Squirrel Queen’s post today reminded me that my grandparents both lived in towns with black squirrels. We were told growing up that they were the only two towns in the country with black squirrels. My parents only got away with bullshit like that because we lived BWE (Before the Wikipedia Era).
Turns out a lot of places have black squirrels.
But Olneys’ the only place with white squirrels, right?
I have, really, two main streams of history, like watching the Ohio come into the Mississippi, two rivers sharing the same banks–one brown and one blue–as they flow towards Wickliffe and beyond, slowly mixing and churning and knitting together until you finally aren’t sure any more that you can see a difference.
And so it is with how the world really is and how I’ve been told the world is. I guess it’s that way for everyone. Just sometimes I look at both large rivers and wonder if they’ll work in the same banks.
We have lots of black squirrels in the DC metro area, particularly in Arlington lately.
Yeah, that’s funny. We were told the same thing about the black squirrels in the town in which I went to college — that only two towns had them. And then I went down to the other college town in Portage County, Ohio (Kent) and saw them there too. And then I went to grad school and heard the same “only two towns” story about Iowa City.
I wonder why two? Maybe because you’ll go somewhere else and see them and think, “hey, what luck! I have found the second town! What are the odds?”
Okay, between these two comments, I’m starting to sense that this is some kind of Canadian practical joke. Because I was told that both the squirrels in Battle Creek and the squirrels in Rock Island were there because someone from Canada brought them.
And now it seems that they’re in the DC area because of… Canada.
I would love to believe that some Canadian huckster loaded up a trailer full of black squirrels and, like some kind of Harold Hill, convinced people all over the U.S. that they were one of two towns to receive them.
There are white and/or albino squirrels in Oberlin – enough so that they made this jokey fundraising site for young alums – http://www.oberlin.edu/squirrel/Default_main.html
(but we were pretty close to Canada there….)
Well, I can also say that squirrels migrate incredible distances at times. There was a big squirrel migration into the midwest in the 1820s (out of upstate NY and Pa and into Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois) that had millions of animals moving westward — imagine what the canopy must have looked and sounded like during those. Midwestern corn farmers were panicked and conducted multi-day shoots and offered prizes for the man or boy who could kill the most of these grain-eating pests. Tens of thousands of squirrels could be killed in a county within the span of a weekend.
Anyhow, I am guessing that we’re also seeing the effects of zone migration from Canada and the northeastern US, since they are all over the upper Midwest.
Rachel, I had no idea you were an Obie. My husband graduated from Oberlin in 1989.
Ooo, so do you think this will mean we’ll see some of those piebald squirrels too?
And, which brings me to my next question. Yankee squirrels are big and fat (the red ones and the black ones). Confederate squirrels are small and scrawny.
So, why do people still hunt and eat squirrel here but not up north? A northern squirrel looks like a meal. Down here, it looks like you’d have to eat two or three to be full. I could see in a pinch, but willingly?
Which also then brings me to my next question. Why are southern squirrels smaller? Shouldn’t they have more access to food throughout the year, since there aren’t harsh winters? How does that not cause them to grow bigger?
Depends where up north. There are people in southern Ohio and parts of PA who hunt and eat squirrel. Likewise, I know people in the Adirondacks and upstate NY who hunt and eat squirrel. There’s just less hardwood forests left up here and I would have to trap the squirrels in my backyard if I wanted to eat the thieving little buggers because I’d accidentally shoot out someone’s second-story window if I tried to shoot them.
As a species, red squirrels are smaller than grey squirrels. I’m not an expert on this and I can’t find any research about whether greys are in actuality getting smaller over time, but if you’re observing it, part of it might be that they are experiencing competition for food (overpopulation does that) or that they are somewhat the victims of selection, whereby the mature large squirrels are being killed and their genes removed from a population while the littler ones (which are harder to kill) are left alive to reproduce.
This year, they’ve been practically nonexistent at all in East Nashville. I’ve assumed that they had decreased fertility this spring due to the preceding year of such extreme weather, and we’ll see a new infestation in the spring. But I didn’t lose a single tomato to them this year, and you know that about never happens.
As for the white squirrel issue, the town Kenton in the county next to Hooterville’s is known for its white squirrels as are a few other locations.
Here’s a link – http://www.roadsideamerica.com/set/squirrels.html
These folks are proud of their squirrels.
But then again, who wouldn’t be?
Went away and thought about this some more — wonder if part of the greys getting smaller has to do with them being a reservoir host for parapoxvirus (Squirrel pox). It doesn’t kill them but I wonder if it has other effects beyond the ulceration.
Paging wildlife biologists…
We were told that about the Rock Island squirrels too, but I could never get a satisfactory answer on why there were people hauling squirrels from country to country. That was always one of the big mysteries of my childhood.
I also thought that was something just made up by my family, but apparently we weren’t the only people hearing that about Rock Island’s exotic squirrels.
People do dumb things like that. Like the guy who released a few dozen starlings in Central Park, because he wanted there to be every bird mentioned by Shakespeare there. Result: every starling in the US, descended from those 24, and dying off of native songbirds. Bastard.
bridgett – yep! :)
Oh oh oh! You mentioned Olney! My daddy used to live there (he’s now in TN). I don’t know about the other white squirrel havens, but in Olney, the little buggers are tame as cats (well, as tame as the Kitchen Cat), and beg as much as poorly-trained dogs. I nearly had one remove my hand while diving for a potato chip. Pushy little bastards! A cop who used to live there had a connundrum once: what does one do with the carcass of one of the fluffy white buggers when one’s dog has mistaken it for a cat. I believe he snuck down to the woods at the end of our street and buried it in the dead of night.
Ah! The summers of my childhood all come rushing back :)
Well, I live in KY, and I saw a black squirrell a couple of weeks ago, jut about ran out of the road, never saw one here before. We see albinos on occasion, but I’ve never seen a black one. I thought it was gorgous!