Allford: Backyard battles with squirrels

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Eventually, the nosy squirrel gave up but made his displeasure known. “He yelled at me from the top of the tree as if to say, ‘I wasn’t scared of you but if you’re not going to give me anything you should leave.’ ” She also got a kick out of watching squirrels use their tiny paws to pat down grass around stolen food. “It was pretty cute.”

Bowhay is now studying freshwater sponges in a master’s program at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. She “stopped dead in her tracks” on campus when she saw a little red squirrel, the ones native to Alberta. The big eastern grey squirrels we see in Calgary are imported — the Toronto Zoo gifted a couple to the Calgary Zoo in the 1930s and well, the rest is invasive squirrel history.

Looking at my empty bird feeder swinging in the breeze, I had to admit some grudging respect for the industrious little beast that broke into it. Bowhay and her U of Calgary ecology professor, Kathreen Ruckstuhl, confirm my hunch that the theft was likely the work of a solitary animal.

“They carve out their territory and everything, how many offspring they have, depends on how much food they can pack,” says Ruckstuhl, who has had her own backyard battles with squirrels. “They are smart little critters and like every other wildlife they have a right to eke out a living.”

True. But I don’t have to make it easy.

I’ve added a takeaway tin roof on the feeder and reinforced the clips with thick elastic bands. It no longer looks swish. Perhaps I should get the binoculars ready to see how the squirrel breaches this fortification. Who knows, as I watch it pilfer, hide and fake-hide food in my back yard, maybe joy will rise in my heart.

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