Grieg Garden – UW Campus
Weather: cloud over, slight rain.
Soil conditions: slightly wet.
I met with some group mates on campus today to flesh out details of our tour, and also to observe some very amusing squirrel behavior. As it was raining and slightly late in the afternoon, we weren’t sure if we would observe any squirrels – but we did! I happened to have some trail mix and was able to coax a group of squirrels out, as long as we kept supplying the food. They especially enjoyed the dry bananas and we even observed one squirrel scatter hoarding! So cool! We didn’t see our squirrel friend, Jopa, this time around as the squirrels we encountered were much more skittish than he. They did appear to have some friendly (or maybe not so friendly) competition going on, and we were able to get some good pictures and video for our tour. None of the squirrels came too close to us, and it could have been due to the rain or simply because they were more cautious as it was a quiet Sunday afternoon and not many people around.
May 31, 2012
Grieg Garden – UW Campus
Weather: cloud cover, although no rain during our tour.
Soil: appeared to be dry.
Today is the day of our squirrel tour! Upon waking up, I looked outside to find cloud cover and was not instantly hesitant that squirrels might not come out today. My part of the tour included squirrel feeding and observation, and well, to fulfill this task squirrels definitely need to be present! Since I had doubts about meaningful squirrel observations, I went to Grieg Garden before class to hopefully coax the squirrels out with my combination trail mix and sunflower seeds. For about 20 minutes prior to class, I went to the garden and started looking for squirrels and throwing about some food treat to enchant them out. It worked and within about 10 minutes (thankfully), I had a group of four squirrels coming for food. One squirrel in particular came so close I could touch it – although I never would – and they all kept coming back sporadically for more. They were very energetic and playful, chasing each other about and calling out rather loudly (almost a barking sound). Luckily, I was able to keep them out long enough for all groups to observe and feed the squirrels – SUCCESS! The main points I wanted people to take away from my portion of the tour pertained to: competition and interaction between the eastern and western gray squirrel populations, background information about our native western grays and where the remaining groups are located, getting an indication of a squirrel’s age by their tails and fur, the life span of captive vs. wild squirrels, and some information about squirrels nests. Aaron Johnston was generous enough to provide us with his robotic squirrels so I was able to explain that he has teamed up with Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to construct a recovery plan for the western gray squirrels, in territory increasingly occupied by eastern grays. I also explained how to tell the difference between eastern and western grays, and these differences are easy to spot – eastern grays are smaller and have a rust-brown infusion in their coats, whereas western grays are much bigger and have fully gray fur. Josh asked me questions regarding whether these species have territorial disputes, and from my understanding of Aaron’s research, they do not so much fight as partition off territory, and don’t seem to enter in another’s area – this leads to competition for space, but also for resources. And we all know squirrels (like other rodents) get their strength in numbers, so to maintain healthy populations – there needs to be a lot of them! Furthermore, western grays prefer dense, wooded forests (which we are clearly losing everyday) and eastern grays prefer riparian areas. I also discussed that eastern grays are tree squirrels and build nests in trees to rear young, as well as live in – I told my “students” not to automatically assume that a nest on campus is from a bird, because it might very well be a squirrel’s nest. And lastly, I found it amazing that in the wild most squirrels don’t live to be even a year old due to harsh conditions (although they can live up to 8), but in captivity squirrels can live anywhere from 10-20 years. I very much enjoyed getting people excited about our awesome UW resident squirrels and it is very easy to. I oftentimes find myself in Grieg Garden with absolutely no sense of time, and end up spending a lot of it just watching these interesting animals.