Squirrelmageddon

By Qin Sun Stubis

Through the years living in the Northeast United States, I have developed a love-hate relationship with squirrels. While I adore their furry look and playful curiosity, I’ve also found them quite purpose-driven and canny, sometimes communicating a touch of dry humor reserved for more brainy creatures.

It first started when we bought a house in Great Neck, New York. Two squirrels discovered a small gap above a gutter and decided to move in with us. They are so fluffy and cute, and they need a place, too, I cooed, enchanted by the idea of living so close to nature. I thought we could coexist happily, but I was wrong.

Squirrels are definitely night creatures, partying above my bedroom exactly at the time when I needed sleep. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and had my firefighter friend, Jim, block the gap with a strip of sturdy mesh while they were out hunting for breakfast. When they came back, they were furious, trying to tear down the contraption with their claws. Hearing the commotion, I ran out, stamping, shouting, and threatening them with a broomstick. They examined me from above with curiosity.

Realizing that I was the culprit behind their eviction, they both looked at me with disgust and began throwing acorns at me like well-placed missiles. I dodged one and got hit by another. “You, you, wicked creatures!” I screamed, expressing my fury.

Ever since that incident, I’ve looked at squirrels very differently. Whenever they stare at me from high above, I grow nervous: How could I tell they weren’t the same ones who took their revenge on me? I was ready to duck and dodge just in case they were still holding a grudge. When I moved to Bethesda, Maryland, I was sure that I’d broken free from my squirrel neurosis. Chances were slim they’d hitchhiked 280 miles just to get me.

I often took pleasure in observing our backyard wildlife and got ac-quainted with the creatures coming to call: chipmunks, cotton-tail rabbits, Goldfinches, Cardinals, red-headed Woodpeckers, a rat I nicknamed “Templeton,” and, of course, many, many squirrels. Some were grey and some black. They liked to skip on top of our fence and enjoy a meal under a Hickory tree or a drink from our birdbath. The Southern squirrels seemed to be quite happy and friendly. I was pleased.

Then came spring and I planted tomatoes in large pots. I watched them grow and flower. I saw tiny tomatoes emerge, get bigger and ripen. And then, one morning, I went out and screamed. My hair was on fire: Most of the beautiful, red tomatoes were half-eaten, hanging pitifully over the ceramic pots!

Who did it? I thought about the evil-looking Templeton, and then the adorable bunnies that looked adorable no more. As I tried to ID the dirty-deed-doer, I started to sew metal mesh “gloves” to cover and protect the rest of my crop.

One day as I sat by the window and worked on a writing assignment, I glanced into the yard. I noticed a silver squirrel. He was walking strangely the way a lion walks before attacking its prey. His front legs were moving very slowly and deliberately, slinking in a straight line toward the pots. I waited for him to pounce onto one of my plants before I dashed out: I’ve caught you!

He ran off, but wasn’t about to give up. He changed strategies and launched a guerilla campaign. Not able to enjoy his plunder anymore, he decided I should not, either. He bit through the mesh, destroying several tomatoes in their protective cages and leaving a pool of red liquid on the ground as a warning. I escalated the war, sewing doubled-layered mesh cages around each precious remaining tomato to thwart his sharp teeth. My tactical ingenuity seemed to be rewarded the next morning when I gazed out and saw the tomato cages bent, but unbroken. Victorious, I was basking in my human superiority when my face froze. One of the plants was yellowing and shriveling.

I ran out and examined the victim. At first glance, it looked fine, but upon closer inspection I found that its stem had been surgically sliced through, bitten off at the base and dooming the plant, an innocent casualty in this escalating war of nerves. I employed every trick I could think of to win the battle, even placing the plants on a seemingly unscalable picnic table to prevent my idyllic backyard garden from turning into a battlefield of defeat.

For two days, all was quiet. I had apparently won through my superior intelligence and the laws of physics. But that assumption ended abruptly when I opened the front door to get the paper one morning. I stopped in my tracks as I spotted something unusual placed on my front steps.

I looked more closely and felt a chill run down my spine. There, like the head of Hannibal’s brother, which the Romans rolled into his tent to terrorize him, was a single, perfect tomato in its protective cage. It had been snipped off and left there as a warning.

Next year, I think I’ll plant string beans.

You can always reach me at qstubis@gmail.com.

Qin Stubis, a Bethesda, MD resident, is a regular columnist.

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3 Responses to Squirrelmageddon

  1. Zhongchi says:

    Qin,

    I enjoyed reading your article. Squirrels will never be the same to me after reading your article.

  2. Lisa says:

    Qin,
    That was hysterically funny. You went to much greater lengths than we did here in our garden.
    In the end after many years of battle, we planted enough for the deer, bunnies, squirrels, raccoons and opossums. And now the crows have joined in, a whole new battle has begun.

    Thanks!
    Lisa

  3. Yanni says:

    Hahaha… the battle will never be end & we will never win neither.
    Qin,remember once there was a squirrels find its own way be an unexpected guest inside my house. I believe you also remembered how hard we let it out eventually. Since then I try to live with them peacefully. Every early morning I hear them ran out through the top of my bedroom.I even dont kown which layer they live inside my house.
    Now Im having a doom-loose battle with the bees & ants. It’s a harvest time for my figs,but I’m always late than them to get those riped ones.lol
    Yanni

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