Book Review - Nuts About Squirrels

by Gretta Olsson

Nuts About Squirrels
by Richard E Mallery
Time Warner
Sept. 2000

If you love humor, you'll want this book that contains many amusing anecdotes and lots of interesting information about squirrels. The author, who publishes the Dick E. Bird News, a bimonthly newspaper about bird and squirrel-feeding, has worked in and written about this industry for fifteen years. He knows that some people don't like squirrels at all and certainly don't want them in the bird-feeder. For example:

"A man in Kalamazoo, Michigan, was arrested for endangering himself and his neighbors by unlawfully firing his rifle within city limits. The man went berserk, charging his bird feeder with his semiautomatic rifle blazing. He missed the squirrel, who leaped from the feeder and headed for the only safety he could find - the man's house, where the door had been left open.


"The man ran into the house in close pursuit, still firing as the squirrel traced a serpentine pattern from the kitchen to the living room, up and down the walls, and behind the furniture. When police arrived, the squirrel tore out of the house right back to the bird feeder. After the man had been subdued, officers asked him why he had run through his house and fired fourteen rounds of ammunition at a squirrel..."

Mallery points out that it's almost impossible to prevent squirrels from getting into a bird feeder. He speaks with authority when he says "additives in the bird feeder are not recommended." He mentioned cayenne pepper additives. His squirrels all had the same reaction - "after a few bites they were on the ground snorting dirt! My ground squirrels, red squirrels, gray squirrels, and fox squirrels all took a few bites and went off like the Challenger spacecraft. But a few minutes later, they were back and loving it. ... An overweight mama raccoon didn't even eat the seed; she just lapped up the cayenne powder."

There is suppose to be a squirrel-proof bird feeder on the market that has a nine-volt battery to give a squirrel a mild shock. Because the birds aren't grounded, they feel nothing.

"I asked a gentleman who bought one of these expensive devices how he liked it, and if it was thwarting the squirrels for him. He said that within two days his dominant squirrel not only learned to switch the power off before he ate, but switched it back on when he left so no one else would help himself."

Thus the subtitle of this book is "A Guide to coexisting with - and even appreciating - your bushy-tailed friends."

I couldn't put this book down! He has a fund of anecdotes that had me laughing aloud. Now, I worry because "my" squirrels live next to a very busy street and cross it several times daily. But Mallery's story is priceless.

"One success story deals with a Minnesota gray squirrel that lives in a Twin Cities park near a very busy intersection. This squirrel waits for the 'Walk' light to come on and then crosses the street, maintaining a polite distance from the other pedestrians. Once the squirrel collects what he's after, he crosses back to the park, but not always by the same route. Sometimes he circles the whole intersection, waiting each time to cross only when the 'Walk' light illuminates."

A marvelous story concerns a Douglas squirrel:

"A bit smaller than gray or fox squirrels, Douglas squirrels range through the Sierras from Mexico to British Columbia - but one, dubbed Walla Walla, tried to extend his range to Alaska. Walla Walla apparently 'squirreled away' in a U.S. Postal Service shipping container that left Seattle. The little guy went first-class to Fairbanks, where he came down the sort line with insufficient postage. Mail sorters in Fairbanks thought the squirrel had just wandered into the building.

"A postal facility is not a squirrel-friendly place. Besides all the conveyer belts and sorting machinery, a lot of postal workers carry guns. At first, the postal employees tried to shoo the squirrel out a door. But Walla Walla was no dummy. It was 15 degrees below zero, with about nine inches of snow on the ground. He refused to go outside.

"Walla Walla was able to find plenty of food by shopping through packages in the various shipping containers stored around the facility. When Alaska Fish and Game personnel were finally called in to capture the squirrel, he was trapped in a container headed for Prudhoe Bay.


"Once captured, Walla Walla did not resemble the reddish brown squirrels of Fairbanks. Fish and Game checked his pelt with specimens at the University of Alaska Museum and confirmed that Walla Walla was a Douglas squirrel. Since this species is protected in Washington State, Fish and Game felt obligated by law to return the squirrel. First they named him Walla Walla, Washington, a city in his home range. He dined on yams, fruit, and peanuts while officials booked him onto an Alaskan Airlines flight back to Seattle. He was given ambassador treatment. When his plane touched down in Seattle, he was met by Fish and Game employees there, who then escorted him to Governor Mike Lowry's mansion at the State capital in Olympia, Washington.

"Walla Walla became something of a star. He was never invited to dinner, but then when did a squirrel ever need an invitation? The governor's mansion is an officially designated Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary, and Walla Walla was used to draw attention to the BWS program, which allows homeowners to obtain the sanctuary designation if they agree to certain conditions to help maintain birds, animals, and plants native to the state. No matter how nice you are to your squirrels, however, you still cannot claim them as dependents on your income tax."

Among the interesting facts are two that deal with white squirrels and all black squirrels. Mallery points out that there are white squirrel towns: Marionville, Missouri; Olney, Illinois; and Kenton, Tennessee. "If the eyes are pink, the squirrel is a true albino. Otherwise he's a variation of the gray squirrel."

A black squirrel town is Marysville, Kansas. Also, Kent State University's Larry Woodell, superintendent of grounds, imported ten black squirrels from Canada. In May 1961, students couldn't distinguish them from skunks. Today they can, and the black squirrel on campus is "highly regarded and heavily guarded."

I invite you to get to know these sweet rodents. I'm into petting them WHEN THEIR MOUTHS ARE FULL OF A WALNUT. A pregnant female is the most receptive. I'm now up to 7 strokes.

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