Tales from the Bark Side: Logic vs. instinct vs. 'unbeatable genius'

Welcome back to the bark side of life here in Ottertail, where the hint of spring has been murmured throughout the morning by the sprouting of lilac buds out side my window to the clarion call of Canadian geese beckoning each other to make the tr...

Welcome back to the bark side of life here in Ottertail, where the hint of spring has been murmured throughout the morning by the sprouting of lilac buds out side my window to the clarion call of Canadian geese beckoning each other to make the trek northward.

In the cold clear morning, trails of frozen slush give evidence to the oncoming warmer weather, and Sol shines ever brighter in tribute to the forthcoming day. Winter will someday subside, and long sleeved shirts and warm bulky sweaters shall find their way back to the deep recesses of our closets.

I try my very best to keep my promises, and this week is no exception. We've been on the subject of conniving squirrels in our "Logic vs. Instinct" contest, and Nathan Johnson of Fergus Falls has a doozy of a tale that I shall not tarry in bring it to you. Here's his slant on a subject we all have had experiences with; the sagacious squirrel.

Logic vs. Instinct vs.

Unbeatable Genius


By Nathan F. Johnson

Many times in our lives, we are faced with a certain instance where we wonder, "Was that instinct, or logic?" I have had several of these instances, perhaps more than my fair share, and they usually have something to do with squirrels.

Words have been spoken, books written, debates argued, nations divided, wars fought, and civilizations eliminated over the topic: how does one outwit a squirrel? Many a good man has lost the battle to outwit squirrels. As you've probably guessed, I am one of them.

Instinct, in my opinion, is the natural attraction between male and female (or male and automobile, as the case may be). Instinct is the ability to find the light-switch in a dark bathroom at night, or what drives a dog to turn around five times before going to sleep, or what triggers a cat to suddenly attack your foot for no apparent reason.

But you simply cannot say that it is instinct that enables a squirrel to disarm laser tripwires, circumnavigate your strategically-placed land mines, disengage the microwave sensors, and somehow avoid the heat-seeking machine guns that guard your bird feeder. It just doesn't happen. It's obviously one of two things: logic, or cold, hard genius.

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. We were sitting in the living room, when my brother exclaimed, "Look! There's a squirrel!" We looked, and there was a squirrel, and he was headed for one of our feeders.

It was a simple matter for him to shimmy up onto the tree we had hung it on, and audaciously bite through the yarn holding it up, grab the bagel in his mouth, and carry it off to his nest, without even a "Thank you very much," or a "By your leave."


Well! We were just a little bit miffed. One third of our hard work had just gone to waste in a matter of seconds. But oh, no! He wasn't finished yet! Mr. Squirrel came back for a second helping. Since that one was in a little bit more of a tricky position (hanging from some very thin sticks), he had a harder time with it. He kept climbing a tree and looking at it, then climbing down and going up another one, to see how he could get it.

For a few seconds, I thought I saw him consult a laptop computer for tree blueprints, but I'm sure I was wrong. Then, as though he had suddenly had a brain wave, he sprang up onto the shrub, crawled upside-down over to the luring bagel, gnawed through the yarn, and carried it off again! Well, well! This was even more of a surprise! Two more feeders were apprehended in a like manner, and we figured that our friend would either forget where he put these, or else be a very fat squirrel for the winter.

To be continued...


I wish I had the room to print Nathan's entire tale in one fell swoop, but we are governed by limited space for this column. Part Two of his tale will be gracing our pages next week. Make sure you don't miss it. If you, or somebody you know, have a tale to tell that shows an example of logical or instinctual behavior in your pet or some other critter, you can email, write, or phone me.

Send your e-mail messages to info@rosswood, or write a letter to Keith Alan Ross, Richville MN 56576, or phone me at 218-495-2195. You can purchase a copy of Tales From The Bark Side (the book) at The Red Willow, which has two locations in Detroit Lakes -- one at the mall and the other just down the hill at Willow Street on Washington. If you have not been to either one of these stores, you are in for a treat. They have everything from soup to nuts.

That does it for this week. Until next time...

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