W:. Breth's Red Devil Squirrel

Alternate lyrics to “Our House”
My house, made so nicely in your shed,
My house, I’m so comfy and well fed

I went into our shed to get the lawnmower for the first time a few weeks ago.  I see a Rubbermaid bin with no lid on it (we have a few in there without lids), and it is almost full of pinecones.  We can call this “Bin 1, the unphotographed bin”.  I think “that’s odd, did I put those in there?”  Then, behind some stuff, I saw a carpet of pinecone “leaves”, and I said to myself (among other things): red squirrel.  How’d I know?  Pine Cones = Red Squirrels.

Here is a kitchen-size garbage bin we repurposed for storage in the shed, that the squirrel treated like one of his many refrigerators.

Note the pinecones in the folds of the tarp.  This is one of three or four unfolded tarps in the shed, all similarly loaded.  This photo is the tip of the iceberg.

I figured the squirrel was probably no longer in residence, after all, it was springtime, they don’t need this place anymore, but who knows.  When I finished up the lawn, I let the lawnmower keep running – in the shed, with the door just slightly open, to encourage departure.  “Do you like bone-rattling noise?  We’re going to find out how much you enjoy having your ears turned inside out.  By the way, if you experience a sudden desire to sleep, that’s natural and you should just put your fuzzy little head down and take a nap. ”A very long, carbon monoxide-induced nap.  Cleaning the shed will have to wait. 

The following weekend, I open the shed door to get the lawnmower, and heard panicked scrambling.  Then silence.  Then I banged the lawnmower up and down on the floor.  More scrambling.  Suddenly a red squirrel appeared in front of me with an “Oh no!  Busted!!!” look on his face.   Red Squirrel confirmed:  the same rodent that drops pinecones on your tent and laughs at you with its distinctive chittering when you use the outdoor “thunderbox” in Algonquin Park Canada.  We’ve met.  

When I finished the lawn, I let the lawnmower run again in the shed for a while.  He liked it so much the first time, how about a little more.  A few nights later, I posted Michael in a position to watch the back of the shed, to see if anybody came dashing out when I opened the door, and if so, where from.  He saw one squirrel dash out the back from underneath, so I figured they’d chewed a hole through the floor/wall…somewhere.  I targeted the upcoming weekend for a date with destiny. 

I read up on my wiley adversary.  Between February and October, momma squirrels may have babies, twice (the little hussies), therefore it is “cruel” to clean them out or shut them out of a shed (plus “they’ll do ANYTHING” to get back in), and trapping them apparently isn’t very nice.  What to do?  Create a constant human presence, so they decide they don’t want this domicile.  Momma will move the whole family given sufficient reason.  So I bought 8 C-batteries and stuck a cd/radio player in the shed, and let them listen to pop 40 anti-music for a week, to encourage departure.  It would induce me to move.  Subjecting the squirrel to that music was arguably cruel.  Motivating, but cruel.

It didn’t work.  Round two.  I set the radio to the most monotonous 24/7 preachy Christian radio station I could find.  If you can’t get them to leave, you can teach them the error of their ways, maybe get them to seek repentance.  I repaired the eaves where I discovered a chewed-through point of entry.  The new wood was chewed through within two days.  (Ultimately I had to encase the eaves in chicken wire.  As one does.)

Saturday was the day.  No squirrel to be heard.   I saw pretty quickly where the nesting site was.  Mixed in with the pine shavings were a zillion little pieces of foam rubber, and nearby, atop some lawn chairs was what remained of a cushion for which my wife had a very clever friend of hers fashion a cover from an old outdoor tablecloth.  You will notice that much of the former tablecloth is missing.  The other cushion was untouched.  This squirrel did not want to cause unnecessary damage.  Greatly appreciated.  Although he apparently did not realize that if you destroyed one of a pair of cushions, you’ve rendered the remaining cushion useless.

There are only three things in the open tote below.  Unopened garden border fence.  Unopened weed guard.  Six or seven inches of pinecones.

Later on, I discovered the bin below.  This little beauty is the largest bin in the shed.  48” wide, about 18” tall and about 21” deep.  I spotted the open lid when I was moving stuff away, and could just see inside.  I think items stored on top of the bin forced the lid open just enough, a happy coincidence for the squirrel, since this became the main storage facility, like a root cellar for our little friend. 

Let’s take the lid off.  Hey, that looks pretty full.

Ugh.  Intermingled with the pinecones are squirt guns, sprinklers, and yard games.  They are like jellyfish, demonstrating neutral buoyancy in an ocean of pinecones.  Note the green tarp next to it.  It held pinecones and tree nuts stored in all kinds of interesting places.

I must take a moment to tip my hat to the industry, singular focus, ceaseless and unrelenting passion with which red squirrels seek out and store their food.  Every available container had pinecones in it.  In addition to the bins, pinecones were stuffed into duffel bags, extra garbage bags they found, the center of folding chairs, “cup”-shaped areas of tarps, behind tools, even one inside the seed/fertilizer-spreader that was hanging on the wall.  They seemed to have a great idea all the time, and that great idea was “let’s put some in here.”  I do not think it is an exaggeration to suggest that there were roughly 1,000 pinecones in the shed.

Above is the seed/fertilizer spreader hanging from the wall.  If you look closely, you’ll see one tree nut right in the middle.  A 3-pointer from downtown!  Who knew they played basketball?

There was an exercise ball in the shed, and it was clear that he sat on top of it eating a pinecone, looking out the window and enjoying a room with a view, probably on one of those very wintery days, grateful for the shelter, stored food, adopting a suitable position to return thanks to God for providing a foam cushion to keep him warm.  Meanwhile, I was snow blowing two feet of snow from the driveway into the wind and into my face.  Thankfully the Good Lord provided him with the creature comforts.  All the comforts of home, none of the inconveniences.  If there is anything else we can get for you, please let us know.

I had to take pretty much everything out of the shed.  I picked up one tarp that I had folded to store, and about twenty tree nuts of some kind came spilling out.  I had to laugh at that point.  Everything I picked up nuts, pinecones, or both, fell out of it.  There is a brand new box of rolled up garden border, the plastic stuff.  The side of the box is designed to be open so you can see the product, and they shoved nuts in there, but no matter how much I shake it I can’t get the nuts out.

Here’s the view of the floor after I removed a few things and could really see the pinecone carpet.

Here’s the other corner, to the left of the photo above.

It took a few hours.  I had to use a flat-blade shovel (like a coal shovel) to get all the pinecones and pinecone chewings off the floor.  I probably filled the kitchen garbage can four times just doing that. 

There were no holes in the back of the shed.  I realized the point of entry was in the front.  Some carefully chewed flooring allowed sufficient gap between the door and the floor.  It was so kind of the squirrel not to overchew, so as to minimize any damage to the place.  Very thoughtful.  Nobody wants to be a rude guest or overstay their welcome.

One of the things I removed from the shed was some plastic fencing.  The kind of stuff you put around a tree to prevent rabbits from getting after plants.  There was a hole in the bottom of it. 

A perfect, squirrel-sized, little round hole.

Look how round the hole is.  That was a squirrel with some serious OCD issues.

I didn’t know what to do with the pinecones, so I stuck them all underneath a large pine tree in our front yard.  The pile was about two feet deep, and probably four feet wide, like a little pyramid.  I think my estimate of 1,000 pinecones and remnants is not unreasonable.   There were some pinecones already beneath this pile…..but none of them are visible.  Or even close to it.

The photo does not do the pile justice.  It was awe-inspiring to see it in person.  Tutankhamun would have volunteered to die in order to be mummified within its walls.

Last, to deal with the point of entry at the front of the shed, I jammed some thick wood appropriately between the ground and the point of entry at the door to increase the level of chewing difficulty.  The nesting site (cushion) was thrown away, and of course, I emptied the pantry.  Hopefully the squirrel has located suitable accommodations nearby.  I notice that all my neighbors have a woeful lack of pinecones in their sheds. 

I read that red squirrels are solitary except for when momma has babies, so I am thinking it was just one male in there, as I never saw evidence of babies.  If so, he was the most eligible bachelor around, and I’m sure was the talk of all the lady red squirrels and his squirrely little checkbook – a bank full of enough food for a whole family.

Those little red devils.  They wake you up at the crack of dawn when you’re camping by dropping pinecones on your tent or in the water nearby, they laugh at you from nearby trees when you are taking care of your personal business in the woods, and they fill your shed with pinecones.