Squirrely Behavior

…for all the motions of a squirrel, even in the most solitary recesses of the forest, imply spectators…

~Henry David Thoreau

Yesterday I posted about deer communication through scent at a community scrape. Are the other animals in our woods communicating to one another with scent? Do they have their own “social media sites”? I placed a trail camera on a very rotten log along one of the forest game trails on our property as it looked like something was actively digging or rubbing in the log debris and enhancing its conversion to fine sawdust. The camera revealed that Eastern Gray Squirrels frequently stop by this log and dig and roll around.

— A squirrel rubbing in the fine debris of a very rotten log

It appears that more than one squirrel is using this log. Is it for a dust bath (they are known to roll in dirt or sand to help rid their fur of parasites)? Is it communication through scent-marking (squirrels do leave scent marks, especially by rubbing their faces on objects and depositing scent from their oral glands)? Or could it be a combination?

— One squirrel displaces another from the rotten log

I have seen similar behavior caught on a trail camera in one other location about a year ago. A squirrel (or multiple squirrels, not sure) was frequently rubbing on a patch of bare ground down by the creek. As in some of these videos, there was a lot of face rubbing, pawing, rolling around, and occasionally pausing to chew or scratch. Though ridding parasites is certainly possible, there is often some erratic behavior much like our goofy deer video from a few posts ago, with random jumping and twisting and turning. A good friend that saw the deer videos told me he also has a squirrel(s) that “goes to a spot where a gutter drainage comes out of the ground, sniffs, and then does all that leaping about in a haphazard way.” This kind of behavior may relate more to chemical cues and some sort of communication it seems.

— A squirrel acting a bit goofy after rubbing/smelling the debris at the community rotten log

I haven’t stuck my nose in the sawdust to see if I notice anything (squirrels also apparently urinate as a means of communication), but I am betting there is a lot of information exchanged between our squirrels at this site. More mysteries to try to solve or simply ponder and appreciate about our wild neighbors.

Enough Already

Only with winter-patience can we bring
the deep-desired, long-awaited spring.

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I think I should have been more precise in my wishes in my last post, Until Next Winter….what I meant to say was I can’t wait until next winter at Pungo. I think I have had enough of whatever is happening out there right now here in the Piedmont and many of us are getting thin on our winter-patience. The snow this week was nice, although it prevented travel for many in this neighborhood because of icy roads, especially on the shady hills. But the freezing rain this morning, and now the cold rain, well, I could use a break from this as I am sure most of you could.

Cavity in maple tree

Cavity in maple tree (click photos to enlarge)

Yesterday afternoon I went out looking for a photo opportunity and ran across this cavity in a maple tree out front. I have seen squirrels running in and out on occasion, so I decided to wait awhile and see what might happen.

Squirrel inside nest cavity close up

Gray Squirrel peeking out of tree cavity

After about 20 minutes, a tiny head popped out of the hole and stared blankly at the outside world. A young Gray Squirrel surveyed the scene, probably thinking the same thing I was…boy, it’s cold out here.

Squirrel inside nest cavity 3

Squirrel glances at me

The squirrel then turned and faced me for a few seconds, no doubt wondering what I was doing out in these conditions.

Squirrel inside nest cavity

Squirrel retreats inside nest cavity

The youngster quickly retreated back into the warmth of its shredded bark-lined domicile inside the safety of the tree trunk. I then heard that raspy chirring tone they use when upset. I’m not sure, but I think it was saying, enough already…I am guessing it had heard the forecast for today.