On Wastrels (or, Roots of the Hatred of Squirrels, critically examined)

Squirrel

Squirrel (Photo credit: Kenny Teo (zoompict))

Squirrel-lovers won’t like this post, but it can’t be helped. If you love squirrels, one of the following is likely to be true:

  1. You’ve never had them in your yard–which means, on your roof, in your birdfeeder, raiding your garden and fruit-trees, etc.
  2. You have experienced all of that, but you’re an incredibly generous spirit who doesn’t mind sharing all your hard work with wastrels.

If you’re the latter, let me explain how we differ–and exactly in what particular.

First, squirrel-loathers like myself are not necessarily anti-nature, faunacidal maniacs. I like critters, and I don’t use pesticides, don’t even use artificial fertilizers, because I was once convinced (however accurately) that they kill microbes in the soil. I often seek out non-violent ways to outsmart bugs, like the ones that eat the leaves off my green bean sprouts (it’s pill-bugs, believe it or not). In fact, the only critters of any size that I have ever taken serious action against have been termites, which are abundant around my property (but, I hope, not my house), and ants, which I require to find ways from point A to B that don’t include my upstairs bathroom. Call me crazy.

I admit, I don’t just yield to animals. I put up a fence around my garden, in an effort (successful, I think) to finally keep the woodchuck out. (The rabbit is another issue.) But again, this is because I grow a garden so that I can enjoy its bounty. If you want to feed the fauna from your garden, be my guest, but I prefer to eat my ripe red tomatoes, crispy lettuce, tender green beans, and juicy cucumbers myself. I figure it’s even good for the planet, in a small way; no pesticides, no fertilizers, and absolutely no gasoline to transport this wonderful, fresh organic produce to my table. And by the way, it tastes a lot better than anything I’ve ever bought from a vender. Ever.

All that said, I have sometimes been known to smile when the rabbit or the ground hog got the better of me. The rabbit more than the groundhog, I admit, because it’s less destructive and I used to own a pet rabbit. The groundhog is huge and has destroyed more than one fence. And he eats the leaves off my broccoli before I can get the flower–leaving nothing for me. Even the rabbit annoys me, though, when it eats the leaves off my cucumber vines, leaving a trail of yellow blossoms that no longer have the support they need to bring a fruit to fruition.

Which brings me to the squirrel. Those traits I dislike in rabbits and groundhogs I especially despise in squirrels. Put simply, squirrels are wasteful, despicable thieves. I have a pear tree in my backyard, and it produces upwards of a hundred pears every year. But I’ve managed to harvest less than a dozen of them in five years. Why? The squirrels get them first. “They’re just hungry,” you say? No. They bite the stem, sending the green, hard pear to the ground. On rare occasions they take a single bite out of the pear. Then they move on to the next one. Wastefulness. Pure and simple.

Now this year they’ve gone after my tomatoes. Do I begrudge woodland creatures a small share of my tomato bounty? No. (Although there has been no bounty this rainy summer.) But that’s assuming they actually eat them, and they leave some for me. The squirrels don’t. They’re like punk teenagers, destroying things for the sheer pleasure of it. They knock tomatoes off the plant, take two or three bites, and then leave them there, of use to no one, beautiful red flesh, tangy juice glistening in the sun–and spoiled for everybody.

Thanks, squirrels.

So while I can make allowances for creatures that want to eat the things I work hard to grow–as long as they leave some for me–I can make no allowances for squirrels. They find no sympathy from me. They steal only to destroy. If somehow my neck of the woods would see a diminished population of squirrels–or better yet, if these wastrels could somehow reform their ways–I would be most gratified.

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