Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The life of squirrels

Squirrels ripple as they run through a yard, up a tree. They can sit on a tiny branch at treetop, bouncing in the wind without falling. Did the idea for Donald Duck’s voice come from someone hearing an angry squirrel? They gallop across rooftops like small horses. Chase each other and tumble. Love to tease dogs in fenced back yards, throw nutshells onto people walking below. Quickly figure out how to get to the birdseed in a protected birdfeeder.

One of my co-workers once trained a squirrel to come into the back door, down the hallway, into our office, climb up a chair, onto a desk, over an arrangement of books, and then onto a stuffed pig, where it would be rewarded with peanuts. She named the squirrel Gladys. Unfortunately, one day Gladys didn’t look both ways before she crossed the street.

But even though they aren’t aware of the danger of cars, they have astounding memories. A research team at UC Berkley studied how squirrels keep track of their food stashes. They bury nuts singly, but in hundreds of different sites, to protect their food supply from others. Somehow they remember where it all is hidden.

Maybe I need to hire one as a personal assistant to sort through the stacks on my desk, help me remember what's there…

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