2014—Should I Be Worried?

I always thought squirrels were squirrels. I mean, I know they are rodents and I know there are different species but I only worried that they might eat the bird seed I set out, not anything more than that. After I did a bit of squirrel research I’m afraid I may have something to worry about. They breed from December to June so I think I’m in for a busy season, starting now, and then there will be lots more squirrels judging by the number in my yard on New Year’s Day. They may move into my attic to nest. I thought only rats did that—oh, but of course, squirrels are rodents! They sometimes carry (and I suppose spread) bubonic plague — oh joy. And they sometimes are infected with West Nile Virus, another scourge that seems to have become endemic here.

After living here for more than 20 years, I witnessed the first squirrel in my yard a few months ago. Yesterday, I noticed at least four, maybe five, cavorting along the garden wall, running up, down, and through the photineas, scurrying along the ground, and pausing atop the neighbor’s garden shed. When I went out with my camera, they at first ran off, then immediately returned to look down at me from various branches and scold me. One peeked up at me over the fence just inches from my face, twice, then he disappeared down the other side before I could get a shot. I captured this squirrel, seemingly frozen in place, atop the neighbor’s shed. I approached, just a few feet away, on my side of the fence, made all kinds of noises, and he didn’t budge. My problem in getting a decent photo was the leaves and branchlets between me and the squirrel. He didn’t move. I don’t know what kind of squirrel this is. It doesn’t appear to be gray enough to be a native gray squirrel but I’m hoping that’s what it is, although what difference it makes, I don’t know. It might be a fox squirrel, an eastern species introduced to California, or it might be another introduced eastern species, an eastern gray squirrel. The only one I’ve ruled out is a ground squirrel.

All I can say about this photograph is that the squirrel in it looks extremely rodent-ish and it isn’t quite a cute as I thought squirrels are supposed to look. And, I used my 70-200mm lens (and Nikon D7100) and was close enough that I didn’t need to crop this shot.

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