Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Silent Tree

There is seems to be a love/tolerate/hate relationship between a lot of folks and gray squirrels. At best, humans enjoy their antics, mischievousness, and agility, and even feed the critters so they will hang around their homes. More humans simply tolerate them, and pay them no heed whatsoever. When a car squashes them, nobody morns. At worst, they are considered an abomination to the suburban yard, and people use bb guns on them or other lethal methods to get rid of them. Recently, I heard a news report about a man in Florida who despises them so much, that he traps them, and then delights in drowning them. I fall into the category of love. I mean, I would never want one as a pet, and I don't feed them, but I really enjoy watching them, and having them nearby. They bring a little wildlife to suburbia. There is a large maple tree on my property that has for years seen generations of baby squirrels and families living there. It has a large cavity midway up the large trunk. Many a spring, while washing dishes (as the kitchen window faces Squirrel cottage), and cooking meals, I've witnessed the babies first steps onto a tree limb, anxious Mom nearby encouraging them to be careful. After a fantastic spring with lots of baby squirrels bounding through the treetops chasing one another, I noticed a decline in the squirrel population. Where did all the babies go? It took a drastic dip and today I learned why. The neighbor across the street was watering her plants, and came out to chat as I was walking Boz, the Papillon. As we chatted two of her 7 or 8 cats (I have lost count) demurely sat nearby. As she was talking, she happened to say that she guessed she was going to have to put bells on her cat's collars. I asked why, and she replied that they had killed four squirrels within the last four days. My heart sunk. I like my neighbor, but when will people understand that cats are lethal predators? I love my 10 year old cat, but he is not allowed outside. For one thing, the roadway in front of the house is a ticking time bomb for cats. Cats do not see boundaries. Boundaries do not exist in the feline mind. More than that, I realized a long time ago that leaving a cat out of doors does not pay any favors to wildlife, especially in the Springtime when songbirds are on the nest and helpless squirrel babies are in the tree. Sadly, I expect the tree will remain silent this winter. I have seen two squirrels in the last few days. Hopefully, they are the Adam & Eve of squirrels and will soon repopulate (not until Spring) the area. But if the cats have their ways, they will decimate the rag tag remnants of squirrel-dom. Between the owls, foxes, and primarily the suburban tigers, there isn't much hope. They are outnumbered.