Nifty Tidbits: by Chuck Rigby

Originally printed in the Oct. 9, 2002 edition of the Illinois Valley News

Peanut butter has been my most reliable bait for my live animal trap. Using peanut butter I have caught skunks, opossums, raccoons, and gray squirrels and one fox. Even a scrub jay or two has been tempted by this succulent treat. By the way, all these animals have been carefully transported to forest areas away from main roads and houses. Hopefully, they have suffered little physical harm.
Lately, however, the gray squirrels have been ignoring the trap. I’ve included some whole peanuts and even acorns with no success. There is an abundant supply of acorns this year in our trees and this is the cause of my irritation. The squirrel’s natural hoarding instinct leads them to bury acorns in the ground. In the garden, or in the unused sections of the yard, that would be fine. But our lawn is marked with small holes where they have buried an acorn , put back some dirt, and left a small mound next to the hole with a few rocks scattered nearby for a extra insult.
This is just the first step, because later in the winter or spring they will be back to dig up the acorn for food and will not fill in the new hole. This has increased my desire to reduce the squirrel population of our neighborhood by at least two.
The squirrel’s sense of smell is very strong and they smell their scent in the ground on the buried acorns months later. They do not find all of them however, and so when the acorns germinate in the spring I have to dig up those remaining in order to keep oak trees from taking over the grass.
Another interesting fact I have learned from my reading is that white oak acorns will start to germinate in the fall which means the squirrels would lose some of the nutritional value. Their solution is to gnaw a small notch in the acorns which, somehow, prevents them from germinating. Black oak acorns, on the other hand, germinate in the spring and squirrels do not normally notch those acorns because they will usually dig them up before they germinate. Squirrels are also very interesting to watch as they chase each other around on the trees with the amazing ability to go easily from one tree to another on the smallest of branches.
Squirrels eat many other foods besides acorns. This is the main reason why the ground around our fir trees is covered with pieces of fir cones. The scales on the cones have been cast aside in order to reach the seeds hiding at the base of each scale. Bark is also eaten as are mushrooms, insects, bird eggs, baby birds, fruits, worms, and even dead animals are a part of their diet.
Any squirrels which I am fortunate enough to capture will be released somewhere in a nice wooded region of the Siskiyou National Forest. On Oct. 5, 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt set aside an area which was called the Siskiyou Forest Reserve. In 1907 all the forest reserves in the nation were changed to national forests. Six Rivers National Forest was later created from a part of the Siskiyou National Forest. Today Siskiyou National Forest contains 1, 163,484 acres. It contains a fantastic assortment of plants, some unique geological features, and numerous animal populations. Hopefully in the near future it will contain two additional gray squirrels.