Tales from the Bark Side column: 'Unbeatable squirrel genius,' part II

Welcome back to the bark side of life here in Ottertail, where on this day, spring is sprung. Well, that's what the calendar indicates but I'm not sure the fluffy white stuff that falls from the skies like frosted flakes has completely left us. I...

Welcome back to the bark side of life here in Ottertail, where on this day, spring is sprung. Well, that's what the calendar indicates but I'm not sure the fluffy white stuff that falls from the skies like frosted flakes has completely left us. It's been warmer but let not that fool you folks; more than one weather prognosticator has been found to be flawed in that regard. I'm thinking of writing lyrics to a song "Let it melt, let it melt, let it melt". Okay, it's not McCartney or Lennon but I think it gets the point across. Enough already! Come on summer!

Last week, we had part one of a tale by a 14-year-old boy that graces these pages with his wit and self deprecating charm that usually can be only found in the skill of much older writers. Nathan Johnson completes his contribution to our "Logic vs. Instinct" contest this week and I'm sure you'll enjoy his tale about that sagacious squirrel. Let's re-cap last week's column and carry on from there.

Unbeatable Genius, Part II

In my first actual run-in with squirrel geniuses, my family had made a series of "bagel-bird feeders" at an event at a local wildlife center. They consisted of a bagel, smeared with peanut butter, and sunflower seeds. Stupidly, we assumed that birds would be the only ones attracted to these delicacies. As is usually the case, we were wrong. Two days after we put the feeders out, we noticed another visitor making a very obvious beeline for the feeders; it was a large, fluffy, and apparently well-fed gray squirrel.

By this time we had only one left in the house, so we decided that if he was going to steal our feeders, he was going to have to work for it. So saying, we attached our final prize to a very thin twig. Sure enough, our fiend -- er, friend -- showed up, ready for more. He seemed to figure that this twig was a little too thin for his weight. He was probably right.


So, he shinnied up a birch tree, and went out on a limb (no pun intended). Once on the limb, he jumped from the limb onto the shrub above the feeder. Then, very slowly, he wrapped his tail around the branch, and gently lowered himself down towards the feeder. Dangling there by his tail, he reached his grubby squirrel paws out, seized the yarn that was hanging the bagel, and paw-over-paw pulled the feeder up towards his gaping jaws. Still upside down, he gnawed through the yarn, and carried it off.

We gaped. We could do nothing else. We thought he was headed home for good, but no! After depositing his latest steal, he came back, and shinnied up a different tree. He went up to a fork in this tree, and what should be there but one of his stolen bagels, stashed away until he could come back for it! Well! You could have knocked us over with a snowflake! I'm telling you what, that right there was one smart squirrel.

Was it instinct or logic? Sorry, folks, but that was cold, hard, and unbeatable genius!

In the summer of 2007, my brother and I had a run-in with a self-indulgent chipmunk that continuously scaled the metal bird feeder pole and gorged himself on expensive black-oil sunflower seeds. After failed attempts at "shouting him away," we decided to try a garden hose and a net (supposedly, we were going to kidnap the chipmunk and release him on a faraway island). We were wrong.

Not only are chipmunks geniuses, but they also have an unlimited supply of energy and stamina. That, combined with their ability to run directly into a full-blast jet stream of water and escape their would-be captors makes them unbeatable opponents. Unfortunately, my brother and I failed to see what we were up against, and continually harassed the little raider in hopes of capturing him. Of course, he got away each time. We did eventually capture him, but, not thinking again, we released him in the woods a short walking distance from the feeder. Three days later, our pesky friend was back. Exasperated, we gave up, the best course of action in this case. Human logic just can't compete with rodent genius.

To all of you who are foolish enough to try to outwit squirrels, I will say one thing: give up while you're still behind. You'll thank me for it one day.


I'm sure we could write about those bushy tailed bandits for a long time running but young Nathan has nailed the subject matter to a tee. The contest is intended to be inclusive to all sorts of critters and while squirrels are good fodder for funny antidotes, I'm willing to bet that there are more than a few examples of logic or instinct still left to be shared by you my intrepid readers.


You can enter the "Logic vs. Instinct" contest by e-mailing me at or write to me via snail mail (an internet term, not mine) to Keith Alan Ross, Richville, MN 56576 or if you are a bit shy about writing a story, you can phone me at 218-495-2195.

Oh, by the way, have you been to the Red Willow lately? They have two locations that just happen to sell my book. Imagine that! You can purchase Tales From The Bark Side (the book) at either location in Detroit Lakes, whether it be at the corner of Washington and Willow or their great shop at the mall.

Until next time...

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