It’s March. The days are getting longer. As a result certain hormones are beginning to flow through the veins of many animals in the woods and fields here in Alberta. On sunny days, male chickadees are singing their spring long-calls even though the females aren’t responding. The red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) are coursing through the trees, chasing each other out of their respective territories as food supplies must be protected and females chased when they allow the males to do so.
Many people consider the red squirrel a pest; and it can cause problems, entering buildings and destroying property. But I do not consider it such; I think it’s a very entertaining resident of the woods around our house that deserves some respect. Of course, I take precautions to discourage it from entering my buildings.
You see, I was trained as a biologist who studied the behavior of small mammals, including squirrels. I find squirrels fascinating animals and gladly allow them to eat at my feeders. As I described in my 1985 Canadian Geographic article, each year my feeders become focal points of battles between squirrels as each tries to include the feeders in its territory.
Usually one squirrel soon establishes its dominance and the others resort to sneaking in occasionally to steal a few sunflower seeds. The dominant squirrel can be either male or female, as females establish exclusive territories, just like the males. However, at this time of the year, when the females come into heat, all territorial boundaries disappear as the males gang up to chase the “ready” females through the trees. Like the chickadee male long calls, the chases and battles are a sure sign spring is not far away.
So, what’s wrong with that?