If you live in Kent, Ohio or went to school at Kent State University, you know about squirrels. Not just any squirrels, but black squirrels. These sable rodents are everywhere in the community and on campus. The black squirrel is, in fact, the unofficial mascot of Kent State. The official mascot is a “Golden Flash,” a stylized lightning bolt, but it is quite clear that town and gown alike find the ubiquitous furry squirrel more suitable as an urban icon. Every September the university holds a Black Squirrel Festival in its honor.
Black squirrels are, as Wikipedia says, a “melanistic subgroup of the eastern gray squirrel” Sciurus carolinensis.They aren’t native to Kent, but are recent interlopers, having been introduced to the campus by a grounds superintendent who imported them from Ontario, Canada in 1961. Details of the introduction of squirrels to Kent can be found here: http://www.kentohiohistory.org/squirrel/black_squirrel.html
Now, what is important to our story is this. Our little tree-dwelling creatures are not all cute and fluffy. Oh no, not at all. Ours, apparently, can be a bit aggressive, domineering, and territorial. As Wikipedia reports Kent’s black squirrels have “driven out native squirrels in many areas” of Northeast Ohio. Wherever black squirrels are introduced, they seem to thrive and establish growing populations. Indeed, in Battle Creek, Michigan they were introduced as rodent ninja assassins to “destroy the local population of red squirrels.” They’ve even crossed the Atlantic and invaded Britain: (http://kikistrikeny.blogspot.com/2009/01/black-squirrels-take-over-britain.html
Are all black squirrels mad, bad invaders? We can only report from personal experience that they do, indeed, seem to be a rodent to be reckoned with. A few years ago Joan, making one of the few errors of judgment in her life, decided to feed the squirrels that live outside our Kent home. She decided on this course of action based on some soft-focus, sentimental memory of her Swedish grandmother. Joan fondly remembers her grandmother standing in her Indiana backyard, holding an apron filled with crumbs, surrounded by a semicircle of squirrels who are lined up and waiting patiently for their boon of bread.
Joan, channeling her adored grandmother, began to toss bread out to our squirrels. All went well at first. The rodents soon got the idea and began to show up to be fed. But one squirrel began to be insistent, pushy, and rude. Soon Joan wasn’t appearing on time, or often enough, or the bread wasn’t the requisite quality. He would approach closer and closer and be more demanding. Finally, the Swedish grandmother scenario collapsed entirely on the day Joan went to the side porch where she fed the squirrels and was confronted by a large, angry, and quite possibly demented, squirrel hanging spread-eagled on the screen door.
Not content with simple assault on our screen door, our local population is also adept at breaking and entering. One particular episode comes to mind that occurred in the 1990’s. In our family we refer to it as the “Mega-Squirrel” story (AKA the “squirrel on steroids” tale, or perhaps we should spell it “tail”?).
One afternoon Joan ran downstairs to find Greg and exclaimed, “there’s a squirrel in the bathroom!” Greg, a dyed-in-the-wool empiricist, needed to see for himself, not (obviously) trusting mere hearsay. He entered the bathroom in question, looked around, saw nothing, and went back to what he was doing, announcing definitively, “there’s no squirrel in here.” Joan has encountered this skepticism on several other occasions, such as when there have been bats or birds in the house.
A few minutes passed. Joan reappeared and declared, a bit more urgently, “THERE’S A SQUIRREL IN THE BATHROOM!” The capitalization is intended to denote a certain tone of voice whose purpose was to indicate to Greg that his previous pronouncement had turned out to be quite mistaken.
Greg returned to the bathroom, superior in his knowledge that no squirrel indeed inhabited the lavatory. Much to his surprise he found a door to the bathroom barricaded. A chair and a chest had been shoved against it.
“What’s this?” he asked.
Joan replied matter-of-factly, “It’s to keep the squirrel out of the bedroom.”
Greg, smiling indulgently, wondered what kind of rodent could provoke such defensive action. He skirted the barricade and entered the bathroom to find—wait for it—a large, frantic, and, frankly, frightening black squirrel sitting in the bathroom sink. A large hole in the ceiling tile pointed unmistakably to his point of ingress!
Well, to make a long story short, after a harrowing chase, some near misses, and a trap involving a large garbage can, the intruder was removed from the bathroom. What remained behind, however, is the story of mega-squirrel and the memory of Greg’s transgression of the bounds of marital trust when he failed to believe Joan’s claim that a squirrel was in the bathroom. There is apparently no expiration date for such mistakes.
So, here in Kent, Ohio we do, indeed, have mad, bad squirrels. We don’t mess with them. We should not mess with them. However, in New Mexico, when they were introduced there, they couldn’t best the fox squirrels. They were killed by them shortly after being released into the wild. Maybe we need some fox squirrel enforcers here in Kent. But, given our experience with demented squirrels so far, maybe that isn’t such a good idea.
Note: All Wikipedia references from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_squirrel.