Opinion: Smarter than a squirrel

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Commentary by Ward Degler

We have a smart squirrel at our place. Smart because he finally figured out his limitations.

It has to do with the bird feeders that hang on shepherd crooks in our front yard. Several months ago I watched the squirrel climb the metal pole to get to the feeders. Outraged, I did what any serious bird lover would do. I greased the pole.

For the next few days I gleefully watched the animal try to climb the slippery pole, fail and finally give up. I gave myself high praise for being smarter than a squirrel.

Then it rained, and the grease washed off. The squirrel apparently knew this would happen and was back the next day climbing the pole.

Then, something interesting happened. He got to the top, ventured onto the extended hook and reached down to the feeder while hanging onto the hook by his back feet.

Unfortunately, his intended grasp exceeded his reach, and he tumbled to the ground. It was both hilarious and pathetic. I watched as he tried again and again, each time losing his grip and flopping to the ground.

The next day he was back, but this time he didn’t try to climb the pole. Instead, he nosed around under the feeders where he found seeds the birds had dropped. Apparently, it dawned on him that birds are messy eaters and drop more seeds than they eat. Now, the squirrel gets his daily fill without effort or painful acrobatics while the birds toss morsels down to him.

Like I said, smart squirrel –smarter than the ones we had in Missouri where I grew up. There was a woodlot behind our house, and every morning a community of squirrels leaped from tree to tree until they reached the upper limbs of a hickory that was loaded with nuts.

One night a storm roared through the region, took down power lines, damaged roofs and blew over the hickory tree. While we were surveying the damage, the squirrels came leaping nonchalantly through the trees. With one final jump, they launched into empty space where the hickory tree had been. One by one they careened through the air and landed hard on the ground.

We were in hysterics. And it was even funnier when they did it again the next day and the day after.

The third day dawned sunny and bright. We sipped our breakfast orange juice and waited for the show to begin. Then we were amazed to see the squirrels arrive one at a time at the fallen hickory tree. Only this time they were weren’t in the trees, they were walking on the ground.

I remember that a couple of them were limping.

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