Kurt Hollocher: Squirrel Gallery

These photos are quite old, and represent a more carefree time of my life. These were some of my squirrel buddies, some from home and some from work. All of were wild squirrels who became somewhat tame, and came to see me for eats. Contrary to myth, squirrels are very interesting, intelligent (in a few highly specialized ways, in other ways they are dolts), and endearing animals. The first thing you have to understand about squirrels is that their brains are very nose-oriented. Although squirrels have keen eyesight, they are not at all good at interpreting things like nuts as food without smelling them. They are very good at recognizing one another, and learning and traversing 3-d landscapes.

Buddy, seen below, took several months to recognize a nut by sight. The local bluejays, in contrast, are very sight-oriented. They figured out what nuts were, by sight, almost immediately. Individual squirrels have quite different, although not complex, personalities and are very interesting and fun to get to know. Individual squirrels also look different, and one can learn to recognize certain ones as your friends. Well, maybe not friends, but at least personal moochers.

Most people don’t like squirrels because they get into bird feeders (Exhibit A) or because they gnaw on things (Exhibit B). Getting to difficult places, though, is their job. Don’t get angry at squirrels because they do what they have been designed and trained to do. Use your gigantic human brain to outwit them, and watch their hysterical antics. It’s really not that hard to outwit them. Besides, how can anyone dislike creatures with such big dark eyes and such magnificent, fluffy tails?


Exhibit A.


Exhibit B. Squirrel gnaw marks on a 1/8″ (3 mm) aluminum plate that protects a bird house entrance hole.


Here’s Buddy. Buddy is at least four years old, and until recently lived in this hole in a silver maple. This classic photo was taken on a hot spring afternoon. Buddy is boiling, and has a nest full of squirming, hungry sausage-tails (see below). Although she loves them very much, the sausage-tails are just too hot to bear sometimes. Her sausage-tails are still in the nest, and Buddy is trying to cool off. This fall this branch broke off right across the nest, just below the end of Buddy’s tail in this image. Although the nest contained Buddy and four of her adorable sausage-tails, none were seriously injured.


Here’s Buddy again. At this time she is being a mother to 7 (!) sausage-tails, and she’s hungry all the time.


Buddy having lunch.


Shown here is one of Buddy’s sausage-tails, about two weeks before Buddy took them all out for their training in the big world. “Sausage-tail” is an endearing term that refers to young squirrels and their characteristic sleek, dense, sausage-like tails that are often longer than their bodies.


Here is another one of Buddy’s sausage-tails. This one liked teething on the valve at the end of our water hose. This little rascal gnawed up the plastic, including the valve handle (Exhibit C), leaving a pile of plastic shavings that looked like little yellow carrot curls. These little tykes are a lot of fun to watch.


Exhibit C.


This is Floppy-tail. Poor Floppy-tail has some kind of degenerative disorder that is gradually causing her to loose control of her extremities. Her tail was the first to go. As it flopped around last winter, it kept getting all wet and finally froze off. She has been having increasing trouble running, climbing trees, and eating, and she often falls over while sitting down eating an acorn. Poor Floppy tail is a real heartache. I’d love to bring her into my house to take care of her, but she wouldn’t like it. We occasionally see other squirrels with Floppy-tail disease.


Here’s Spot. She is Sally’s daughter (see below), and she is a very funny squirrel. She is the only one who lets me pet her. Sometimes she likes to be petted to calm down after another squirrel chases her. Spot had sausage-tails this year, and they were very cute. Spot likes bananas especially, and only takes one peanut at a time.


Another photo of Spot. He is ever-vigilant.


This is Spot in the early spring. She is remodeling her nest, and is on the lookout for new and improved nesting materials. The leaves outside are rather crumbly this time of year, so she comes in to find paper and other things. She especially favors stiff woven cloth, but is not very fond of knits.


Here’s Noodle, one of Spot’s sausage-tails. Noodle is a fall baby and is a rather small squirrel. He and his sibling, Doodle, lost most of their fur from their tails this winter. The skin looks fine, just no fur. This is the same problem that Noodle’s mother Spot had her first winter, and Noodle’s grandmother Sally had her first winter. It’s clearly a problem that runs in Noodle’s family. Noodle loves sunflower seeds and raisins, and likes to doze in the branches of this jade plant.


Poor Noodle lost most of his fur this past Winter and caught pneumonia and was very sick. Thanks to some outside help, Noodle pulled through and now is one of my best rodent pals. This is Noodle in the spring, all grown up with sleek new fur and a lovely tail. He is relaxing and eating a piece of walnut.


This is Doodle, Noodle’s brother and Spot’s sausage-tail from this fall. This photo was taken in the fall, and you can see Doodle’s tail is getting kind of thin. Doodle is a larger squirrel than Noodle, but still smaller than Spot.


This is Sally, Spot’s mom. Sometimes I see her licking Spot and smoothing out her fur. Other times I have seen Sally and Spot looking in my window with their arms around each others shoulders. Once they see me, however, Sally chases Spot away. Sally always wants two peanuts at once.


Sally as a youth.


Once she got used to me, Sally became very intent on having her way.


Here is No-ear. He was involved in some awful accident when he was young, and as a result has no right ear, half a tail, and only half of his right front hand. He is a very fine and plump little fellow who has been around my house for years. He gets around just fine, but when he gets excited and shakes his tail it spins around like a pinwheel.


No-ear again.


Nosey is the biggest squirrel I’ve seen up close. She is quite skittish, and often I only see the tip of her nose. She doesn’t like fruit, but loves peanuts and sunflower seeds. Nosey has had babies too, but she leads them away to new territory, like a good mother squirrel should. Nosey’s sausage-tails are quite large, like she is.


In the fall, adolescent squirrels start trying to build their first nests. They aren’t very good at it, with leaves and branch tips coming down like rain. You can watch them bite off a branch tip, and then see their look of surprise as it falls to the ground. I think they often hold on to the wrong end of the branch, much like the old joke that half of the nails are no good because the head is on the wrong end. Eventually they learn to hold on to the right end. It makes a bit of a mess, but what could be better than having trees full of happy, industrious squirrels?