Ringtail, Chiquita and Ringlet

(More of our Suburban Squirrels. Next: LG ("Little Guy").)

Ringtail is a really unusual looking female squirrel who sometimes shows up in our yard. She's very large, chestnut colored, with large, powerful hindquarters and a long, long tail that's ringed like a raccoon's.

Although she's quite a bit larger than Notch, she isn't dominant, and runs away when Notch comes screaming in. And she isn't very good at finding nuts; it took her more than a month of to figure out the locations where we typically leave nuts out, though she did often find nuts that had been buried by the other squirrels.

I've never been able to get a good picture of her: she's very skittish, even after several months, and won't let us near her, not even on the other side of a glass door.

Those powerful hind legs make her a fantastic jumper, and she'll make high, arcing leaps, hanging in the air for a moment before landing.

She'll eat cashews, which the grey squirrels don't like. Maybe that's because she's so much worse at finding nuts that she's hungrier than they are, but I doubt it since she always looks large, sleek and healthy.

I suspect she's an Eastern Fox Squirrel, a different species from the other squirrels who frequent here. But she's apparently able to breed with local squirrels: we saw her carrying a baby squirrel in her mouth, and shortly after that she showed up with two babies, which she took to leaving here for day care while she went off and did other things. We called the babies Chiquita and Ringlet, but when Ringlet acquired a prominent scar on the side of her neck Dave took to calling her Scrape instead. Curiously, both twins looked like normal Eastern Grey squirrels, with none of Ringtail's tawny coloring and only a hint of banding banding around Scrape's tail.

We watched the twins grow up: they loved playing in and around the potted fuscia, and digging in it (the fuscia didn't enjoy this as much as the squirrels did, and looks fairly dead now, but that's okay, I can always get another fuscia). Baby squirrels are incredibly klutzy at first, always falling off of things, but they're light enough that they don't seem to get hurt much by falling. Those headfirst descents squirrels like to do down trees and fences, which look so strange and difficult to humans -- well, they really are strange and difficult, and it takes baby squirrels a couple weeks before they can confidently walk down a fence or easily climb up it, and a few more weeks after that before they can leap and land confidently.

Unfortunately, the news of the babies isn't good. Scrape stopped coming by fairly early; it's possible she decided the yard was too crowded and left to find her own territory, but she seemed fairly young for that. Chiquita stayed for months, through most of autumn, and became fairly tame (she would cautiously take nuts from our hands, on a good day) and a very agile climber and leaper, a wonderful transformation from the klutzy baby who used to fall off the side of the potted fuscia. But then we found her in the street in front of the house. She'd been hit by a car. It looked like it was quick -- she was probably gone before she knew anything had happened. We miss her, though.

Apparently that's how most suburban squirrels meet their end, killed by cars during their first year. If they make it through that first year then chances are good they'll have a fairly long life.
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(More of our Suburban Squirrels. Next: LG ("Little Guy").)

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