Saturday, December 13, 2008

Be Thankful for Squirrels

You’ve all witnessed my wailing about the blasted squirrels that raise havoc with my bird feeders. Well, France and England are dealing with their pests, too. Suddenly, I feel blessed I have squirrels, and only squirrels, as my pest.

In Europe, there are apparently too many pigs (perhaps I should say feral porkers). They are moving from the forests and into yards and gardens where they are becoming more and more at ease with people.

In one town, a 200 pound (!) porker made it into a clothing store where it went on a rampage, sending customers running. After shoppers and staff had been evacuated, police moved in to deal with the intruder. But when beast charged, the officers were forced to open fire, leaving the run-away boar riddled with bullets.

On NPR the other day I listened to a story of homeowners complaining of the porkers lounging around their yards just steps from their back doors! I would assume this can be most disconcerting, as the beasts are wild relitives of long ago domestic pigs. Today the wild pig will dig a wallow, or hole, in order to fill it with urine, as a part of the courting process. Eww! In addition, big males can be waist high, five feet long and weigh upwards of 300 pounds…not a creature you’d want to interupt while bathing for a date in your backyard.

Elsewhere, train passengers in Brussels were delayed for almost four hours after their TGV train smashed into one of the animals that had strayed onto the tracks.

The wild boar is a national icon, immortalised on crests of the aristocracy, it’s a favourite dish of Europe, and has been the target of tens of thousands of hunters in the hills and forests there for more than a thousand years. But now French boars have a problem: there are too many of them. Experts say the population of wild boars is for the first time above a million - despite a record 500,000 killed by hunters last year. 'It's an invasion,' said Morel Marleux, of the French Small Game Association. 'We need a war on boars.' Hmmmmmm...a Boar War?

The population surge has led to an estimated 20,000 car accidents a year involving the animals and hundreds of millions of pounds of damage to crops and property as boars leave their traditional habitat of woods and forests to head into fields, gardens and backyards.

“At first they went just in search of worms or larvae, but now they are increasingly partial to wheat, barley, potatoes and, above all, sweetcorn,” reported one worker. The boars are even heading further afield. The arrival of one on the Mediterranean island of Port-Cros, off Provence, made national news. Efforts are being made to catch it as it eats it way through huge quantities of rare plants.

It has been said there are up to 1,000 wild boar and feral pigs living in the British countryside and that the number could easily rise to 10,000 within 20 years if there is no action (contrasted with an estimated million-plus living in France right now).

Boar only returned to the wilderness fairly recently. After some 300 years of absence, boar started escaping from wildlife parks in the 1970s. Yet more escapees found their way into the woods around Wales, Scotland and England, during the 1990s.

This fairly secretive creature can be aggressive if approached especially if a sow is nursing her young. The main problem facing this creature is that it's rather tasty.

Since Britain started farming more boar, it's not uncommon to find the beast on restaurant menus or on supermarket shelves or - in the case of one Gloucestershire town - to find a wild boar strolling down the aisles at the Co-op. There are fears there'll be a glut of boar meat and the Food Standards Agency is preparing advice on how to handle the meat and how to prepare it.

Okay, this might be too much information, but after watching all the porkers run through the woods, can you imagine what your yard would look like with just a few of these leavings?

Yeah, I'm suddenly happy with a few squirrels!


Pictures from Wikipedia


dAwN said...

I agree...give me a few squirrels...thanks for your informative post

Beverly said...

LOL I thought it was quite an eye opener. Can ya just imagine? Sheeshhhhhhhhhhh!

Anonymous said...

I'm an admitted squirrel-lover, so I'll definitely agree with you on this one!

me ann my camera said...

Wow, this is a problem that I had not heard of before. You're right those cute, little pesky Squirrels that eat too much food meant for the birds is not really a problem at all, just a nuisance at times.

ps: congrats on your Chipping Sparrow id!

Beverly said...

Well, for the most part, I don’t mind squirrels…as long as they stay off my feeders; and of course, they do not. The problem is not that they eat the food, but I’ll tell ya, on a limited income I resent them eating so much of the food I put out for birds. As I’ve said, I’ve seen as many as nine out there at once; and a single one eats a LOT more than a bunch of birds.

My issue is that they are so destructive. What they can’t easily feed from, they chew up in an effort to get to the food. Or they actually figure out how to drop the feeder and then feed from the seed on the ground. As far as sock feeders go…they chew holes in them if I leave ‘em out when I go to work; I come home to find a pound of finch food under the socks. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

I realize I am smarter than a squirrel…my problem is the lack of money to get poles that are high enough the darn critters can’t jump onto from the ground onto the feeders (why ARE poles only 5’ high? Hang a nice feeder and it’s barely 4’ off the ground!), or to get baffles of some sort that protect feeders from both above and below. I can’t afford them. Yet… The baffle I made seems to be working for the single pole holding a feeder they cannot jump onto…but I need about ten more. I’ll get there.

I’ve trapped them in the past, when I lived in the city…but if you’ve ever come upon an animal in a live-trap, you’d see it’s not pretty. Relocating them is just more agony for them, in my mind. I figured out my own way to get rid of them…put them out of their misery, so to speak. My issue now is…I cannot be building a sanctuary for some creatures and off-ing others who trespass into it. I’m wrestling with that, it just seems wrong.

Please, I’m just chewing on this…I don’t need help with the moral dilemma.

As far as those pigs go...the stories are new; it's apparently a 'growing problem' in Europe. Realizing the similarity of our ‘problems’…I felt it interesting how thankful I suddenly felt for squirrels. Just squirrels! LOL

Thank you both for visiting!

Bosque Bill said...

This is not a problem limited to Europe and Britain, though it certainly seems most acute there.

Audubon Canyon Ranch, a famous Great Blue heron rookery in Marin Co. California, had a problem with wild pigs back when I lived in the Bay Area and would occasionally volunteer there... and I suspect the beasts are still there tearing things up.

Glad you are looking on the "glass half full" side of squirrels... at least for one day.

lkw said...

Yikes, we're starting to see feral hogs (aka wild boar) in some of our local forests. They've migrated down from the Appalachians, where I think they were introduced at one point. I'll have to check! They do tremendous damage to the native vegetation in the understory, trampling around and rooting out meals.

Uh, squirrels DO look quite benign in comparison!

Beverly said...

Ya know, Bill…I’ve talked to the Codger about the pigs in the Santa Cruz Mtns. of California (you may remember I’m from the Bay Area there). I’d forgotten about them (somehow) when reading these articles. You’re right; they are destructive as the dickens. And, oh boy, do they taste good! I’ve had the pleasure of a dinner where one of those porkers was the major guest. That’s where I discovered the joys of homemade applesauce mixed, to your own taste, with fresh grated horseradish. Yummmmmmmmmmmmm! OMG, it’s perfect with pig!

Beverly said...

Ack...somehow I cut myself off mid conversation! LOL

Bill, I really do try to view the world with an open mind...I just don't always succeed and I like to sort of poke fun at my failings. LOL

You have to admit that it's pretty funny that someone wants to build a sanctuary and yet goes to war with some of the creatures who visit. Sheeshhhhhhhhh Crazy!!!

Thanks for reminding me of that lucious meal. Hmmmmm...perhaps I should look up squirrel, huh? (urp)

Beverly said...

Wow…who knew, IWK! Somehow I thought the only ‘wild’ pigs were in CA and TX. I’ve seen the results of a group of guys on a Texas hunting trip…it’s wild; they have to armor the dogs! Really!!! Pigs are more than a trampling problem…they can inflict some damage to a person! I feel sorry for the folks in Europe and hope they get things under control.

Perhaps with the state of economy, more people will look to 'local harvesting' and nip the porker problems here...right in the

Beverly said...

LOL...I should think on a response before I go and hit ENTER!

IKW, I don't know if you are a meat eater or a 'harvester of edible goods in the wild' (read that: a hunter), but while they don't bother me quite as much as squirrels...I've had the discussion about eating Eurasian Collared-doves more than once.

Once or twice I've eaten a chicken I helped catch, kill and prepare for dinner; why not pigeons? My biggest issue is while ya don’t need a license to shoot the tree-rats (they are not protected by the Migration Act), ya can’t shoot a gun inside town limits.

Oh…and while I’m sure you don’t say it…these birds are Eurasian Collared-doves NOT Eurasian Colored Doves. LOL

Bosque Bill said...

Speaking of eating your problems :)

Long, long ago in a different life, I went dove hunting on a buddy's family farm in SE Texas. Once you pluck the birds there's not much meat, and I have to say once was way more than enough to my taste.

There are some good, ol' boys in the South who would likely share their recipe for squirrel, but I bet they are a bit on the gamey side, too.

The wild porker is the best idea. First pork roast and bacon, then home made tamales and pasole. Yum!

Beverly said...

You had it all wrong, Bill! You were supposed to just pull off the breast in one big hunk and toss the rest of the tiny birds. While I’m of the ‘waste-not, want-not’ group, the rest of such a small bird IS a waste of time!

The few times I harvested my own chickens, I didn’t pluck them. Ugg…I have no patience. While I realize much of the flavor comes from fat and skin…I skinned the chickens. Heck, we eat too much fat, as it is…and home grown birds already taste SO much better than store-bought.

I’ve also eaten home-grown rabbit…not much better than that; OMG it’s good. But I dunno about wild hare…like the squirrels, I’m thinking they are a lot of trouble for not much meat. Course, with the price of meat (and even vegetables these days) perhaps I should re-consider this! LOL

I’m with you on roast pork…perhaps the most flavorful of all meats, huh? Talk about a lot of work though…tamales are. But…ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh soooooooooo worth every minute! I’ve done the whole process before; all I can say is Yummmmmmmmmmmm…

Ever have a tamale party? A good excuse to get together with friends AND fill up part of the freezer.

Debbie said...

Late to the conversation. I seem to recall that there are also wild boar on Catalina Island in southern California.

I'd rather have squirrels than boar. But I'd rather have boar than mountain lion, like in Boulder, CO. Read a book called "The Beast in the Garden". All about mountain lion in Boulder. Scary stuff.

But I really hated rabbits when I lived at my other house. It is true what they say about rabbits! They do multiply.

Now back to birds.

Beverly said...

Ya know Debbie, our porkers may be more abundant than I imagined! I sure do hope we keep ‘em under control. Too bad we can’t buy ‘wild boar’ here…it’s really quite good! I wish I knew a hunter…

Yeah, I agree squirrels are easier on a back-yard than a passel of pigs would be! LOL

I don’t mind either the big cats or the bears, myself. For the most part, even though they’re right here in town…they pretty much avoid people. I regularly have bears in the trees in the front yard; the only down-side is their presence drives my dog to barking non-stop. Course, he sleeps inside now, so it’s not as much of a problem.

I read that book, and understand biking in wilderness areas that are very close to cities can be a problem. Apparently the bikers and runners evoke that ‘urge to chase and attack’ (and eat) in Mountain lions. Oh my! I suppose living in these very rural areas isn’t for the feint hearted. LOL

I've never had problems with rabbits here...perhaps the lions, bob-cats and coyotes keep them down.