Saturday, July 14, 2012

Dances with squirrels

That squeal this morning? Yeah. It was me feeding the chickens. The usual squirrel was bouncing around when I opened the door into the little foyer (my coop has a lobby) where I keep enticing bins of cracked corn and layer mash.

A squirrel contained is a furry super ball in a trash can. I've been flirting with wildlife for too many years to shriek, but I still gasped. And jumped. And yeah, made girl noises. 

We have red and gray squirrels, and maybe flying squirrels as well, but Squirrelicus Coopus looks like a hybrid: muscular and bushy like a gray but with a definite brownish tone. Uber-squirrel. S/he gets in by flattening into a shape that can slide between gaps in the mesh wire on the open eaves. It's got to be a maneuver Houdini would be proud of, a hairy pancake-varmint oozing through. But there's not always time for a leisurely escape.

I stick my head through the door. A blur scrambles futilely into the eaves. Behind the nest boxes. Sometimes I pursue the perp: duck into the chickens' side, pound threateningly on the wall. Even poke at a tip of fluffy tail or tiny paws.

All I can really do is brace myself. And not be in the doorway when the critter exits at close to the speed of sound.

There are variations on the squirrel dance. Sometimes the Doubles team is on so that I'm not sure which side to leap to (and remember that my leaper's pretty much broken right now.) Once I neatly ducked away from Squirrel Descending Wall only to reach into the grain bin so a mouse could run up my arm. Apparently these productions are choreographed around, but not including, me. It's easy to imagine them plotting. And discouraging to think I'm the silly human straight-man in this cartoon. 

It is our human lot in life. One night a dozen years ago I drove into my driveway in time for my headlights to catch my husband doing an impressive jitterbug (though he claimed he couldn't dance) after reaching into a dark feed bin and scooping up a small possum.

Then there was the time my daughter heard a rustling in a bag of sunflower seeds outside the basement door. She reached in to shoo out the cat and found herself petting a skunk. That time it was the human who retreated faster than the eye could follow.

I know those rodents are always close by but they still get the jump on me. If you hear an out-of-character, blood-curdling scream from my hilltop some morning, you'll know the squirrels have branched out (so to speak) in their breeding. And begun to fly.