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Adirondack squirrels

February 19, 2012
By DON WILLIAMS , For The Leader Herald

One of my earliest Adirondack adventure memories is going on the "big game hunt" with my cousin, Roy. He was a few years older than I was, and, in many ways, was my mentor. He shared much of a boy's life with me. It was a big treat for a little cousin to go hunting with him.

We took a short hike to his family's back woods in search of the "big game," the elusive squirrels. Squirrels make a good meal in Adirondack country when you have a family to feed. When cooked, they were much like chicken. My uncle Allie was a good squirrel hunter and I often had squirrel to eat at his house. My Outdoor Life Game Cookery Book reports that "squirrels are among the most widely hunted of our small game animals."

My cousin knew how to get the curious squirrels; he became a squirrel, himself. He hid behind a tree and chattered like an excited squirrel. Other squirrels, always hiding on the back side of the trees, would appear in sight to join in the chatter-only to fall to his accurate shooting.

One of the DEC employees reported recently that the easy winter has kept the squirrels from holing up for any length of time. They are out and about, much like the deer who have not had to yard-up this year. The squirrels are digging up all that food buried during the good weather. They play the odds, if they bury enough they are more apt to find most of it.

I live with the squirrels and they rarely hole-up around our yard, and, when they do, they get into the porch roofs and sometimes into the attic. Awhile back, they chewed through the wall into a back, upstairs closet and this fall, filled it with fresh butternuts from our 20 butternut trees. (Does anyone want to buy some standing butternut trees; I do not need that many.)

In February we celebrate Ground Hogs Days; the groundhogs (woodchucks) are a type of squirrel. They hole-up for the winter months by going into their dens and blocking the entranceways with dirt. The gray squirrels are expert survivalists, controlling their body temperatures with their big tails. They also have tinted eyes that reduce the winter glare. Expert tree climbers, they can turn their hind feet completely around and climb head-first down a tree trunk. Little wonder that squirrels have survived on earth for some 36 million years.

Squirrels are recognized around the world, they live on every continent except Antarctica and Australia. There are 278 species of squirrel and there is much still to be learned about them. Those who study animals are faced with many tantalizing questions and admit that learning about the squirrels is a work in progress.

I have a feeding station where I recycle our table scraps to feed the crows, squirrels, and other creatures. Someone asked me why I encourage the "pests" to stay around. I figure it is worth my while to fatten them up; should we have some kind of catastrophe, I could live "off the land" and eat crow like my ancestors did for at least a year. (Note: some do not catch on when I am just kidding-another Adirondack trait that I inherited!)



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