With our dog having her pick of fallen acorns to wallow around in her mouth since early September, I began thinking that I had not seen a gray squirrel around our house in quite a while. I think maybe I have seen four or five since spring. I thought maybe Lacey, our 1-year-old mini Australian shepherd, had scared them away; she's pretty quick.
Then, the topic of the lack of squirrel sightings came up over dinner one night. Someone suggested that maybe the ticks have something to do with it. In the past two weeks, I have seen a couple of letters to the editor (not this editor) on the subject.
On Tuesday, I contacted the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife through their Facebook site to seek an answer to the squirrel query. Here's what they had to say:
“Squirrels’ populations often vary considerably year to year. You may recall the bumper crop of gray squirrels last year. Most of this is related to variations in mast production (acorns and other nuts). Her (the letter writer) observation on fewer birds is shared by others. Some reliable sources have indicated passerine bird populations seem to be low at this time. I am not aware of a good explanation for the decline. These birds spend part of their year in Maine and part of it in Central or South America. These areas are seeing large scale transition of a forested landscape to agricultural landscapes. This, perhaps in combination with climate change, could be responsible.”
Although they are sometimes pests, I have missed seeing them scurrying around my lawn and running up my trees. Hopefully they won't come back with a vengeance.
I guess I will have to include the hundreds of acorns in the pile of thousands of leaves I will have to rake up and compost next month.