Probably the most familiar animal at Camp Salmen is the Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis),the bossy little “Prairie Dog of the Sky.”
“Squirrel” is right. I can’t think of another creature that so lives up to its name; they are the champions of indecision. I once watched one rashly run out in front of a car, catch himself, go back, change his mind and go back (in front of the car), go back then turn around and dive under the car anyway. Buddy-D chose a good name for his misdirected Saints fans.
As doubtful and indecisive as they seem here in the good old U.S.A. they are absolute international terrorists overseas. They are considered an invasive species that has largely displaced the kindly Red Squirrel in Olde England. The species is also on its way to dominating squirreldom in Italy, Ireland and other parts of Europe.
They are shifty-eyed compulsive and paranoid, known to hide seeds, nuts and berries in thousands of locations in a season. They even fake this activity if they think someone is watching. Our indolent squirrels at Camp Salmen Nature Park don’t bother. They spend summer and fall rifling cypress and pine trees, leaving a mess of sticky half-chewed cypress balls, pine bark, needles, seeds and stripped pine cones discarded on our boardwalks like chewed corn cobs.
Even though they are supposed to be kind of cute, their cuteness was lost on me some time ago. Instead of being the shy, retiring tree-dweller type, they can be quite boisterous and disruptive in the quiet, peaceful wood. During courtship season they bark incessantly and recklessly chase one another from branch to branch, gnaw on innocent trees, steal food from bird feeders, cause a ruckus by blundering into Blue Jay territory and trespass in human dwellings to vandalize — all while contemptuously flicking their tails at observers who stand aghast.