Northern Virginia squirrels are in crisis. There are no acorns this year. Even Arlington National Cemetery is without its usual acorn ground cover.

 

According to the Washington Post, squirrels are going nuts, running out in front of cars, gobbling up bird seed and are very thin. Squirrel roadkill is at an all time high.

 

A friend of mine reported a squirrel convention at her house because she had some corn husks in her yard for Halloween decoration. I had bought potted sunflowers last summer. Something kept biting their heads off. I finally caught one of the culprits. Yup. A squirrel.

 

So what is going on? Some speculate that there was simply too much rain this spring. In fact, we got 3 times the usual rate. Since oak is a cross pollinator, perhaps all the pollen got washed away. Other scientists suggest that global warming and climate change might be behind the mysterious lack of acorns.

Basically, no one knows but the zero acorn population this year has not been witnessed before. In other words, the scientists are baffled.  Oaks live between 200 and 300 years, depending on specific species, and will probably survive. But expect a lot of dead squirrels this year. They will starve because of lack of food.

 

If you decide to help feed squirrels, be warned, they will eat through literally anything to get to food and they make a big mess tearing up stuff. They love peanuts (and will fight blue jays for them) and they cannot resist sunflower seeds. Some years they are just too lazy to bother with corn husks but my informants in Westgate tell me that is not the case this year.

Will you feed the squirrels or is it encouraging bad habits?  Should nature just rule in this case?  How will the deer handle not having acorns?  Is it global warming?

 

 

 

22 thoughts on “Lo, The Poor Squirrel

  1. Censored bybvbl

    I read the same article. I’m a softie when it comes to animals. I’ll feed them. In fact I’ve thrown three or four handfuls of peanuts their way today.

    I haven’t taken an inventory of acorns in the yard this year. I know there are some around because I crunched a few walking up my friend’s driveway last week. Last year we had such a glut that we had three bucks munching them across the street from my house – after I ran them out of my garden for munching my plants. There’s something funny about a deer with a three foot strand of lysimachia hanging out of its mouth.

    I know acorn production is sporadic but hadn’t known that it was so minimal this year until reading the Post article. We have foxes, raccoons, possums,and deer as well as squirrels to worry about. I’ve seen all of those animals under my birdfeeders at one time or another.

  2. Chris

    Censored/M-H,
    I can’t believe you to are such softies for these fluffy tailed rodents.

    The squirrels will not be getting fed on good ole Lafayette. Those rascally rodents chose to chow down on my fall decorations, and I’m surprised they haven’t taken the bails of hay apart to build nests with. I have two 70+foot oak trees, and there’s quite a few acorns in my backyard. I can’t walk out there in my bare feet because of the nuts.

    Are some cities still considered “Bird Sanctuary City”? I thought someone had declared WG as a “Squirrel Sanctuary Subdivision”. There were 30 squirrels in my front yard, the yard directly across the street, and in the middle of the road. They all had big ears of corn with the husks still on them. It reminded me of the Hitchcock movie “The Birds”, only modern day version “The Squirrels”. Those jokers sat right on my porch as I walked in. I think they thought they’d be coming inside with me.

    We have also, have the same wild life you mentioned censored, and this past spring there was the biggest bunny population I’d ever seen around here. They certainly don’t have the radar squirrels do. They were the top road kill over here this spring.

  3. Marie

    I am sure there is a shortage of acorns. Have you seen all the houses that have been built in the past couple of years. Acres and acres of trees were knocked down. I am sure some of them were oaks.

    We have what seems to be hundreds of squirrels in our yard. This is the first year, however, that I have seen them eating the helicopters (seeds) that fall from the maple trees.

    I will probably feed them, too. I usually put out bird seed for the birds so I suppose I will put something out for the squirrels. Of course, their presence in the yard will drive my beagle crazy.

  4. Moon-howler

    Thank you Chris and Censored for the pastoral view of Prince William County. How do you feel about crows, speaking of scavengers?

    I don’t even see the deer in that field that is right past the rest station on I-66 any more. Once those pipes moved in, the deer moved out.

    Chris, keep me posted on your squirrel wars. This might be the time to eat your famous words.

  5. Moon-howler

    Marie, I have not seen them eating helicopters yet and I have a million of those. I don’t have a large acorn bearing oak but my neighbors do.

    I just wonder why there are so few acorns. Other types of fruit on trees was abundant.

  6. Chris

    Crows, haven’t dealt with many of them. There were couple of vultures on the next block last year for a couple of days. That was near the bunny road kill crossing.

    The deer aren’t over by Bull Run like they once were. I remember when the pipes moved in. The deer migrated to WG/Sudley. My mom almost knocked over by one hanging clothes one day. I was at the light at Lomond and Damascus, and there was the one of the biggest does I’ve seen standing there. There was also house on Lomond that a deer went right through the bay window, and ransacked the entire first floor. There still must a substantial population of deer along Flat Branch, there are deer crossing warnings at the bridge.

    Marie,
    You’ve been added to my list of “softies”(censored’s word). 😉

    MH,
    It seems as though the squirrels had a corn cob/acorn party poolside Friday and Saturday here. Grrr!

  7. Rick Bentley

    Heh, it’s easy for me to slide into my role of contrarian and antagonist on this one.

    I hate squirrels. I do try to hit therm with my car given a clear shot. When I see them in my neighborhood I sometimes envision choking the life out of them with my bare hands.

    4 years ago they ate a hole in my roof and were in my attic. It cost me $1400 to repair the damage (3 1/2 stories up, no deck) and MUCH much heartache. No I didn’t have that money laying around. Also, one fell down from the attic down the side of the house and rotted. I had maggot flies coming out of the light socket openings in the children’s rooms for a few weeks. It was horrible. I couldn’t afford to tear down a wall ($5000 or so) to get at the carcass, I just eventually sprayed two cans of bug spray down the side and sealed it up – it did kill all the flies and luckily when Spring came there was no recurrence, all the meat had been eaten down there apparently.

    This year they ate in again and I paid $800 to repair the damage and squirrel-proof things as well as one reasonably can.

    The squirrels live in the patch of woods behind my neighborhood and run from tree branches onto backyard fences like it’s a playground. I hate this. I’m sure they are living in the attic of the foreclosed home 4 doors down that was an illegal alien flophouse two years ago. I can see much visible damage on their back roof.

    They live off the bird feeders that dumb assed neighbors put out. These things, at least in my neighborhood, are squirrel feeders not bird feeders.

    Since they keep tearing into my house I learned – from a professional pest control guy – how to trap them (rather than pay him $50+ a head to do it). I’ve trapped 10-15 a year for 4 years or so from my backyard. I take them 10+ miles away to one park or another and let them out. I do this because apparently it’s Virginia law. It’s illegal to kill them. In other states like New York it’s against the law to let them live, once they’ve started tearing up homes, and you are expected to drown them. I think New York has it righter than Virginia.

    But I’m an angry and hateful and territorial enough person that I sometimes imagine drowning them or choking them to death.

    I hate them and want them all to die. (Note that I never said that about illegal immigrants). If I see any acorns I’m going to gather them up and set them on fire.

    As with the illegal immigrants I don’t want them around and so I won’t be setting peanut butter out for them except to trap them and deport them, I mean let them loose elsewhere.

  8. The Teen Queen

    No one in their right mind should be feeding squirrels they can fend for themselves and there are to many of them anyway. They are U-G-L-Y!!! so don;t waist your time with on trying to save them they aren’t endangered unlike polar bears and other endangered animals so worry about global warming not some dumb butt squirrels. They are nothing but rats with fur.

  9. Rick Bentley

    (The parallels are evident – I am one angry mofo).

  10. Censored bybvbl

    Haha, Rick, my mother’s attic was invaded too – but it was by raccoons instead of squirrels. She had to pay to have them trapped and released. Her former neighbor did the job and released them in Loudoun County. My father used to trap and relocate the squirrels in the yard. He’d move them about 3/4 of a mile down the road. I think they displaced the local ones which displaced the next group, which displaced another group, and then that last group would end up back in my parents’ yard.

    M-H, we haven’t had a problem with crows for a couple years. They used to strip all the suet out of the feeders. My mother used to have crows land next to her screened porch each morning. She’s feed them and they’d take the stale bread that she threw out and fly over to the bird bath and dump it in there to soften it up. Then she’d have to go over and squirt the damn thing clean with her hose. Who’s Pavlov’s dog here?

  11. Moon-howler

    Thanks for the laugh folks. Rick, send maggot alerts first. I was eating a late dinner salad. nasty. Tell us how you really feel. If it is illegal to kill squirrels in Virginia, then it is a new law. Many Virginians grew up eating squirrel. Haven’t you hear of the squirrel hound, Rick?

    Your parallels did not escape me 😉

    They can and do make a huge mess of things. I have been known to send a cat up the attic after them when I lived in a different house. I wasn’t happy with the sunflower carnage this summer, for sure.

    Censored, not going to go there….re dog. Crows are mean. Ravens are clowns.

  12. Chris

    Marie,
    How about those black squirrels of Arlington? I’ve never seen them here.

    Rick,
    I am so with regarding those squirrels. They can be very destructive to ones attic. We battled them a couple times in our attic growing up. I remember they’d built one nest and it was 10 leaf bags full of everything for their nest.

    We also, had an incident where those pesky things had eaten through the door bell wire, and it was ringing all hours of the day until they finally moved on and never came back.

  13. Marie

    Chris,
    There are many black squirrels in Arlington and Washington, DC. They look strange when all you have seen is those grey furry ones. My son lives in Sudley and he has pictures of a couple of albino squirrels.

    Rick,
    I hope you were kidding about trying to hit them with your car. Why would you want to kill one of God’s little creatures for no reason, except you do not like them.

  14. Chris

    Marie,
    When I worked downtown I saw black squirrels there too. I think the black ones are pretty neat looking, but I never loose sight that they too are rodents.

    You must get me a picture of the albino squirrels of Sudley. How exotic!! OMG!!

  15. Rick Bentley

    “Rick,
    I hope you were kidding about trying to hit them with your car. Why would you want to kill one of God’s little creatures for no reason, except you do not like them.”

    Do you extend that to ants? Spiders? Mice? Snakes?

  16. Moon-howler

    That just brings up a new topic. Where do we draw the line? I don’t feel guilty over killing any insect. I believe in live and let live with spiders. Mice? Gone. (they cannot resist snickers. Great for setting traps) Snakes? No rules there. Depends. I basically don’t kill things that aren’t messing with me.

    Mice mess with me. They are in my home getting into things and dirtying MY nest with their filth. I don’t do humane capture there. Snap works. Why would I humanely capture something and put it outside so it can come back in my house?

    I would not kill a squirrel. Bad karma associated with killing squirrels. I will curse them. I have sent a cat after them when they were where they should not have been, but I wouldn’t try to run one down. I probably wouldn’t do that to anything.

  17. Censored bybvbl

    I tend to leave mammals, snakes, and insects alone. Mice that I can trap in a can and release, I will. But if they’re getting too comfortable in the wall of my house, they’ll have to risk the spring trap.

    I used to send my Border Collie after the squirrels that pigged out on too much bird seed. I’d tell him, “Chase the squirrels and come right back,” and being the good obedient Border Collie that he was, he did.

  18. Rick Bentley

    Ants and mice can be a real problem. But I think I have a good humane solution that we can apply when they are found in our house.

    Just grant Amnesty to the ones already living there, because you can’t do much about them. What are you going to do, manually grab all the ants and mice and throw them out the window?

    Learn to live with the ones already there, and because you are now a good person with magnificent karma, probably no more will come in. But if you are worried about that, put pieces of scotch tape around your house in a few places and that will probably keep them out.

  19. Rick Bentley

    I have this vision of a pest control company called “McCain, Graham, Kennedy, & Obama” and that’s the strategy they pursue …

  20. Marie

    Rick @ 10:11 Do you extend that to ants? Spiders? Mice? Snakes?

    Yep, Rick I pretty much do!

  21. Jason

    Interesting story, thanks for posting! I don’t really have an opinion on the squirrels one way or the other. I have a ton of them living in the backyard, and we just agree to leave each other alone.

    What I was really interested in is the story about the acorns. I have a HUGE oak tree in the back and last year it completely covered the yard in acorns. It was actually dangerous to stand out back because of the risk of being pelted. Not sure I have seen a single acorn this fall.

    Having read Rick Bentley’s nightmare story about the squirrels getting into his house, I think I just might leave our furry friends some nuts or something. Maybe they’ll be less anxious to break into my house then! I believe squirrels actually have to chew on things like nuts to keep their teeth from growing too long.

  22. squirrel watcher

    We moved to DC last summer. Our window is facing an undeveloped lot. There are trees and so are squirrels. I work at home and watch them run and jump on trees. I also found two nests – one for grey, the other for black squirrels. They seemed to be good neighbors (lol).

    However, recently they cut down these trees, including the one black squirrel was nesting. The tree cutting crews come and chopped off about half of the trees there. Since then, I haven’t seen any. It was late Feb. to early March, when squirrels have babies. Just a few showed up on recent warm days (early April), but their number is significantly reduced. I wonder if tree cutting is going on all over the city…

    By the way, we tried to feed them, but they are too skittish or suspicious of us and didn’t take any nuts from us.

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