This story is based on a real attitude.
The American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus Hudsonicus) is common in the Upper Midwest. It can be found throughout most of Canada and is prevalent in the Rocky Mountains extending south, almost to Mexico.
It is a small, reddish colored mammal with a white underbelly. The male Red Squirrel is highly territorial and will go through extensive measures to modify a farm grove or outbuildings to suit its needs; namely, food storage and mate attracting.
Most agriculturalists deem it prudent to remove Red Squirrels from any facility or ecosystem in which they are found. Despite the drawbacks to the species, the animal can be a source of amusement, and often give the disciplined rancher a chance to hone her skills in marksmanship and woodsmanship.
One of the benefits to Red Squirrels is that they rarely become infestations like more communal species such as Asian Beetles, Rats, and Hipsters.
The territorial nature of the individual means that at any given moment, a homestead may only contain one or two. The presence of large walnut trees might increase this number, but not drastically. Should ranchers find Red Squirrels on their property, they generally find it desirable to eliminate them, with the most common methods being firearms, traps, poison, or specially trained cats. Many take a sort of pride in their preferred method and are quick to give advice on extermination, as well as detailed accounts of particularly challenging removal endeavors.
This elation from so many begs the question: where might these ranchers be without such a worthy adversary?
Many psychologists believe that humans derive happiness from three things: material goods, exercise of skill, and purposeful endeavors.
The first, consumption of goods, tends to define modern society and like pancakes at the Waffle House can quickly habituate. Meaning the more you get, the more it takes to make a person feel good. Therefore, those in touch with their inner-selves know that to be truly happy, one needs to practice a skill. And if they are lucky enough to find some purpose in life that’s related to said skills, it is possible to experience fleeting moments of pure bliss. Thankfully, Red Squirrels provide both of these items and always seem to be in abundant supply.
Many an ambitious homesteader has chased the Red Squirrel with a 12-gauge shotgun, and should you have a particularly damaging enemy on your property, this is the preferred method.
Most sizes shot or shell will do with the best method being to put a 2 ¾ shot size 7 ½ in the chamber and follow with some larger rounds in the magazine, allowing for longer range removal after a frustrating miss on the first try. If firearms are frowned upon in your township, try traps or even poison. For a longer-term solution consider a well-trained cat. Be sure to get a younger one and feed it a ration of Red Squirrel parts as much as possible. If it is of a pure (or close to it) farm breed, eventually its natural instinct will take over and with a strong desire for Squirrel meat, the feline will develop killing strategies all on its own.
While it might seem that collectively ranchers possess an almost relentless vendetta against this crimson creature, many a mindful stockman recognizes that the pleasure is in the pursuit. Knowing that any success in the hunt for squirrels is temporary due to their prolific reproduction in neighboring shelterbelts. Take some time to enjoy the quest. Build skills in tracking, observation, and .22 caliber marksmanship. Know that your purpose in protecting hearth, home, and outbuildings from damaging animals is paramount in running a successful operation.
Post written by Nick Schmitz, winter 2016, edited 2020.