Squirrels and skulls

Posted: Wednesday 12 May 2010
by Richard Jones

Along with the fox skulls nailed to the shed and the flag pole, and a horned sheep skull on the guinea-pig hutch, we have a horse skull just outside the back door. And very decorative it looks too.

Horse skull chewed by a squirrelIt was the attentive cat looking out through the back door that first drew my eye to the grey squirrel. Even though its head was hidden, and therefore it could not see her, she knew that there was no point in dashing out through the cat flap; by the time she had four paws on the patio, the squirrel would be off up the fence and gone. She’d tried many times before, all to no avail.

But her swishing tail made me look up at what was so agitating her. At first I could not quite make out what was going on. All I could see was the squirrel’s back end, with its fluffy tail twitching sinuously back and forth like a snake charmer’s serpent. It seemed to have its head buried in one of my skulls.

Along with the fox skulls nailed to the shed and the flag pole, and a horned sheep skull on the guinea-pig hutch, we have a horse skull just outside the back door. And very decorative it looks too. It was this giant bone to which the squirrel was paying undue attention. Fascinated, I went out to have a look what was happening, only to find that said squirrel had been eating it. There are a clear series of teeth marks along the inside of the orbit. These are not just vague scratches, but deep and concerted scraped gouges. Skullduggery indeed.

Of course, I soon discover that grey squirrels (and reds too) are not as vegetarian as their public image might suggest, and it is well known for them to chew carrion, small bones and fallen antlers. They are also recorded as killing and eating hatchling birds, eggs and even young rabbits. Presumably, it’s the calcium, phosphorus and other minerals that they are after. If the cats knew this, they might not be so keen to try and catch the local greys. They might get a bone-crunching bite in return.

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Gardeners' World Web User 12/05/2010 at 17:39

When my four sons were young they had a "museum" in the back garden, full of treasures they had dug up. This included bones and skulls of animals. Invited to visit one day after a family visit to Bristol Museum, I found the exhibits labelled with names all ending in saurus - the dinosaur exhibits had been the inspiration.

Gardeners' World Web User 13/05/2010 at 19:01

Richard Jones...what is it with you and your cats?...you find it acceptable for your cats to be killers and always on the look out for a kill...i have suggested previously that you take yourself of and write for 'cat world'... why should gardeners be lumbered with your killing fields...skulls and all...i am afraid another rubbish article from you...in your last article you were proud of them killing birds...shame on you.

Gardeners' World Web User 13/05/2010 at 19:26

May I suggest to Harry Hill, that if what Richard writes, so offends him, he should find another blog to read, and leave those that enjoy this column to do so without his comments, which are very often bordering on the offensive.

Gardeners' World Web User 14/05/2010 at 10:08

Richard writes about the "wider" garden - the garden that includes animals and people other than the gardener. I, and many others, find this fascinating and interesting at any time of the year whatever the weather. Plants in a garden cannot thrive without input from wildlife and humans. We can enjoy and marvel at them all.

Gardeners' World Web User 14/05/2010 at 12:07

In my garden in Glasgow it used to be a rather bloodthirsty race between the squirrels (greys there) and the magpies as to who would get the young chicks (blackbirds, sparrows, robins) etc)first in spring - I found anything from bits of egg shell to feathers/down to legs and beaks below both dreys and nests.

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