We asked for your favorite squirrel stories, and, boy, did you respond. We have so many great stories that we will publish them in two batches, one today and another a week from today. Enjoy.
Fake 'Em Out
I've been trying to teach squirrels where their boundaries are since we moved into our house close to 20 years ago. The point of contention involves the screened-in patio. The squirrels love it, my family loves it, but we can't share.
I've tried to appease the little guys with an abundance of gourmet foods and even buffets out in the yard, away from the house. I've also tried various recommended deterrents around the perimeter of the patio, including cayenne pepper, mothballs, hornet and wasp spray, and loud Bee Gees music (sorry, Dad).
Two years ago, at a post-Halloween clearance sale, I purchased a two-foot-long, realistic-looking rat. At my wit's end, I secured Maurice (again, sorry, Dad) in an upper corner of the patio, where squirrels had chewed through the screen every year to get in to make their nests.
To my shock, this has done the trick. No squirrel has come into the patio since the installation of Maurice. Last Thanksgiving, after about her third glass of wine, dear old Aunt Evelyn, visiting for the first time from Michigan, glanced through the sliding glass door toward our back yard and uttered a horrified scream.
"Jeez, the rats are huge in Virginia," she said.
Who knew that my $2.49 bargain would take care of two problems -- squirrels and visiting relatives from Michigan!
Donna Marcinkowski DeSoto
Vincent, Sammy and Chester
Our family and our neighbor's family have fed our squirrels peanuts for many years. They seemed to have become dependent on them.
They would come to our back-porch door and actually beg, and when we would walk outside, they would follow us, waiting for a juicy morsel to be tossed their way. Although the squirrels seemed tame enough, we still kept our distance. After all, they are wild animals and do carry diseases. We actually had to remove the screens from the windows because their claws were ruining them when they climbed up to look inside.
Most of the "regulars" were unique. There was one with only one ear. We called him Van Gogh. The one with one eye we called Sammy Davis Jr. One with only three legs we called Chester, after the old Dennis Weaver character from the TV show "Gunsmoke."
But something strange happened this year. Sometime in the middle of September, the squirrels disappeared. We saw nary a squirrel for about a month and a half, and it wasn't until about two weeks ago that they started to reappear.
Strangely, they were not any of our old friends. They were a totally new batch, and they didn't know a peanut from a rock. We used to make a clicking sound and they'd come a-running. Apparently now we have to train a whole new generation.
We hope that our old friends didn't meet their demise under the wheels of cars and that they just moved on to nuttier pastures.
Winning Isn't Everything
My "man vs. squirrel" contest of wit and will culminated in the creation of a Rube Goldbergesque contraption consisting of several strategically placed, empty plastic gallon-size milk bottles, suspended from ropes tied to tree branches in such a way that squirrels were not able to leap from surrounding trees onto my bird feeder.
Having been associated with the defense industry during my career, I dubbed this contraption my Anti-Ballistic Squirrel Terminal Airborne Intercept Network (ABSTAIN). Motto: When it comes to squirrels raiding your bird feeder, simply say ABSTAIN!
Unfortunately, the contraption worked all too well. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to circumvent the device, the squirrels finally gave up in frustration, which, of course, turned out to be a huge disappointment to me, because I then realized that the fun had been in the contest. Having won the contest, I lost my entertainment!
J. C. Smith
Pleased to Meet You
This is my best squirrel story, which took place about five years ago.
Each day, I would throw peanuts to a squirrel in my back yard. One day, as I was sitting in my deck lounge chair reading The Post, I felt something crawl up my back. As I slowly turned my head, there he was, sitting on my shoulder. He stared at me and proceeded to walk down my arm to my hand, which was holding the newspaper.
The squirrel lifted my fingers one by one and looked in my empty hand. I slowly lowered my hand and the squirrel jumped to the arm of the chair and sat there. I went into the house to show my wife. She looked out the window and saw the squirrel still perched on the chair waiting for me. I raided my jar of peanuts, went back out to the squirrel, and he proceeded to take them, one at a time.
That squirrel stayed around for five years. Each morning, we went through the same ritual. When the kitchen light was turned on, the squirrel would appear and climb up the screen door to look in. We would get the peanuts, open the door and feed him. The squirrel would always let us know that he was there, either by climbing up and looking in, or tapping on the door.
What happened to this cute, friendly little creature we do not know. He just disappeared.
A squirrel jumped on my wife's leg as soon as she got out of the car. They looked at each other for a moment before the squirrel hopped off. As she walked to our apartment, however, it followed behind her and then waited at the door when she went in.
She emerged a minute later, carrying a bowl of peanuts. Within a couple of minutes, Morton and all of our other trained squirrels were milling about, enjoying their usual evening meal.
Some of our neighbors didn't like us very much.
A Daring One
We have lots of trees in our back yard, which has been a haven for squirrels for a long time. However, we've lived here 35 years and never have we had a squirrel as daring as the one we call Evel Knievel.
He seems to think that our back porch is his food depository and kitchen. We chase him all the time, but he doesn't even budge if we don't. He tries to bury all of his treasures in our flower containers, and now he's started eating the leaves of our hibiscus plants. Thank goodness, the plants won't last much longer with the coming winter, but he may return again next year, just after we buy the plants.
Navada and Ron Heflin
High-Rise High Jinks
I am not fed up with squirrels.
They are beautiful and so cute that we pardon them their adventures.
We live on the 16th floor. Above is the roof, in front is the Potomac and running through the grounds below are the squirrels.
One day I ran to our balcony and gave a cry of surprise. A big squirrel was at the door, trying to come inside. He was looking at me with big eyes and didn't move when I approached him. I went to the kitchen and brought him some bread, which he ate ravenously while he continued looking at me. You know squirrels, so I gave him more bread. He stayed there and started looking down, considering the peril of return.
I called my husband, and he called Fairfax County animal control. The officer said the squirrel would descend the same way he had climbed. But instead, this squirrel decided to climb on the roof. Later in the day we observed him creeping down the building. Since then we have had two additional visitors, who left after eating their bread.
I have a large picture window that's a solid piece of glass, not made up of small panes with mullions, and no window sill. I had a small plastic bird feeder attached high on the window with suction cups so my indoor cats could be entertained.
One day a squirrel climbed the rosebush near the window and proceeded to "walk" across the window glass, scrunch itself into the small bird feeder and eat. The squirrel looked like Spider-Man as it crossed the window. I don't know how it stayed attached to the glass -- it almost looked like it had something tacky on its feet as it worked its way across the window to the feeder.
The squirrel reminded me of those pictures you see of cats splayed on a screen holding on with their claws. Only there was nothing for the squirrel to grip as it crossed the glass. I sat there transfixed, watching the squirrel get to that feeder.
As a zealous bird-watcher, I've long delighted in the avian visitors to my backyard bird feeders. While I enjoy watching squirrels, too, I get annoyed when they virtually empty the feeders in just a few hits.
Once I tried greasing the feeder pole and was treated to even more amusement: Those furry creatures would climb the pole, and when they hit a particularly well-lubricated spot, they slithered down, "arms and legs" hugging the pole, just like hurried firemen descending to their firetruck!
No Ginger, Thank You
My grandmother, Catherine Burroughs, lives at the Virginian retirement community apartment complex in Fairfax. She has been bedeviled by squirrels that have continually rampaged through her balcony flower boxes every summer and have built nests each fall, despite her best efforts and the use of a number of commercial preparations to discourage them.
One cold December several years ago, she placed several varieties of her home-baked Christmas cookies in a large tin container and, due to a lack of storage space in her small refrigerator, placed the tin outside on her balcony to keep them chilled until it was time to distribute them.
When she went outside to retrieve the container, she found the tin opened and overturned. The lid bore the unmistakable tooth marks of her nemesis squirrels, and every single cookie of the several dozen she had baked had been unwrapped and eaten -- with the odd exception of one type: her gingerbread boys. Not one gingerbread cookie had been touched.
Last spring, when she was despairing over the damage the squirrels were doing to her newly planted flower boxes, I remembered the cookie incident. I went to the grocery store and purchased a fresh ginger root, took it to my grandmother and suggested that she cut the root, rub the juice around the edges of her flower boxes and then place coin-sized pieces of ginger root in each box for extra protection, which she did.
Lo and behold, her squirrel problem ceased abruptly. My grandmother's furry gray balcony-wreckers were repelled, and her beautiful flowers -- and even a tomato plant -- grew and thrived all season without so much as a random nibble. The invaders were thwarted by the simple application of ginger root. We were both amazed. And a bit smug. High five, Grandma!