaning the deck and putting a new air filter in.  When I opened the shed door, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

The shed was a disaster.  The squirrels had obliterated a couple of cardboard boxes into tiny little pieces of confetti which must have been used for their wild winter parties in the shed.  Most stunning of all though was the jumbo bag of sunflower seeds that was in the shed.  The squirrels chewed the bag apart and ate every single sunflower seed.  The shells from the sunflower seeds thickly carpeted the floor, shelves, and even the rafters.  

The lawnmower tune-up was quickly forgotten (and buried under a heap of sunflower seed shells) as I started the clean-up efforts.  I shovelled out most of the seeds and shredded cardboard and planned to use my leaf blower to clean those hard to reach places.  I grabbed my extension cord and went to plug it in, when I noticed that the squirrels had chewed through the middle of the extension cord.  I looked back at the shed and could almost hear the squirrels snickering away. 

It was must have been quite the winter for those squirrels.  A whole clan of squirrels in a nice warm shed with an almost limitless supply of cardboard and sunflower seeds.  It will be the legendary winter that the squirrels will tell their children and grandchildren about.  “Chippy, let me tell you about the winter of ’12.  We were just young then, but those were the good ol’ days...”

A couple of months later, we had to say goodbye to our first little house.  It was time to move out and move on.  Despite our hostile regard towards each other, the squirrels were probably quite sad to see us go.  Life had never been so good for them.  Thankfully our new house seems to be squirrel-free so far.  I will not make the mistake of leaving a pantry of squirrel food in the shed this winter either.  Hopefully those squirrels never catch wind of where we moved to.

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