Perhaps you didn’t think much of all the little baby squirrels running about your neighborhood this past summer. We had half a dozen nests on out street, and each nest appeared to have half a dozen babies. Early in the morning I would often see the young families playing in, around, and under our neighbors cars, scampering up and down trees, and leaping about the branches. I wasn’t paying too much attention, until we began to notice large toothy chunks missing from my unripe peaches. Half eaten peaches, still on the branch, along with disappearing fruit, plagued our little tree until by harvest time we had little more than a handful, when usually we have baskets full.
We found the culprit(s) mid-summer, brazenly scurrying and chomping through the peach tree. The squirrels ate all our blueberries, too, and most recently, have been depositing the large green balls of the Black Walnut tree fruits on our front porch.
Why the squirrelnado? During the 2017 growing season there was a bumper crop of acorns, which means many more adults went into winter with a full belly and an ample supply of acorns in their pantries. A greater number than usual survived the winter, which translates to many more baby squirrels in the spring of 2018. This year’s acorn crop has been smaller than average. The squirrels are desperately trying to stockpile food. Not only are they eating foods they don’t normally eat, but they are also exhibiting extremely at risk behavior. Driving along New England highways and byways, you may have observed a great many dead squirrels as both roadkill and laying alongside the road.
If a squirrel runs out in front of your car when traveling at high speed on the highway, it is best not to swerve. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but the squirrels look at the car as a large oncoming predator. By swerving, you confuse the critter, and run the risk of injuring yourself and/or another party.
With far fewer acorns, not as many squirrels will survive the winter. Will we see an upswing in Lyme disease next summer? I imagine so. White-footed Deer Mice and Eastern Chipmunks also feed heavily on acorns and they, along with squirrels, harbor Lyme. This year there are lots of small woodland mammals the ticks can attach themselves too. Next year, not so much. With far fewer wild mammals the ticks will be looking to people and furry pets for their next meal.