Isolation Antidotes (45): Cheeky Chatterer

One of the main players in our traditional pageant of critters at our north-woods cabin at this time of year is this little frisky, cheeky red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). It’s less than half the size of the gray squirrel, but about twice the size of the chipmunk. They are able to interbreed with the grays to produce a larger hybrid, but we are always delighted to see one of the pure line, of which this was a notable example. They are very vocal, producing a loud chattering call, but they usually wait to vocalize it until one has just passed through their vicinity, as if scolding us for the intrusion. We are missing them. I made this photo exactly eight years ago today. (Click on it if you’d like more detail.)

About krikitarts

Welcome to Krikit Arts! I'm a veterinarian; photographer; finger-style guitarist, composer, instructor, and singer/songwriter; fisherman; and fly-tyer. Please enjoy--and please respect my full rights to all photos on this Website!
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22 Responses to Isolation Antidotes (45): Cheeky Chatterer

  1. Platypus Man says:

    In the UK our native squirrel is also a red squirrel, although not the same species as you’ve captured here. But in the nineteenth century North American grey squirrels were introduced (as an ornamental attraction?) Their larger size and more aggressive nature resulted in them displacing the native reds. More seriously, greys carry a Squirrel Pox virus, which apparently does them no harm but kills the reds. As a result of this ill-conceived introduction red squirrels are now extinct in large parts of their former UK range, hanging on only in remoter areas of Scotland and some offshore islands to which the greys have never been introduced. So, thank you for sharing the picture of the North American red, which looks like a handsome critter, much like the UK’s own struggling red.

    • krikitarts says:

      Thanks for that–I’m happy to hear that some of the natives are holding on, in spite of another sad and tragic story of casual and callous introduction of a foreign species without proper consideration of its possible impact on the established ecosystem. How common are the greys there now? And are your native reds the ones with the lovely long tufts in their ears?

      • Platypus Man says:

        Yes, our Red (scirius vulgaris) has wonderful ear tufts most of the year, and particularly in winter. The Greys are very common throughout pretty much all of mainland Britain; we’ve even seen them in our suburban back garden, which (if you knew our garden!) is pretty amazing. They are continuing to spread, and although there are brave statements about creating buffer zones to protect surviving populations of Reds, I can’t see it happening. In due course I suspect the Reds will survive only on offshore islands, such as the Isle of Wight and Brownsea in England, Anglesey in Wales and Mull in Scotland, which Greys have never reached and from which they can be removed without too much difficulty if they do arrive (note the parallels with conservation projects to protect some of NZ’s endemic birds on offshore islands).
        Reds are charismatic creatures, much featured in books for younger children. Sadly, most kids growing up in Britain today will never see one.

      • krikitarts says:

        As I was reading your informative comment, I was already drawing parallels to the situation here in NZ (as well as in other sensitive ecosystems) regarding both whimsical and pest-control strategies, and the historical results of so many are frankly appalling. I’m sorry to hear that our greys have taken such a hold. Hey, wait–maybe you should import some of our little reds to interbreed with them so that the hybrids might be smaller and less invasive?! (Yeah, right.)

      • Platypus Man says:

        Our politicians are so barking mad that if I suggested it they’d probably do it (claiming as their own idea until it proved to be a disaster, at which point the finger of suspicion would be pointed at me!) so I think I’ll just keep quiet!

  2. I recognized the sciurus part of the genus name as being the Greek word for ‘squirrel.’ I had to hunt for the and found it’s from Greek Ταμίας, which one website says meant ‘hoarder,’ though elsewhere I see that in modern Greek it means ‘treasurer, cashier, paymaster.’

    • krikitarts says:

      That’s a very apt descriptor for them. They seem always to be busily gathering seeds and nuts to store them away for the long winters. And they become so used to our presence that they will sometimes come within a few feet of us, and last year there was one that grew so comfortable with my presence that it even took a couple of peanuts from my hand.

  3. Peter Klopp says:

    Chatterer is a good way to describe these noisy critters of the wood.

  4. Adrian Lewis says:

    The American Grey Squirrel lives in/around our garden, and its always good to see them. :)

  5. Great catch, Gary. Caught mid-chatter and cute as most red squirrels are. Sadly, our neighborhood hosts only grey and the black morph of them but no reds.
    I’ve always enjoyed the smaller reds and often when camping at Acadia they would climb right up on our folding chaises, hop up an the arms, and wait for gifts of granola. Not a good thing but they are quite accustomed to campers.

    • krikitarts says:

      We (and the other locals in northern Minnesota) call them pine squirrels, and we love their company. We know that peanuts are not part of their natural diet and do not provide an essential part of their nutritional needs, but neither are/do beer and double-pepperoni pizzas for us. But all things in moderation, right?

  6. shoreacres says:

    I’ve never seen this species. We have a mix of fox and gray squirrels here, and when I’m in the hill country I come across the occasional rock squirrel. The grays also are called cat squirrels, because of the vaguely mewing sound they make when distressed. I suppose I shouldn’t call it ‘vaguely’ mewing, since the first times I heard it, I was sure it was a cat. I was interested in the discussion of the ear-tufts on the red squirrels. I have an antique copper mold hanging in my kitchen that’s embossed with a squirrel. It has those ear tufts, and I couldn’t figure out for years why the artist got the squirrel so ‘wrong.’ It wasn’t wrong at all: just a different species.

    • krikitarts says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever heard a gray make a mewing sound, but I’ll watch (or, rather, listen) for it next time I get the chance. I also looked up your rock squirrel, and that’s new to me to. Another day of most-welcome live & learn.

  7. What a fabulous character, and it looks like it was posing just for you, Gary :)

    • krikitarts says:

      Actually, more like posturing than posing. It was telling me that, this time, our mutual proximity was a little too intimate for its liking. As I remember, I did go back and leaf a peanut where it had perched as a belated peace offering.

  8. bluebrightly says:

    It’s interesting that they interbreed – we have gray squirrels, of course, and a smaller, native red squirrel, the Douglas squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii). As far as I know, they don’t interbreed. And as you’d expect, we’re very, very fond of the little “Dougies.” Great photo!

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