Invader (not) Zim

The last couple of years, as noted previously, I’ve not had spoons for outside stuff, so I was pleased to put the bird feeder up this year. While I get a nice variety of birds (this year’s first: a western tanager!), my local, native Douglas squirrels are the real reason I bother with this:

Douglas squirrel, PNW native, stealing sunseeds from the bird feeder on my deck. They like coniferous forests, so my back “yard” is their spot.

They’re cute, smart, funny, utterly fearless, and curious to the point of suicidality. What passes for my back yard is pretty much entirely their habitat (cedars, junipers, hemlocks), and I’ve had the pleasure of watching several family groups grow up.

This year, despite having the feeder up for nearly two weeks, I’ve seen only one of them (dubbed Mr. Tufty Ears), and him (definitely him) only briefly on three occasions.

I fear this is because the invading gray squirrels, larger and more aggressive, have grown in numbers, thanks in no small part to a neighbor down the street who puts large amounts of feed out for ducks and squirrels (without any notion or concern that he’s feeding invasive squirrels, or willingness to acknowledge that he’s also growing the local rat population).

Over the years, my kids have provided me with possibly the county’s largest arsenal of bizarre lethal weapons, which include the standard airgun as well as a blowgun and a pistol-grip crossbow. Unfortunately, my wobbly hands make me reluctant to use the latter, because I’d hate to wound and not be able to finish the job. (This universe contains no physical laws under which I could actually hit one with the airgun any longer, so I don’t bother to try. The bird feeder has an interesting pattern of pellets in it to prove this.) The blowgun (surprisingly easy to aim with accuracy) will sting and scare, but not kill (not with the Mike & Ikes that fit its bore, anyway, though come to think of it, I may have some hunting points… hmmm… ). These weapons have previously proven at least somewhat useful in convincing the grays that They Are Not Welcome.

Ordinarily, the Invader Grays don’t show up at my house ’til late July or even August. This year, a gray showed up within three days after I filled the feeder. I suspect this is a preggers female, just from her look (I haven’t been able to get a gander at the gender parts). The last thing I want is an entire family of the damned things moving into the natives’ turf.

So we’ve been having Dialogue.

I don’t hate Nature’s creatures. We all belong here, more or less. We all have our niches to fill. Even if we don’t belong, it’s not necessarily our fault if we are here; our parents may have chosen our location, likely without consulting us. We humans, as invaders, have certainly done our share of harm, too, intentionally and otherwise.

The first day, I went out to talk to her. She sat unafraid (!!!) on the deck railing, munching a sunseed and watching me with rapt attention.

“Look,” I explained, “four houses down that way, you can have all the food you could possibly eat. You could explode from overeating. And you wouldn’t be depriving the little guys of what’s here for themnot for you. So head on south a ways, why don’cha?”

Rapt attention. No movement.

I stepped a little closer and repeated myself, slightly louder. Maybe she’s a little deef, but she’s bound to understand English if she’s in America. Right?

Rapt attention. No movement.

I am not the world’s most patient of squirrel whisperers. In this case, I went straight to squirrel shouter. “Get the hell out of here!” I screamed in what, given her rampant disrespect, seemed a reasonable voice.

She did.

We had the same “get out!” conversation for a couple of days before I saw her hanging upside down on the far side of the feeder, where she couldn’t possibly see me. I went quietly outside, approached the feeder, and without warning smacked her one, hard, while shouting “Get out, you evil freaking sow!” (While this may not be an exact, erm, quote, this is the actual term for a girl squirrel.)

Lest you think me vicious and horrible, be aware that squirrels are like cats. They parasail and land on their feet. She shot eastward at a high rate of speed, saucer-eyed, whirling and spreading feet and tail for all she was worth. She sailed way back, deep into the woods, a good thirty feet from the feeder, before I heard her hit branches and drop through a few.

“Hah!” I thought with great self-satisfaction. “That’ll show her!”

She didn’t show up the rest of the day. Not even that evening, when her already-regular pattern had been morning/evening.

I felt smug.

Next morning, I finished my email, got a cup of tea, and sat down on the couch. Darned if she didn’t pick that moment to show up.

We reprised the whole act, right down to her not seeing me ’til she was airborne, Frisbee style.

Within half an hour, she was back. Half. an. hour.

That was three days ago. Now I’m leaving the broom against the deck railing, ready to knock her into next week (which is, come to think of it, next month, too). I’ve been out at least five or six times a day, morning and evening, scaring the peewaddins (whatever those are–Google doesn’t know) out of her.

Makes no difference. She keeps coming back.

Given squirrels’ intelligence and the power of intermittent reinforcement (first paragraph only, insert “squirrel” for “person”)–I know better than to think I’m catching her every single time she’s there–I’m aware this is a losing battle. She will win.

But because I’ve seen Mr. Tufty Ears only once since That Evil Sow showed up, I’m unwilling to give up. I can’t help it. Just give me an underdog, and my battle plan is on automatic.

Posted by wordsmith

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