Lust for brains: the Sacrificial Squirrel

Posted: December 13th, 2008 under Wildlife.

Admittedly, no one ever said squirrels were brilliant. But we have squirrels running the wires between power poles all the time (squirrels, and opossums, and occasionally rats.)

In December, though, the Eastern Fox Squirrels we have go crazy…chasing each other up and down trees, across the yard, making strange wild leaps in the air (often with a flip or reveral) and tail-signaling like crazy. “I’m handsome, I’m brave, I’m strong, you want me!” “I’m beautiful, I’m lithe, my tail’s bushier, I’m not at all sure you’re good enough for me.” “Com’ere!” “Catch me!” “I’ve got you now, my pretty!” “Fooled you!”

All day Friday a pair of squirrels were busy dashing, leaping, showing off, with brief pauses to eat the birdfeed. I wasn’t watching closely, so I didn’t see whatever “Hey, watch THIS!” move the sacrificial squirrel made about four in the afternoon. I was working away on the book, writing, when a loud (very loud!) BANG! was followed by the loss of power and frantic beeps from the UPS. Well after dark, the repair truck showed up, and sure enough, under the power pole, was the show-off.

Now I could be wrong. It could have been some prudent older squirrel or timid young squirrel who put a foot wrong and caused the power outage. But given the recent behavior of squirrels in our neighborhood, I’d bet on the mating game. Someone just had to show off for someone else.


  • Comment by Will Carpenter — December 14, 2008 @ 2:03 pm


    Well, the unlucky squirrel (no doubt in my mind that it was a male) needs to be nominated for a Darwin Award: He contributed to the survival of his species by putting his foot in the wrong place, thus chlorinating the squirrel gene pool….

  • Comment by Chuck — December 15, 2008 @ 8:33 pm


    When I was in college at NTSU in the early 70’s, before they mostly paved and built over “People’s Park,” we could count once or twice a year on a squirrel electrocution knocking out all the power on campus for the afternoon, and the consequent dismissal of classes.
    Now, living in a 40 – 50 year old urban neighborhood near a park and a creek, we get lots of squirrels and their acrobatics at this time of year, and the subsequent road kill. The ancient strategy of freezing, then reversing direction to elude a large predator is unfortunately just the wrong strategy for narrow paved streets with cars going just a little faster than they should.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 16, 2008 @ 1:58 pm


    Wonder if the surviving squirrels will have a different pattern…and if, in any future absence of cars, it will make them more vulnerable to hawks and coyotes.

  • Comment by Jerry Bryson — December 21, 2008 @ 3:04 pm


    Around here, we have grey, red, and black squirrels. The black ones are new.

    Up to when they arrived, all the squirrels would do the zig-zag thing with cars, finally diving under the wheels. The black ones didn’t. They made a bee line straight across the road. I thought they would end up taking over the neighborhood,but they leveled out around 20-40 percent. So I wonder, like Elizabeth, if the lack of the zig-zag pattern made the vulnerable to predators. Around here, dogs, don’t get to roam, much, but cats do. We also have a few hawks. Maybe they’ll attract an eagle.

  • Comment by elizabeth — December 21, 2008 @ 11:00 pm


    In a wooded urban neighborhood where a friend lives, a red-tailed hawk takes squirrels–though I think all the squirrels there, as here, are eastern fox squirrels. But certainly any raptor big enough for their weight should be able to snatch a squirrel.

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