In part one of this mini-article series, we looked at some of the reasons squirrels have important roles in the lives of people, other animals, and the environment. We’ve learned that their caching behavior is essential in the renewal of many tree species including oak, hazel, and pine, and that their natural preference for belowground-fruiting and epigeous fungi is integral to deciduous forests’ regeneration and health. We now know that squirrels are an important link in the ecological food chain, being an important item on the menu of many animals, including badgers, snakes, bobcats, red-tailed hawks, and weasels. Finally, we saw that, despite their controversial presence in residential environments, many people are naturally drawn to the fuzzy-tailed acrobats, almost always ranking them first in their preferences for urban/suburban wildlife species.
It’s now time to analyze the other side of the coin, specifically the one that classifies squirrels as garden villains, “tree rats,” and troublesome pests for homeowners.
Squirrels are either the adorable, fluffy-tailed creatures you love to pet or the greedy and incredibly crafty rodents that pillage your backyard before your own eyes. Some people are genuine in their love and admiration for squirrels’ acrobatic abilities and wits, while others – especially bird-feeders – have only turned pro-squirrel after giving up trying to defeat them at the feeder.
Whichever side of the barricade you’re on, there’s no denying that squirrels have a significant social, economic, and environmental impact – whether beneficial or detrimental. In this article, we’ll examine some of the ways squirrels benefit the environment, and next week we’ll discuss some of the situations when squirrels’ presence is no longer desirable – or downright detrimental to humans and the environment.
Thanks to their food-hoarding behavior, tree squirrels help plant baby oak trees by burying healthy seeds to eat later and forgetting about them.
You might have seen your first European Starling sitting on a telephone wire in your backyard or perched on a branch in the city park. If you looked closely, you were probably impressed with its purple and green iridescence, cream-tipped feathers, and the white polka dots that make it look like it came straight out of a painting.
And it’s not even just the exquisite look what makes this bird so special. Adaptable, intelligent, and highly resourceful, the European Starling managed to get from a population of just 100 birds (when it was first introduced in America in the 1890s) to being one of the most successful birds on the continent, currently counting over 200 million in North America alone.
And yet, few people are actually fond of European Starlings. Their reputation is that of a garden pest, a crop destroyer, and a bird feeder bully; instead of “beautiful” or “clever,” most often they are described as loud, obnoxious, and utterly destructive.
Only a handful of creatures inspire more dread and fear than rats. When they think of rats, most people conjure images of creepy, filthy five-pound, red-eyed creatures that lurk in the dark and feast on human flesh. And while some of the negativity and bad reputation surrounding rats is undeserved – they are, after all, one of the smartest animals on earth and an essential component in scientific research – they are purveyors of disease and one of the most horrifying house pests. Here are five good reasons to be scared of rats, if you aren’t already.
Cat urine regularly acts as a repellent for rodents, who are naturally fearful of felines and keen to keep their distance. However, rats exposed to the urine of cats infected with toxoplasma gondii may suffer a change in their brain chemistry that paralyses brain regions governing fear and activates those regions involved in sexual attraction.
The fun season may be over for us, but for spiders, the party is now in full swing. As autumn comes in and weather turns cooler, homeowners throughout the country are starting to notice more and more of the creepy crawlies scuttling inside their homes as they look for a warm place to overwinter or mate. To make matters worse, entomologists have issued a warning that this year, the eight-legged nightmares have grown larger than ever, with the biggest ones reaching the size of a human palm.
So should we quake with fear and run out of the spindly creatures’ way or – as scary as it may sound – try to ‘live and let live’? Contrary to what you’d expect, having spiders in your house this fall may not necessarily be a bad thing. Here’s why.
Spiders are universally hated.