Fearless Forager   4 comments

Please allow me to introduce you to my friend, Fearless Forager, the Eastern Grey Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis.

Fearless is an omnivore, and as such, an important predator of seeds and other animals in our ecosystem, here, near the river. Her foraging helps disperse seeds and fungal spores. Grey squirrels feed mainly on the catkins, nuts, buds, flowers, seeds, and fruit of cedar, beech, dogwood, elm, ginkgo, hackberry, hawthorn, hazelnut, hemlock, hickory, maple, mulberry, oak, pecan, pine, spruce, walnut and wild cherry; with the addition of occasional fungus, insects, bones, bird eggs, nestlings, and frogs. Lately Fearless has been enjoying my kitchen scraps; which I strategically put out just after sunrise and in the late afternoon, her most active times. Although she sits and eats her fill, Fearless always carts off a hand-full of goodies. Squirrels bury food, using a method called scatter hoarding and locate their stashes, in winter, by memory and smell.  Fearless forages year-round, to keep dry and warm, in adverse weather; she archs and spreads her bushy tail, over her back.  Like other rodents, Fearless’s incisor teeth grow constantly, and must be necessarily filed down and sharpened by continuously gnawing.

Squirrels are food to a host of predators, including humans, mink, weasels, foxes, bobcats, wolves, coyotes, and birds of prey. They call to warn other squirrels of the presence of predators. Fearless seems far more concerned with eating than being eaten!

“Eastern grey squirrels provided food for Native Americans and colonists and are still eaten by some people today. They have economic importance in some states, such as Mississippi, where  2.5 million are harvested each year with an economic impact of 12.5 million dollars.” (1)

Fearless is an agile arboreal acrobat, with the amazing ability to jump 6 feet high and 10 feet out, craftily negotiating the distance between the tree tops and the balcony; in the blink of an eye; especially when I ‘m cooking, with the back door open!  In all her boldness, she scans me, up and down and then gives me a long hard, eye to eye moment; before she returns to stuffing her fat face.  I believe her “spider senses” indicate that I am no threat.  Just as my “spider senses” indicate that she is of no threat to me.

“While rabies in squirrels has not been reported in Massachusetts, they are susceptible to the virus. They may also be infested with numerous parasites. The parasite most frequently reported is the mite that causes notoedric mange.  The disease, characterized by the loss of hair, first over the chest and shoulders and then over the entire body, is transmitted through direct contact with an infected squirrel or nest. Notoedric mange mites are host-specific to squirrels and will not affect dogs or cats.” (2) 

Fearless looks healthy, well fattened, disease and parasite free; at least from 3 feet away!  Although I have no immediate plans of eating her, I like to think of Fearless as starvation insurance!  Grey Squirrel is delicious, when cooked right.  Because it is difficult to know the age of wild game it is a good idea to marinate the meat.  Plain vinegar does a great job of tenderizing, and eliminating gaminess, in just a few hours.  I like to add salt, pepper, garlic, ginger and rosemary to apple cider vinegar, for squirrel, and marinate, overnight in the frig.  The next day. wrap the squirrel whole, in bacon and roast it for ½ hour at 400 degrees.  Then add the bacon encrusted, roasted squirrel to a heavy saucepan, along with crushed tomatoes and any combination of vegetables, on hand.  After simmering for another hour or hour and a half, when the veggies are soft and the meat is falling off the bone, Fearless stew is a good, hearty meal.

Tapeworms, infection, and/or parasites can be present with any wild animal. The entire body of the animal, internally and externally, should be carefully inspected, while wearing gloves, during cleaning and butchering; paying particular attention to the kidneys, liver and muscle tissue; making sure that there are no eggs or paracites.  As always, look for the usual sign of tainted meat, including any bad or odd smell, discoloration and abscesses; and ensure that the meat is thoroughly cooked.

Just click on any photo to enlarge for greater detail.

Thanx for stopping by.  See you next time!

 * * * * *

REFERENCES:

(1) http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sciurus_carolinensis.html

(2) http://www.massaudubon.org/Nature_Connection/wildlife/index.php?subject=Mammals&id=24

 

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4 responses to “Fearless Forager

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  1. Here they like anything you put in your bird feeder. 🙂

  2. I had my own encounter with a squirrel not so long ago:

    http://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/nature-comes-to-me-for-a-change

    One of my friends is from east Texas, where some people still eat squirrels; I believe she did as a child.

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