Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What Cyclists Need To Know About Squirrels

Pancaked on the road, stiff as a brick on the sidewalk, this fall’s squirrels are more crazy and quirky than Zooey Deschanel.  In the 12 years I’ve been riding in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, I’ve never seen such risk taking.  I’m guessing they’re drunk.  Since mating season isn’t until late winter, they’re definitely not horny.  Sadly, (according to what else but squirrels.org) most urban grey squirrels don’t make it to their first birthday, usually falling prey to their natural predator, the Toyota.  If they do survive to blow out the birthday candle on the walnut, they live 5-6 years, unless they fall victim to their other mortal enemy, electricity.  Case in point, the biology class specimen tent-pole-stiff and tipped over like a jackknifed semi on the sidewalk appeared as if he’d keeled over of a heart attack.  Looking up overhead at the fraying power lines, he likely did. 

On the bike path, through town squares, past low rent apartments and palatial estates, last night I lost count of the close encounters of the twitchy tail kind.  Like a lunatic two days off his meds and riding a bike through Cincinnati’s upper crust Indian Hill neighborhood, I began shouting out loud at the squirrels, almost as if they could understand my obscenities.  “What the #$%@ Dude!”  C’mon man!”  Maybe I should’ve shook my tail at them.

“Gotta get the nuts,” my wife joked as a sassy little guy heckled us with chirping that sounded like small dog up a tree.  There’s something about this year, this fall, that is different.  In full arm and knee warmers on a crispy evening I rode about 21 miles yesterday.  In not much more than an hour, no less than 10 squirrels chanced the Cuisinart-like bladed spokes of my front wheel.  They dissed me from trees with tiny barking noises.  They twisted circles up tree trees like pythons on EPO.  They were Indian Hill monkeys.

Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry will cause snow to gather in a hurry, according to this post at FarmersAlmanac.com.  Like I said, it was a cool crisp evening.  The temperature would dive into the mid 30’s overnight.  Being an outside person, I believe the naturalisms of the Farmer’s Almanac’s “Snow Lore.”  I also believe in Sasquatch.  Temperatures near freezing mean leaves will fall sooner, covering up nuts, discarded pizza crust in alleys and other food squirrels need for the winter.  Contrary to popular belief, squirrels don’t hibernate in the winter, but they do hang out in their nests conserving body heat while eating nuts and watching Football on the I Phone that fell out of your jersey pocket earlier in the year.  Essentially, it’s exactly the same as Cincinnatians going to the Kroger grocery store at the first sign of a snowstorm.  Gotta get the nuts.

What Every Cyclist Should Know About Squirrels (According to what else….Squirrels.org)

SPEED: You can outride them.  The average speed of a squirrel at a full run (on four legs), is only between 8 and 10 mph.  The challenge is guessing which direction you should take those evasive maneuvers.  There is an old story of an Illinois state police officer that once clocked a gray squirrel with his radar gun at 20 mph as it ran across a highway.  (The post did not say if it was on two legs, how big the squirrel was or if the officer mistook the squirrel for a grey Prius.)

SAY WHAT?:  Squirrels communicate by making shrill sounds (tchrring).  The pitch and the duration of these sounds have meaning to other squirrels.  “Give me my @)%*(# nuts back!”  Tail gestures are also a form of communication.  Two twitches apparently means, “Betcha five bucks I can jump through your main triangle.”  The most common tail gesture is the "flicking" which means "get away!"

THEY’RE NOT MATING (YET): Squirrels mate in the late winter or very early spring.   This time may vary with location, the weather conditions (and whether or not the king size squirrel love nest is up to par.)   However, the best time to see a squirrel's acrobatic skill is during the "mating chase".

And now you know the rest of the story.

1 comment:

New bike prices India said...

Since at the age of 12 you are cycling. Great to be on your site had good time. Interesting article as well.