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June 18, 2007

The Sciuridae Strike Back
Posted by Patrick at 07:53 AM * 222 comments

What is it with the squirrels?

Obviously, we’re in the runup to interspecies war.

Comments on The Sciuridae Strike Back:
#1 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 08:32 AM:

As someone who's been bitten by a squirrel, I can only say that if the little bastards organize, we're toast.

#2 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 08:41 AM:

Time to call the Pottsylvanian secret police.

#3 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:00 AM:

Whatever it is, they're prepared to sacrifice quite a few of themselves. When we went driving yesterday, there were quite a few little furry stiffs in the roadways. Maybe this is just their crazy week.

#4 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:01 AM:

Now I know what those little buggers were up to this weekend. They seemed all shifty and jittery in my back yard, eating the seed thrown on the ground by the birds.

OMG, the birds are in on it too!

#5 ::: Beth Friedman ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:11 AM:

This is my favorite squirrel story, though it has the squirrel acting, well, like a normal squirrel.

Of course, so did the dog in the "Dog. Sweet potatoes. Argh" story.

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:19 AM:

One notes that all the troublemakers are grey, or American, squirrels, as opposed to the calmer European red squirrel whose only offence is rapping Wordsworth. Personally, I blame Dick Cheney, or Emperor Palpatine as his friends call him.

#7 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:44 AM:

I am reminded that in Gordon Dickson's Necromancer, a co-ordinated team of squirrels very nearly manages to shoot the hero with his own rifle.

SF, the literature of prophecy.

#8 ::: Sian Hogan ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:44 AM:

Was it here that I originally found the link to this?
Scariest thing ever. I mean, we are all under threat, especially if all the different squirrel species start acting together... they breed a lot quicker than we do, if there's food. And if they're now omnivores...

#9 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:46 AM:

The squirrels on the UW campus have lost their fear of people somewhere along the line - I once had one run up my leg and use me as a springboard to change directions. They're also really territorial when it comes to someone else's bagel - I was constantly having to stare the little beasties down if I wanted to eat breakfast outside.

#10 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:50 AM:

I, for one, welcome our fluffy-tailed overlords.

(Seriously, though, it's what I call Squirrel-Squashing Season around here, when the new crop of young squirrels are out seeking their own territories and venturing into traffic along with houses, supermarkets and so on.)

#11 ::: Laurie D. T. Mann ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:54 AM:

For whatever reason, we don't have many squirrels out here in the country. We have lots of bunnies though. And while the turkeys don't attack us in our yards, my car has been straifed by wild turkeys at least twice in the last few months while driving about five miles from here.

#12 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:02 AM:

Oh, they're organized already. It's only a matter of time ...

One day about 15 years ago I was eating lunch outside the building where I worked. It was a lovely late-spring day, mostly sunny, temperature in the mid-70s. The picnic table I was sitting at was in an alcove created by the front of a building, a low hedge, a couple of fir trees, and a grass lawn about 75 feet deep leading to an access street for the industrial complex.

Someone had left a couple of pieces of bread on the ground, and two crows soon arrived to scavenge them. They were just bending over to peck at the bread, checking how heavy the pieces were to see if they had to eat them there or could carry them off, when 5 squirrels in line abreast marched* around the trunk of one of the trees, and made straight for the crows. The crows looked up, clearly startled, and watched the squirrels, twitching their heads from side to side to shift the sight of them from one eye to the other.

As the squirrels got within 10 feet of the crows they began to hiss, and changed from a running gait to a sort of deliberate hop, making each jump an aggressive move toward the crows. The crows watched this for a second or two, then they cawed in succession, and first one and then the other wheeled and took flight in a direction as far away from the squirrels as they could get without running into a tree.

Just before it took off the second crow made a grab for the bread in front of it, caught it by the corner, and swung it up and out. The squirrels were still advancing, and the crow must have thought better of trying to correct its hold on the bread with so little time left it, dropped the bread and flew off. They landed near the road, perhaps 50 feet away, and watched the squirrels approach the bread.

The squirrels broke formation and switched back to a running gait for the last 5 or 6 feet, chittering loudly. They got to the bread and began to nibble at it, occasionaly looking up at the crows and chittering some more. After a minute or so of watching their snack disappear the crows seemed to shrug, turned, and flew away. The squirrels continued to feast. Every once in awhile one of them would look up at the humans sitting at the picnic benches 20 feet away, as if to say, "Your lunch is next".

* I can think of no other word that as aptly describes the squirrels gait and demeanor. This was a trained combat squad who had clearly seen action together before, and meant to go through anyone or anything standing in their way.

#13 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:19 AM:

Sarah @ #9, is "UW" the University of Washington? Years ago, maybe 20 or so, I had occasion to rescue some poor woman on campus there whose thigh had been mounted by a glaring squirrel. The woman was frozen in terror, screaming as if in the presence of Godzilla. I had to swing at the little gray bastard with my book bag before he headed for the hills.

I suspect dark experiments in the basement of the You-Dub Zoology Department.

#14 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:12 AM:

When I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, back in the late 90s, I once had problems with my phone line: mysterious, intermittent bursts of static. After poking around all over the house, the phone company tech evenutally found the problem: as he explained it, squirrels had chewed partway through the phone line connecting the house to the telephone pole. (Wind blowing the line around then caused the intermittent disconntects.)

I've always wondered what the squirrels were planning to do next, once they'd finished cutting the phone lines so I couldn't call for help.

#15 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:15 AM:

This is the squirrels' response to recent human escalations in the Feeder Wars:

#16 ::: William Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:18 AM:

I want a Grand Theft Auto-style video game about NYC wildlife. Squirrels, roaches and pigeons. Turf war. That would be bad-ass

#17 ::: Doonbogglefrog ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:20 AM:

Our dogs have been trying to warn us for millenia about the grave and gathering threat from the squirrels. But not only did many of us not listen, many of us, myself included, have tried to train dogs not to warn us when the evil squirrel brigades stage incursions.

#18 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:28 AM:

I don't fear the squirrels here. I grew up with what I now know are fox squirrels, largest in North America, and the little grey Iowa squirrels are just not that frightening. I'm not afraid of home squirrels, the fox squirrels, because I know that half the reason they're so big in my neighborhood is that we put out a lot of seeds and peanuts for them. We also managed to train the dog to the word 'squirrel'-- "Squirrel!" had him leaping to the couch, barking furiously out the window, driving off the foul invaders.
Let us not speak of woodchucks.

#19 ::: jmmcdermott ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:36 AM:

All students and alumnus of the University of Houston have long known about the evil squirrels, thanks in no small part to the efforts of John Palamidy, and his research into renegade squirrels on the campus.

He chronicles his research into the renegade squirrels in the excellent daily campus comic: "Coogies".

#20 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:37 AM:

I suspect a lot of it has to do with territoriality and mating.

I've been putting peanuts out for squirrels in my townhouse development for about a year now (and hope my kindness bribes will be remembered in my favor by our Bushy-Tailed Overloards when the crunch comes). Anywhere from 3-5 show up every day.

A couple weeks ago 2 squirrels got into a really awful fight right in the shrubbery by my porch. At least one of them was male. I didn't know whether to intervene - not wanting to get bitten by a possibly-hanta virus bearing critter, or inadvertently dispossess my "regular" squirrel in favor of an interloper - so I settled for watching (fascinated) and yelling at them (ineffectually).

Eventually the fight broke up anway - maybe my looming over them and shouting "Break it up!" did help a little - with one combatant running away and the other scampering up a tree to get his breath back and lick his bleeding wounds.

#21 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:42 AM:

We've been waging war with them over fruits ad nuts (peaches, plums, nectarines, pluots and pecans) for years.

Thankfully they've never sent more than scouting/foraging parties, and I've been able to hold them off.

The parrots, on the other hand...

#22 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:52 AM:

Casey at 20, oh yes squirrel fights are amazing. We have a squirrel feeder on the deck and put sunflower seeds along the railing, peanuts scattered wherever they fall and on the railing, and seeds in the feeder. Usually, one squirrel sits in or on the feeder, sort of a boss squirrel position, while another creeps along the floor for spilled seeds and peanuts. A third squirrel may try to break in, but it never ends well. We can hear the chase even from inside.

#23 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:54 AM:

Soon, the Little Grey Brothers will unveil their grand plans. We will be helpless in the face of their chittering, furry-tailed ferocity.

We're doomed, I tell you. Give up your hazelnut coffee now or you're bound to regret it later.

#24 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:13 PM:

A local park here had to ban eating near the playground because the squirrels were attacking toddlers for their crackers, even going so far as to jump into strollers at the sight of food. A couple of small kids were badly bitten.

Twenty years ago, when I came out to California, I noticed black squirrels (some subpopulation of grey squirrels). They were bigger, much meaner, and mostly confined to the Stanford campus. Now they've expanded their range. A bit scary.

Last year my youngest son was walking along our front walkway when a squirrel perched on our fence threw the cob to a half-ear of corn at him. And putting out ornamental corn for Halloween is a non-starter.

Who was it who said that squirrels are simply rats with fluffy tails and better press?

#25 ::: Nathan ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:30 PM:

pat greene @ 24

About 10 years ago, while prepping to shoot the movie "Mrs. Winterbourne", a few of us were discussing what in Toronto would double well for New York, and what wouldn't.

Suddenly, the director brought things to a standstill by saying, "I've noticed all the squirrels here are black. Are there black squirrels in NYC?"

The designer said, "Well there are some black squirrels, but most are brown or gray".

The director asked, "Well, how many black squirrels are there in NY?"

After a drawn out silence, I said, "There are 32 black squirrels in NY."

"Oh, well that's o.k. then, I guess."

#26 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:37 PM:

Michael Weholt @ 13

Yes, the University of Washington. (Note to self: remember that not everyone lives in the Pacific Northwest, nor wants to. Try to figure out why.)

I had a friend in the zoology department who swore up and down that they were exhibiting perfectly normal squirrel behavior, but then, that's what he *would* say, isn't it?

#27 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:46 PM:

Sarah, if everyone lived in the Holy Land of Grey Clouds and Blackberry Weeds, it would lose it's paradisical nature.

Though I'd like to be able to spend more time there, I can live with not living there.

#28 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 12:47 PM:

I've got a lot of bird feeders, and since behind my house is a largish forest, a lot of squirrels.

All my feeders are squirrel proof in one way or another, some with the metal grills around them, others specifically designed to thwart the little furry tailed thieves.

I used to have one of those feeders that gave off a mild electric shock to anyone touching the tray and a perching post at the same time; the squirrels chewed all the plastic pieces apart after they got shocked a few times. One of my feeders that has a grill around it keeps having the wingnut holding the tray come loose; I keep looking for the squirrel that has the wrench...

#29 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:09 PM:

The Squirrel Wars have been building for many years.

I can joke about this because it's been long enough, and because she would too: red squirrels killed my mom.

No, really. And, as a consequence, pretty much everyone in my family jokes (ha ha, only serious) about being at war with the House of Squirrel.

The facts: In the fall of 1992, my mother was found dead with a single .22 bullet (.22 short if you can believe it) in her brain. She was holding an antique rifle with which she was in the habit of attempting to control the red squirrel population that would otherwise ravage the contents of her storage outbuildings (she was a bit of a pack rat).

Coroner's inquest eventually determined that she was killed by an accidental discharge during the course of a trip-and-fall when the butt of the rifle (determined to be defective) struck the ground. A result so freakish and unlikely that it's probably true.

We all figure the little red furry bastards ganged up on her and took away the rifle (a "cute" little backpacker's model that was most of a hundred years old).

Nobody in my family brakes for squirrels any more.

It's actually a little awkward sometimes when people are in the "ask you about your parents" social conversation mode. "And what about your mother?" For some reason, "Oh, she died in a freak squirrel hunting accident" is an absolute and deadly conversation stopper. But it's exactly the sort of response to nosy questions that my mother would have loved, so I sometimes feel compelled to trot it out.

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:10 PM:

This sounds like the premise of one of those British disaster novels of yore. Or, as Jon Meltzer pointed out, an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Maybe both.

Coming soon...
To the SciFi Channel...


#31 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:28 PM:

One squirrel around here just got uppity in a weird way; it was out on the front walk, munching on the lantana. This was odd enough--I had no idea they were fond of it, but this one was standing on its hind legs, perfectly balanced, holding the lantana vine in its claws, while it munched. It was dark gray on top, and sort of speckled down below, with a rather ratty-looking thin tail. (More common squirrels here are the lighter gray-brown with very fluffy tail.) I wonder if he was the one who secreted an entire bank vault worth of large acorns right under the rosebush.

We don't grow tomatoes any more because of various squirrels; I don't know whether they went about their depredations in an organized fashion or not.

#32 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:28 PM:

I met a scary squirrel on the UW campus myself once, but I fled, having read enough SF books thankyouverymuch.

What I can tell you about the furry menace is that the chipmunk aren't it. Stupidest creatures I ever met, unless they are collectively prey to a deathwish. When me and Emiliano drove down to San Francisco from Seattle we met this situation scores of times:

Empty road. Miles and miles of empty road ahead of us, Miles and miles of empty road behind. Oregon/Northern California woods on either side - low grass ditches on either side. Sunny day with perfect visibility.

Where does you typical chipmunk cross the roead?

Emiliano almost killed us a couple of times trying to save a suicidal chipmunk. The third time it was thud, chipmunk jam, and Anna gets to drive all the way down beside a sobbing Emiliano.

#33 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:37 PM:

#30: Just wait. The moose are next.

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:43 PM:

Does anybody know if the black squirrels hanging around Ottawa are mutant ninja squirrels bred by Canada's Ministry of Defense?

#35 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:45 PM:

pat greene @ 24

Who was it who said that squirrels are simply rats with fluffy tails and better press?

Or pigeons without wings and slightly better toilet training.

#36 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:47 PM:

"I can't believe we just let them furry buggers run us off our lunch. I'll be afraid to show my beak around here for a month now."
"Well, they've never been this organized before. Who could've seen that coming?"
"Yeah, but we're the ones with the wings, man. And the highly-evolved tool-using wossname."
"Never fear, my friend. A plan is already forming."
"Oh? Do tell."
"Well, let's just say there's a reason a bunch of us is called a murder."

#37 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:49 PM:

I've been deeply suspicious of the Eastern Grey Squirrel since a pair of them mugged me for my double-scoop Jamocha Almond Fudge (in a waffle cone! sniffle!) in back of Denny Hall one bright October morning in 1978.

I won't go so far as to blame them for me dropping out of grad school, but they didn't help. Especially the one that ran up my back and knocked the cone out of my hand while sitting on my head.

#38 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 02:18 PM:

The dog has been aware of this for years. Unfortunately, she's not very good at catching them.

They're very tricksy, the squirrels...

#39 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 02:23 PM:

Daniel, you've reminded me of my grandfather. He lives in a nice house with a huge backyard, garden, and creek at the edge. It's in fairly rural Pennsylvania, so his neighborly disputes have more to do with idiot yuppies putting out food for the deer (he takes in the birdfeeders at night so the bears don't get at them) than with properly trimmed grass and Christmas displays. He has bird feeders by the house and puts food for the squirrels by the creek.
He also has an old .22. Squirrels by the creek are safe. Squirrels trying to eat the bird food are not. They'll learn, he says. I don't buy it; as far as I can tell, squirrels define 'squirrel food' as 'whatever the bear's not eating'.
I'm not sure what the deer-feeding neighbors think.

#40 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 02:25 PM:

I was driving around Washington State once and arrived at the Hoh Rain Forest. I pulled into the parking lot at the visitors center and saw a very small sign which rose about a foot off the ground. I was leaning over to read it when I was hit mid-thigh by a squirrel. Fortunately I had a long overcoat on over my jeans, so no harm was done. After I recovered from my surprise, I bent back down to see what the sign said.

"Squirrels Bite."

#41 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 02:44 PM:

Some animals are better than others at adapting to urbanized life.

It's always struck me as strange - and significant - that the ones best at it are the ones most roundly despised.

#42 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:05 PM:

While the squirrels around my house may be numerous and occasionally a nuisance as well, the rabbits have been breeding like, well, rabbits.

I swear every time I go out walking around the neighborhood in the morning, there are more of the cute little furry critters out there. Plus, there are so many of them now they are going after the ornamental plants, and worse yet, my tomatoes! They started on the ripe ones, went to the nearly ripe ones, and then began eating the green ones.

I've put up a 24" high wire mesh fence to keep them out. So far so good, but I've been waiting to see any squirrels with wire cutters...

#43 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:08 PM:

Squirrels causing power outage is not news; it's too commonplace. Sometimes, if the transformer one has managed to get into is close enough, you can hear the *pop* just before the lights go out. The power company comes, removes the fried animal, and resets everything.

I wish I could link to a story a friend wrote up, but he did it as email. He was driving along when his truck just stopped, throwing himself forward. While he was sitting there wondering what had gone wrong, the truck took off. Gaining control of it, he continued his way home when it stopped again, then started again. He nursed it the rest of the way, and at home opened the hood. It was full of leaves. When he went to scoop them out, squirrels popped their heads up and yelled at him to leave them alone.

I don't remember the name of the program, but it was quite a while ago -- 15 years? Anyway, it was two very funny half hours of squirrels gorging themselves at bird feeders. People tried everything to keep squirrels out, but no fix was more than temporary; the squirrels always figured out a way to beat the system eventually.

Finally, some guy came up with the ultimate squirrel-proof bird feeder. The feed was put inside and there was an open door providing full access. Any bird could sit at the door and eat away. But a squirrel...a squirrel's weight would cause the front "porch" to sink, the lever it was on would rise in the back, and the door would shut. It would stay shut until the squirrel left. Foolproof, you might think.

Then there was video footage of a squirrel sitting right in front of the door, happily eating away. And behind the feeder, another squirrel sitting on the lever, balancing it out so the door wouldn't close...

#44 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:16 PM:

John #42: While the squirrels around my house may be numerous and occasionally a nuisance as well, the rabbits have been breeding like, well, rabbits.

And not just wherever you live. Apparently this has been a problem at the Milano airport.

#45 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:20 PM:

Jeffrey Smith #43: Squirrels causing power outage is not news; it's too commonplace.

How much do they usually take out?

The last time we had an incident around here, squirrels took out up to half of the main University of Texas campus. No point in generating your own power if you can't distribute it ...

#46 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:22 PM:

Well, I'll trade y'all a couple of squirrels for some of our iguanas.

#47 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:25 PM:

Iguanas are just squirrels in desert camo.

#48 ::: Captain Button ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:27 PM:

Jefferey Smith @ 43
I don't remember the name of the program, but it was quite a while ago -- 15 years?

Very likely you are thinking of "Daylight Robbery" and "Daylight Robbery II", which I saw a few times on the "Animal Planet" cable channel.

#49 ::: Jim Parish ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:36 PM:

I don't remember the author or the title, but there was a short story in F&SF five or ten years ago involving the emergence of a species of carnivorous pack-hunting chipmunks. Very scary.

#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:49 PM:

Great. Night of the Lepus with chipmunks instead of giant rabbits...

#51 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 04:00 PM:

Captain Button #48: I think you're right. Daylight Robbery seems to be what I remember. There are clips here.

#52 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 04:20 PM:

Daniel #29: Gosh. My condolences.

Is there a word for the combination of being amused and horrified?

CaseyL #41: In at least some theories, and maybe still in the majority view, the humans most adapted to city living are also scorned. Probably we should ally with the crows and the squirrels.

#53 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 05:25 PM:

Clew, if there's such a word, we'd all like to know it.

This was one of those absurd tragedies. I remember vividly one night when I sat around with my sisters and we drank until we could utter the phrase "freak squirrel hunting accident" and give it the laughter it deserves. People still think we're weird for laughing about it, but seriously, what other sensible reaction is there?

Then about a year later one of my sisters found this cartoon. I don't think we ever had the courage to show it to my dad, though.

#54 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 05:42 PM:

John Houghton #47: I've yet to see a squirrel that would sit companionably next to me on a log. On the other hand, iguanas never had a problem with this.

#55 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 05:57 PM:

To my beautiful damsel,
I said
"Fetch a squire", not a squirrel.
We're dead.

#56 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 06:13 PM:

Diatryma @ 39

If you don't mind my asking, what part of PA does you grandfather live in? I lived in a rural area on the Delaware River for about 4 years when I was a teenager. I went back to visit an inlaw who'd moved near there about 15 - 20 years later and it was all deep suburbs: yuppie heaven. *grumble*

#57 ::: L. Raymond ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 06:19 PM:

Everyone calm down; there is already a pre-emptive strike force working to keep us safe, at least in the suburbs.

A few weeks ago I opened the window to see what was making a wierd sound in my front yard and saw a guy with an air rifle creeping through the bushes, watching something in a tree. When I asked what he was up to, he solemnly assured me he was hunting squirrels.

I've always liked squirrels. At college I trained several to sit in my hand while I fed them, and I was starting to get them to the point that I could pick them up, but I went too fast one day and scared the little guy. My hand is still scarred from that bite.

#58 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 06:24 PM:

We have squirrels, foxes, even the odd badger, all walking through central London like they own the place. It's the End-Time, I tell you...

#59 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 06:31 PM:

The Snathi will gnaw the galaxy with their big squirrel-like teeth.

#60 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:29 PM:

Fragano #54: You need food, and, as L. Raymond says, squirrels used to sharing it with you.

I went out on my front porch one day and there was a squirrel in the middle of the street just staring at me. "What are you looking at?" I said, and in response he ran up onto my porch and continued staring at me. So I went into the house, grabbed a bag of cherries, and the two of us sat there contentedly eating them. Obviously somebody in the neighborhood was routinely feeding him.

#61 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:37 PM:

Jeffrey Smith #60: For some reason, the Caribbean squirrel* has become extinct. The best scholarship I can find on the subject suggests that all the squirrels in the West Indies got run over by speeding tourists while lying in the middle of the roads stoned out of their minds on lamb's bread.

*The iguanas in question were inhabitants of rural Jamaica.

#62 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:49 PM:

Fragano #6: One notes that all the troublemakers are grey, or American, squirrels, as opposed to the calmer European red squirrel...

But surely American squirrels are gray, not grey!

Ha! Ha! Get it? Because gray...and, you know..grey...on the other thread...ha ha!

Get it?

#63 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:59 PM:

You guys have collectively given me an earworm -- so in the spirit of amity, I'm going to share!

"Oh, when the squirrel went berserk
In the First Self-Righteous Church
In the sleepy little town of Pascagoula,
It was a fight for survival
That broke out in revival --
They were singin' hymns and shoutin' 'Hallelujah!' "

(Ray Stevens, who else?)

#64 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 08:44 PM:

We have two regular squirrels at the feeder and they chase each other around occasionally. I live in the old town area of a small rural city and in a condo, so the feeder has to be on my ground-level balcony. I hung it right by the railing, so the squirrels are just as welcome as the birds. The squirrels only noticed that the fountain is good for water after the grackles used it, though.

#65 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:13 PM:

Lee, oh, hell, the last time it took me three weeks to shake that earworm.

#66 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:19 PM:

And the nasssty tree rats appear to have taken a powder when the painters came to fix and paint our trim (we had a trim board nearly off the house), And it doesn't appear that they accidentally sealed one in, it's been rather hot here since they finished up...

They thundered about in our attic all winter, I'm glad they're gone. And I have a terror of one of them getting out to the cats.

#67 ::: Gursky ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:27 PM:

On the Oberlin College campus we have a heavily albino squirrel population. I don't think it could ever happen to such an extent in the "wild", where their relative visibility might be a dsadvantage, but somehow the gene keeps on trucking - so much so that at any given time there are about four of them living in the central square. Not too aggressive, either.

Of course, this is secret campus lore, used to identify fellow Obies, so this has to stay between us, fellow photofacturers.

#68 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:30 PM:

Nathan @25: In the couple of years I had been living in Toronto, I only saw one grey squirrel. It appeared to be running for its life, being chased by a couple of black squirrels.

#69 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:37 PM:

Bruce, he's near Jersey Shore-- the creek at the back of his yard is Pine Creek, site of crayfish hunting, occasional turtle-catching, and one of my formative unholy fear experiences. It's not suburban by my standards, and I don't remember seeing any houses nearby, but we usually end up inside or in the back yard, rather than out front where I suppose one can see neighbors. The rest of the family is in Centre? County, right at the fold of the map.

#70 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 09:43 PM:

Gursky #67: Ha! When I was there (2000-2004), everyone swore up and down that there was only one albino squirrel, and I was always like, "there has to be more than one. In fact, I've seen more than one at the same time!" and everyone was all, "No, there's only one, idiot!"

I knew I was right!

#71 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:02 PM:

JESR @65: For some reason, your comment has instantly prompted my brain cell to start howling "I heard a fly buzz when I died (etc.)" at me to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun".

#72 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:04 PM:

Gursky #67 & Ethan #70: I was under the impression that the number of albino squirrels in Tappan Square is pretty small (and, no, I'm not an Obie).

#73 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:06 PM:

We hates 'em, we does. Nasty squirrel critters ate our bulbs. Yes, we hates 'em.

(The true Battle of Seattle has little if anything to do with economic globalization. The true Battle of Seattle is fought by Seattle gardeners and squirrels, and is in its third generation (on the human side at least).)

#74 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:16 PM:

Margaret Organ-Kean, if the testimony of this thread is to be believer, all the Battle of Seattle has done is produced some truly frightening squirrels.

I'm on retreat from them, myself, here in Union Mills. For years I had fierce rodent- and rabbit- hunting cats, who were kept in from sunrise to sunset to reduce their bird depredations; then the local coyote population decided to specialize in pets, I lost my last garden-maintenance cat, and I've been fighting squirrels, rabbits, gophers and voles and fieldmice and rats since, as the coyotes find pets, petfood, and garbage more to their liking.

#75 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:25 PM:

Diatryma, I've got friends out in that part of the world; I, er, don't suppose your grandfather knows any environmentalist activists, does he?

#76 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 10:31 PM:

Why all this fuss about mechanical protection for feeders? An acquaintance swears by mixing a large container of cayenne pepper with every large bag of birdseed; the squirrels don't linger and may even learn, while birds do not get a burning sensation from capsaicin. (Frank Tolbert also notes this in A Bowl of Red, and says that wild turkey meat pre-spiced by the bird nibbling chilipiquines is a treat.)

We were in Loring Park during the 1993 WFC, making a tour of the places featured in War for the Oaks, and found ourselves mobbed. Back at the convention, we upbraided Emma Bull for not warning about this; she casually responded "Oh, the squirrels in Loring Park all wear black leather jackets" -- as if this were so well-known that it didn't need mentioning. She didn't say anything about the geese, but the geese were almost subdued compared to what I was used to.

#77 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:13 PM:

Obviously, no one here was a regular reader of alt.devilbunnies during its heyday.

The Squirrels have their battalions, in alliance with the Fudds against the Evil that Fluffs. What some of you have witnesses was clearly just the beginning of various training activities preparing for the War.


#78 ::: Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 11:25 PM:

Our old neighborhood in Mpls was a squirrel paradise, with a park across the street and an 8-plex of college students next door. The squirrels would come for the pepperoni pizza and rib bones fished out of the trash and then in their gratitude would stick around to say it with property damage. Our besieged landlord, Brad, used to catch them in live traps and relocate them to a park on the other side of the river. Or I should say he would cajole his reluctant teenage son, Dan, to relocate them.

At some point, though, Dan started to get more willing to do the relocation. Eager, in fact-- he'd ask Brad every day whether there were any squirrels to relocate. Brad of course got suspicious and asked what the hell.

Seems that one day Dan decided that driving all the way across the river was just too far, so he took a squirrel as far as the Franklin Avenue Bridge. Squirrels coming out of a trap just take off running in a straight line, and Dan thought it would be interesting to see a squirrel running into thin air off the bridge. So he walked halfway across, opened the cage, the squirrel shot out, and gravity showed the squirrel how it feels to be Wile E Coyote.

And then, as the squirrel was falling, an eagle swooped out from under the bridge, caught the squirrel in its talons neat as you please, and went off to have breakfast.

Well Dan of course thought this was the coolest thing ever, and from then on all the squirrels went to the bridge and more often than not became eagle food. And apparently one day, as Dan stood watching the eagle score yet another squirrel, another guy standing on the bridge nearby said, "Oh, yeah. That's Vern. We all feed him. You're the only one that does squirrels, though."

#79 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 12:46 AM:

Even more sinister possible squirrelaceous developments?

#80 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 12:58 AM:

Dan, I don't think Grandpa does. Another twig of the family might, since they live associated in some way with a... a thing, with woods and animals. And fences, at least where we were. Um. These things are never very well-defined when you're little, and then everyone just knows about them. But if your friends know an older couple (just celebrated sixty years of marriage) named Betty and George (I don't know their last name) they're mine.

#81 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 01:40 AM:

Stefanie Murray (#78)

Gee, back in The Old Days, at least twenty of the people here would have responded with "Dibs on that for publication in my fanzine". *sigh*

#82 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 02:18 AM:

Pat Greene @ 24 (and others): I am beginning to worry about a Black Squirrel Invasion. They began their California infestation at Stanford, you say? In Chicago, large and aggressive black squirrels live in Hyde Park, on the University of Chicago campus (Manhattan Project, anyone?) and in Evanston, at Northwestern University.

Something suspicious is going on here . . .

#83 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 02:36 AM:

More creepy bits about the tree rats:

1) Some fly/glide*, making them able to come at you from anywhere.

2) They can drop their body temp below freezing and live.

ethan - I got it (gray/grey), and you made me smile. I needed a smile. Thanks.

*of course, I refer to my flabby underarm bits as squirrel flaps, but that's another story

#84 ::: bad Jim ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 03:49 AM:

Laugh as you might, but I was down by the beach today, and the birds (pigeons, gulls and pelicans) were conspicuous by their absence. Those who characterize pigeons as rats with wings might count that a blessing, but I am as freaked by this as by news that bees are suddenly vanishing as well.

My back yard continues to be thronged, finches flocking to the sunflower dispenser, hummingbirds to the juice bottles, mockingbirds and crows battling, hawks swooping through to gather whom they may. We don't seem to get as many doves as we used to.

Lots of bees, too, but not many butterflies. I'd be on the verge of despair were I not always battling the depression that comes from attending an elderly parent (and waiting out this president).

#85 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 04:29 AM:

We can only hope that our squirrelly nemeses will have mercy on us and help defend the world during the coming zombie squirrel apocalypse.

#86 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 04:50 AM:

This year, my mom's apricot tree has gone mad with fruit. Her last email to me said only "Help. Bring baskets." Even with one dog and one tortoise breakfasting on apricots each morning the bounty is undiminished*.
In previous years she was lucky to get a handful.

The difference this year? Crows nested in the tree behind the apricot and vigorously drove away the squirrels. The squirrels didn't return even after the crows fledged, and thus weren't around to nibble away all the unripened green fruit.

* Did we know the dog loves apricots? Not until this year.

#87 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 08:42 AM:

My squirrels like hot pepper flavored bird seed. The ones that don't like it dig it out and onto the ground, where the birds fear to go for the cats lurking in the forest vegetation.

The metal grids around the bird feeders work real well, except for the time that the really thin squirrel squeezed between the sides and the bottom tray and found himself trapped in with the food. I had to lift the cage off the feeder with a pole; that squirrel looked like he was willing to enter into melee with me if I got any closer.

#88 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 08:58 AM:

Our bird feeder has no problem with the squirels because of a wide baffle that fits around the feeder's narrow pole. And we have doguettes who are very good at catching the squirrels.

#89 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 09:41 AM:

Serge #88: Les doguettes, est-ce que sont des pains pour chiens chauds? (Yes, I know that's terrible....)

#90 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 09:58 AM:

Doguettes, not baguettes, Fragano. Yes, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. And you give me a lame excuse to show off my Bestiary here. Yes, the little guy really is from Roswell.

#91 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 10:08 AM:

Speaking of pets with funny food habits, one of our cats mugs me for green leaves - cauliflower leaves, broccoli leaves, cabbage leaves, lettuce... I have a video I call "hunting the domestic cauliflower". Luckily we get organic veg. so I know there are no pesticides on them. The other one likes them too, but insists on a bit of cheese first!

Regarding your dog and fruit, I've heard nothing against apricots, but can I give a quick plea not to extend its diet to grapes (fresh or dried in any form). Too many recent reports of toxicity.

#92 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 10:11 AM:

I don't remember the author or title of that story about chipmunks discovering pack-hunting, but it was pretty much structured as a horror story, which was a shame. I wanted to see some world-building. What are the consequences if people (and possibly some other large animals) aren't safe in the woods?

More generally, we've been selecting wild animals for intelligence for a while. The longterm effects could be interesting.

#93 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 10:20 AM:

I remember reading a story by Fredric Brown where a scientist makes a mouse superintelligent. It imediately starts planning to take over Australia, and to change its capital's name to Disney.

#94 ::: Gursky ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 10:30 AM:

Weird. You're my year. I must know you. Not as weird, of course, as finding ourselves to be newly-minted relatives, but strange regardless.

Maybe there has only been one squirrel all along, but his good fortune in living in a highly visible location has lead to a resurgence of his mythic powers, fed by a wide network of idolators. Now he's nearly immortal, a la Jack of Fables, Loki, and Elvis.

Fragano@72, nice Tappan shout-out.

#95 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 10:31 AM:

Serge @93:
a scientist makes a mouse superintelligent. It imediately starts planning to take over...

...the world, surely, with the assistance of Pinky?

#96 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 10:36 AM:

abi @ 95... Yes, but luckily for Australia and for the world, the mouse soon reverts to its old IQ thru a lab accident.

#97 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 11:13 AM:

A scout from the advancing Squirrel Army dashed just ahead of our wheels as we headed back up the hill toward home on Saturday. But we have a nearly-wild Gulch in our development, and that's where the cotton-tail rabbits live. I saw four or five of them (hard to count when they're hopping away madly) while walking through the Gulch last week.

For animal interference with humans, the thing that spooks me most is still ravens banging away on the metal chimneys here (I guess they like the sounds). Well, that and the orange short-hair cat that wants to make claim to our side porch with the bird feeder. When it sprayed the sliding door, *my* cat got very upset. I'm thinking of buying a water pistol so I can shoo it off properly.

#98 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 11:15 AM:

Serge #90: So they're not tasty with a little mustard and relish? (Those are very cute beasts in your bestiary.)

#99 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 11:22 AM:

Gursky #94: Thanks.

#100 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 12:29 PM:

Serge @ 96:

"Please put some flowrs on my wurld-donminashun-ambishun's grave in the bak yard..."

#101 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 12:39 PM:

General thoughts about squirrels, crows, and raptors: one of the local Redtails has developed a squirrel-specialty, but from the end of April until September, the crows keep it (actually, I'm pretty sure it's "him") from hunting this end of the property. The Cooper's Hawks also take squirrels, but birds are apparently more to their liking. The Merlin and Sharpshin are afraid of them, and will abandon a carcass they're plucking if a squirrel shows up.

The chickadees will mob a single squirrel and drive it from the suet feeder (currently on squirrel excluder v 4.1) but then one of them sat on a branch outside the study window and scolded me for several minutes yesterday as the suet and seed feeders have been removed after a request by the Audubon Society and Washington Fish and Wildlife to do so to break a cycle of salmonella infections. The squirrels just keep digging up whatever they've burried in the flower pots.

And what I've previously forgotten to mention is that my daughter was in eighth grade she was in an after-school enrichment program put on by the SCA. When the time came to figure out what her crest should be, us two extremely ADHD women put our heads together and decided on the squirrel, for its way of running about as if it can't remember where it left its keys.

#102 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 12:51 PM:

The squirrels that live in the roof of our building were all acting very strange yesterday evening. Something is definitely up. I fear.

#103 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 01:06 PM:

Jeffrey Smith @ #43: a squirrel's weight would cause the front "porch" to sink, the lever it was on would rise in the back, and the door would shut.

We have a similar one, only instead of being shaped like a house, it's two cylinders, one inside the other. Excess weight on the outside cylinder drags it down, out of line with the cutouts in the inside one. It's been squirrel-proof for two years or so now.

#104 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 01:09 PM:

dcb @ 91: My cats are the same. It is not safe to leave a bowl of salad alone in my house. It is also not safe to snack on snowpeas or carrots while reading. You'll get a cat attempting to shove her entire head into your mouth to catch the pod you just ate, or gnawing on your fingers to taste the essence of carrot.

They mug me for broccoli, but only if it's from my garden. I don't blame them. Homegrown broccoli is so sweet.

Luckily, squirrels have for the most part left me alone. My mother just gave up and put a pan of birdseed underneath her bird feeder, on the principle that if the squirrels could get it easily, they wouldn't bother driving the birds off. It sort of worked. Now they only attack the birdfeeder for sport.

#105 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 01:30 PM:

Gursky #67, ethan somewheres:

Albino squirrels on the University of Texas campus, dating from back in the 70s if not earlier. Over the years, they migrated from near the western edge to pretty far east. There were definitely more than one. The oddest thing, though, was the time one or more of them got lost and started camping out at our house, which was six blocks north of campus (but due north of their farthest-eastern reach). After a few weeks they disappeared or went back to campus, or migrated yet again. I've sort of lost track in recent years, what with no longer spending much time on campus.

#106 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 01:50 PM:

In 1989 I had a job at the Grand Canyon. Two squirrel-related incidents stand out:

The pair of little old English ladies, straight out of a Monty Python sketch, turning their backs on the Canyon to coo at the squirrels there in the tourist area by the Bright Angel Lodge: "Ooo! Look at the squirrels! Aren't ye darling, luv?"

And the squirrel that attempted to take my ice cream cone. I offered him a dollar to get his own, but he wasn't about to stand in that line with mere tourists.

#107 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 01:55 PM:

Who was it who said that squirrels are simply rats with fluffy tails and better press?

I've been saying it for decades, and I am not alone. I am only one of many in the Secret Squirrel Suppression Service.

Do not fear. Long have we watched, and prepared for this day! Do not believe the propaganda. The enemy is not invincible.

(P.S. It doesn't taste like chicken. It tastes like rat. 'Nuff said.)

#108 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 02:37 PM:

Tully #107: How do you know what rat tastes like?

#109 ::: Telophase ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 02:53 PM:

Ever since I posted photos of my encounter with the Beady Eyes of Evil outside my living-room window, people have been sending me links about squirrel rampages. It seems like it's just a matter of time before they arise and overthrow us all.

(Warning - minor squirrel gore in the first link. Now back to lurking.)

#110 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 03:14 PM:

Margaret @ 73:

Add my dill and basil to the list of plants the beasties have destroyed. Unfortunately, I think the blame for bulb-digging-up rest squarely on the head of my son. Curse the day we tried to distract him with a trowel!

#111 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 03:45 PM:

They've got their special forces in training already...

But, yes, I do suspect they're in league with the rats, although which are in charge I'm not quite sure.

#112 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 03:48 PM:

I remember that story...

Found it! Via the nifty Biology in Science Fiction blog, which I'd immediately add to my blogroll if I had one.

Peggy the blog author details other work by Malartre, the author of Evolution Never Sleeps. ENS was also in Year's Best SF 5.

#113 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 05:31 PM:

#108: You really want to go there? I'm reasonably sure it was roast rat, but there was a language barrier. The tail sure wasn't fuzzy and the size was right. Tasted somewhere between re-heated roast pork and overly gamy duck. Only tougher, and not much meat on it. (You know, like squirrel!)

I've also had "swamp rat" (nutria) which was not too bad. It didn't taste like chicken either. But it was better than squirrel.

#114 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 05:40 PM:

Caroline @ 104

I'm so pleased to know it's not just mine! Although ours don't like carrots.

Regarding squirrels, my present squirrel-proof feeder works just fine (plastic tube holding the seed, with holes for the birds to feed through, and a cage around it so the squirrels can't reach). They did get frustrated when I first switched to this one because they had learned that the previous "squirrel proof" feeder, also with a cage around it, could be twisted until it fell off its hanging point, and then the lid came off and all the seed was theirs! This one is constructed differently. N.B. Don't get one that screws into the hanging point.

Our other bird feeder sticks to the patio windows, and the squirrels occasionally climb up the centre bit (where the patio doors overlap) and look longingly at it, but so far have not then managed the leap to the feeder. I did have to put the windon feeder up by six inches after one of the dear little cats jumped upwards five feet, vertically, and took a swipe at the birds through the glass.

Oh well, they are supposed to be dual-purpose (feed the birds, entertain the cats by watching the birds).

The squirrels have their revenge for not getting the seed by digging up the baby hawthorn plants I'm trying to grow to make a native-species hedge.

#115 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 05:44 PM:

Tully #113: I ask no more. I've never had squirrel.* I know that nutria's eaten in some places.

* On the other hand, I have had turtle.

#116 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 06:03 PM:

I thought the bumf on the box our bird-feeder came in was code: it said "squirrel proof" and I immediately thought "rat-proof". I thought they were telling people who don't like rodents that this wouldn't attract them. If I'd thought it would conjure up actual squirrels, I'd've bought two. It hasn't.

Great tits, though.

#117 ::: Gursky ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 06:12 PM:

I've never been bitten but have had to chase a squirrel out of my kitchen. Damn fire escapes. The really galling bit, however, was that the squirrel wanted our loaf of Healthy P. Nutterson's Mul-T-Grain so badly that after I initially startled it out of the room I then had to stand at the window and physically fend it off until I could shut the thing. It kept trying to dodge around me back into the room, and nearly did.

Now that I think about it, though, it may have been a more cunning form of attack. It was over 90 degrees that afternoon, and with no AC that closed window sure felt lethal.

#118 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 06:13 PM:

Tully #113: so it wasn't an attempt to re-create "Millers in Onion Sauce" from Lobscouse and Spotted Dog?

#119 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 07:59 PM:

Tania #83: Thank you for that bit of kindness. Lame joke.

Gursky #94: Weird! I'm e-mailing you. I guess I didn't need to announce that, particularly.

#120 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 08:18 PM:

#115: Mmmmmm, turtle....

#118: I wish! I hadn't yet heard of POB then. Onion sauce would have been a major improvement.

To be honest I don't know to this day if it was a joke on the dumb American or regular local fare, but I wasn't the only one eating and they didn't laugh at me too much. It might have been some other smallish rodent. But it looked mostly like a rat, and it was served roasted on a stick, so....

#121 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 08:41 PM:

Next... Gerbil of Peril...

#122 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 08:43 PM:

Or maybe... Racoon of Doom...

#123 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 08:44 PM:

Or... Tomb of the Possum...

#124 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 09:18 PM:

115, 120: Mmmmmm, turtle....

Reminds me of a handbook a friend had, when I was researching a turtle I adopted (rescued from a cat in the backyard parking lot where I live). Along with various bits of scientific info for various species, there would be a paragraph on 'Economic utility'. The 'painted turtle' (Chrysemys picta) was considered too small to be worth much; not enough shell, oil, or meat to be profitably exploited.

#125 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 10:30 PM:

Margaret, #73, when we lived in Edmonds, my mother's battle was with slugs.

CHip, #76, when I saw a cute little rat climbing up the porch rails to the feeder, I started putting cayenne pepper in with the seeds. It stopped the rat, but not the squirrels. I hadn't seen the rat in a while so the last two bags of seed have gone in clean. No rat yet.

Serge, #90, my cats eat at the end of the kitchen counter. I don't put food down there, so I don't worry about contamination. I kept dropping their bowls and plates when I tried to put them on the floor without spilling, so now they get to adjust to me.

Faren, #97, I've found standing at the sliding glass door with my hands on my hips and yelling Hey! makes the feeder-lurker cats go away.

#126 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 11:19 PM:

I've had squirrel, and, well, meh. If you're really into tough and slightly greasy dark meat, it might be your thing. Otherwise, not so much.

(Rattlesnake, though, is delicious.)

#127 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 11:29 PM:

Cavy of Catastrophe?

#128 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 11:50 PM:

Serge @ 93: "The Star Mouse". (1942, says From These Ashes, NESFA's Brown omnibus.)

#129 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 01:02 AM:

A couple of years back I ran into a Yahoo News story about how, at a certain season, certain rodents were a popular dish in some south-east asian country. Thailand? Cambodia? Can't track the story now, but I have preserved the pictures. Not gory, but could be gruesome for some.
Ready for Ratatouille? and Rats in a Bowl

#130 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 06:53 AM:

CHip @ 128... Yes, that's the story. I originally read it in the mid-1970s, in anthology The Best of Planet Stories, edited by Leigh Brackett.

#131 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 06:56 AM:

Did I ever tell you of the time a couple of months ago when I was watering some flowers? Even after the last drop of liquid had come out, the can still felt heavy. Turns out there was a drowned rat inside.

#132 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 06:58 AM:

Tully @ 127... Let's not forget Hamster of Horror...

#133 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 08:47 AM:

Reposting this because something odd seemed to happen to the picture links before (#129).

A couple of years back I ran into a Yahoo News story about how, for one season of the year, rats were a popular dish in some south-east asian country. Thailand? Cambodia? Can't track the story now, but I have preserved the pictures. They aren't gory, but could be too gruesome for some: Waiting for Ratatouille? and Rats in a Bowl

#134 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 10:16 AM:

Marilee (#125): This cat is very persistent and/or very dumb. For a while, the rattle of the blinds scared it, but now I have to go out on the porch and shoo it off. (Of course I'm lousy at yelling, much better at peevish muttering.)

#135 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 12:00 PM:

#132: And what, heck. I got nothin'.

#136 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 12:02 PM:

132: Oh wait! The Armadillo of Armageddon!

#137 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 12:08 PM:

Tully.. Hats off.

#138 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 02:07 PM:

Well, if you want apocalyptic rodents, there's always Narbonic!

(Note that the link is to the rerun... the full tale of "Artie", his own creations, and their creations, can be found in the Original tales.

Stray comments:

Ive heard FOAF accounts of squirrels getting to like chili-flavored seeds. In any case, they're certainly tricksy. Also, I've seen black squirrels in Hempstead, NY (on Long Island) in the last year or so... they do seem to be showing up in more places. Rather infamously, the black and grey forms don't get along, so there may be some interesting conflicts among the branches....

Cats and vegeys... wild felines would get a certain amount of plant matter "secondhand" via their prey. Domestic cats most certainly can eat vegetables -- indeed, if you try to feed them exclusively on meat, they will get deficiency diseases ("all-meat syndrome" to a vet). I've seen suggestions to make them a little salad once a week or so. (But no onions, those trash kitty's liver.)

#139 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 02:12 PM:

Serge @ #131, A while back I went out to get something from our infrequently-used Craftsman tool chest, kept in a free-standing shed outside the kitchen door. I was poking around and discovered what looked like a bird's nest was actually a dessicated rat.

Better in that form than alive and squirming, I always say.

#140 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 02:19 PM:

I've been watching a roadkill squirrel for a while-- rather, I had been watching. It went from dead and thrown to the sidewalk to various states of two-dimensionality as it was kicked into the road and flung back out. Every time I walked past, it was flattened into a different plane. The last time I saw it, it looked like a bundle of paper and twigs, if anything; the skin was partially hairless, all the long bones but one were inapparent, and I think some of it had been removed by scavenger, lawnmower, or just falling off.
I can't be the only person who notes decomposition on her walk to school.

#141 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 02:23 PM:

Agreed, Linkmeister. Back to squirrels and how my doguettes are Death to them... A couple of years ago, I found one dead, lying on its back, with its belly open and freshly emptied of all flesh. I could even see what was left of the spine. I never could figure out if my girls had left that there as a warning to other squirrels.

#142 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 03:22 PM:

"I never could figure out if my girls had left that there as a warning to other squirrels."

That could lead to a discussion of symbols and whether any species other than human uses them.

#144 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 03:24 PM:

and there are always (more and more of) Rabbits of Reproduction.

#145 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 03:31 PM:

What about the Dormice of Doom?

#146 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 03:40 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 144... How about Rabbits of Ravage?

#147 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 03:51 PM:


Clearly you are thinking of *Ragnarokky and Bullwinkle*.

Dark the sky / and full of squirrel
Long and low / belled the ice-moose
Natasha gnaws / the bonds that hold her
Soon the stars / will gutter and fail
Soon the moon / will burn and fall
Good night moon / good night squirrel
Good night moose / of dead men's nails
Darkness would have / drowned the world
If it hadn't been for / those meddling kids

#148 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 04:09 PM:

I am still waiting for the long ago promised Frontline Wombat by Dave Stevens.

#149 ::: Jeff Soesbe ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 04:17 PM:

The coordinated attack by squirrels on humanity actually goes back a ways. Check out the Squirrel Cop segment from a "This American Life" episode back in 2002, where in a squirrel wrecks a house, two cops and the homeowners.

#150 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 04:26 PM:

David Harmon @138

Cats and veges - yes, I keep telling people that (about plant material in the guts) and some wild cats at least do deliberately eat plants. However, if you have plant-eating kitties you do have to be careful which plants you leave around the house - lilies are a no-no.

Other things not to feed to cats: acetaminophen (Tylenol) (paracetamol for those on this side of the pond). NEVER NEVER. Not even a quarter of a tablet. Please.

#151 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 04:30 PM:

Following up on the Dog, the Tortoise, and the Apricot Tree @86:

Visiting my mom yesterday, I note that the three are in an ecological mutualistic relationship.

The dog sees when the tortoise focuses its grazing under the apricot tree, as the tortoise will patiently* wait there vs. how it tanks around the rest of the yard. The dog needs the tortoise: if it weren't for the tortoise, the dog would have entirely forgotten about the tree, because his perceptions and memories are perpetually happy and very, very short**.

The dog then paws at the lower tree branches until several apricots fall. The tortoise eats some***, the dog eats some too, and eventually the tortoise byproducts will help feed the apricot tree. (The dog also tries to benefit from tortoise byproducts, but we-cruel-humans do not let this happen.)

* from our perspective. For all I know the tortoise is quivering with anticipation, but their quiver is at a Hz below my perception.

** Dory in Finding Nemo short.

*** although we keep it limited: they're not evolved to have much sugar.

#152 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 04:59 PM:

I, for one, worry about the titmice of temptation...

#153 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 05:06 PM:

Andrew Plotkin @ 147

Almost as good as a snort. I'd just put in some eyedrops when I read your little ditty. Closed my eyes while laughing and the drops went all over my face. That was hilarious.

#154 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 05:08 PM:

The Hare of Horror

#155 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 05:11 PM:

Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the Mouse of Usher...

#156 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 05:13 PM:

The Rat of Touille.

#157 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 05:26 PM:

The Rat of Khan

#158 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 05:27 PM:

The Squirrel of Gothos

#160 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 06:07 PM:

The Gerbil of Greed?

#161 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 06:24 PM:

The Possum of Peril

Danger is a marsupial.

#162 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 06:26 PM:

The Capybara of Catastrophe?

Nutria of the Living Dead?

#163 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 06:36 PM:

The ROUS of Revenge

You think they're best served cold. They're not nearly so picky about you.

#164 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 07:01 PM:

The Mouse of Menace?

(It has all sorts of possibilities, some having to do with the Disney Empire, some not.)


Sinister Squirrels and Revanchist Rats in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire

Now that alliteration has sent my brain pinging off into entirely different directions:

"Holy ruthless rodentia, Batman! You're... You're..."
"Yes, I'm afraid so. I am... Die Fledermaus

#165 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 07:14 PM:

The Harrowing of Hamster Hell.

#166 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 08:03 PM:

Warning. If you read these, do not have a beverage in your hand or mouth. Or food. I'tll come out your nose or your mouth and your keyboard will be all the worse.

Then there's the ... urm, innocent squirrel. It's as funny as dog and sweet potato.

Then again there's the killer squirrel.

You're going to have to copy and paste, my html-fu sucks.

#167 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 09:58 AM:

Owlmirror @ 164

Sinister Squirrels and Revanchist Rats in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire

Oh, perfect. Can we get Chip Delany to write the story?*

* Remember "We, in Some Strange Power's Employ, Move on a Rigorous Line"?

#168 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 10:19 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 167... Can we get Chip Delany to write the story?

Chipmunk Delany?

#169 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 10:49 AM:

Ferrets of Felony?

Incidentally, that orange cat turns out to belong to my neighbor. He just grew several sizes larger than the adolescent version I first saw as an indoor kitty, and now that he's spending some time outside he's more relaxed and has stopped his incessant howling or whining (not to be confused with whingeing).

#170 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 10:53 AM:

Weasels of War

#171 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 11:46 AM:

Kate @ 103:

I've also got one of those feeders where too much weight on the perches pushes the outer cylinder down, closing off the feeding stations.

The raccoons have figured out all they have to do is reach from the tree, grab the feeder, pull it to them and then grab the food right out of the hole. I think the squirrels (who have neither the strength nor the reach) have put them up to it, since this tactic spills a lot of feed on the ground, and the squirrels can get to that.

#172 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 11:50 AM:

Parrots of Penitence
(Cue in Gilbert & Sullivan)

#173 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 12:03 PM:

Andrew Plotkin #147: !!!

#174 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 12:36 PM:

Andrew Plotkin... Agreed with Patrick. I'll never be able to watch Rocky & Bullwinkle the same way again. By the way, where does Dudley Do-right fit among the events of the Ragnarok?

#175 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 01:09 PM:

#174: He's Baldur, of course. Fair-haired, gracious, innocent ...

And then there's Loki, the Trickster, the Disguise Master. Obvious.

#176 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 01:14 PM:

Jon Meltzer... And Dudley's horse is Sleipnir?

#177 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 03:51 PM:

Serge @ #172, It's a good thing I've already been on a Linda Ronstadt buying binge this year or that would have triggered it.

#178 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 04:41 PM:

Opossum Oppressors

#179 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 04:49 PM:

Linkmeister @ 177... Actualy, I got the inspiration for that one from the time Gilda Radner did a Gilbert & Sullivan duet with a 7-foot-tall carrot on the Muppet Show.

#180 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 04:50 PM:

Mice of Misery

#181 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 04:54 PM:

Pika of Perdition

#182 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 04:56 PM:

Opposum of Opprobrium

#183 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 05:00 PM:

Nutria of Nefariousness?

#184 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 05:01 PM:

Bruce @ #167:

Actually, Neil Gaiman already has written it, more or less...

Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire

If you have broadband, you can see and hear Mr. Gaiman reading it:

Click on Chapter 4 of the programme

#185 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 05:17 PM:

I'm still chuckling at #147, and the tag from #163. Those meddling kids....

Gophers of Grue

#186 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 05:28 PM:

Cony Conniptions

#187 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 05:31 PM:

Shakespeare already wrote a rodent play, so I won't use that one...

The Degus of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouse?

#189 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 05:53 PM:

Xopher @#187:

I was just thinking that someone might put together something called:

Much Ado about Shrews of Savagery

Which would involved Kate and Beatrice bailing on Petruchio and Benedick respectively, and having an adventure together. Possibly involving a joint leap from, say, the cliffs of Dover. Or summat like that.

#190 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 06:45 PM:

Gorean Gophers

#192 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 07:53 PM:

A Chinchilla in the Blood

#193 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 08:31 PM:

Mole of Malice

"Behold, I am the Underminer! Always beneath you, but nothing is beneath me!"

#194 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 09:50 PM:

The Platypus of Pestilences

#195 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 09:58 PM:

The Echidna of Extremism

#196 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 10:03 PM:

Time Considered as a Hyrax of Semiprecious Stones

#197 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 10:11 PM:

The Year of the Angry Rabbit (Truth meets fiction meets truth.)

#198 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 11:01 PM:

Ichor of the Echidna

#199 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 11:01 PM:

Ichor of the Echidna

#200 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2007, 12:23 AM:

Arthur Byron Cover wrote the following stories:

* "The Platypus of Doom"
* "The Armadillo of Destruction"
* "The Aardvark of Despair"
* "The Clam of Catastrophe"

#201 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2007, 12:47 AM:

If we're going with SF, there's always

Rock Rats of Pallas

#202 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2007, 02:25 AM:

The Naked Mole Rats of Nymphomania


Now that is just disturbing

#203 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2007, 06:53 AM:

The Brother Catfaël mysteries...

#204 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2007, 11:15 AM:

The Rabbits of Retribution (don't get them mad!)

#205 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2007, 11:24 AM:

Speaking of revanchist rats, and Neil Gaiman:

We are small but we are many
We are many, we are small
We were here before you rose
We will be here when you fall


We have teeth and we have tails
We have tails, we have eyes
We were here before you fell
You will be here when we rise.


We have eyes and we have nerveses
We have tails, we have teeth,
You'll all get what you deserveses
When we rise from underneath

#206 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2007, 11:53 AM:

John @ #171: our two-cylinder feeder is strung between two trees that are at least twelve feet apart, so any raccoons in the area are out of luck.

The squirrels don't starve (nor the bunnies, nor the chipmunks, nor . . . ), as birds also spill quite a lot of seed on the ground.

#207 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2007, 03:32 PM:

The Meercats of Madness
The Pudu Plague
The Spiteful Spiny Mice

Or can we go for The Birds?

The Ducks of Destruction
The Teal of Terror
The Curse of the Crane
The Revolt of the Ravens

#208 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2007, 04:31 PM:

Since we've started down this road, how about collective nouns?

A chitter of chipmunks.

A lethargy of dormice

A tuft of chincillas

A gnaw of rats

#209 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2007, 03:18 PM:

A Stalin of stoats?

#210 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2007, 04:40 PM:

A rabidity of raccoons.

An annoyance of telemarketers.

#211 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2007, 04:58 PM:

A did-*too*-call of telemarketers.

#212 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2007, 08:55 PM:

A giggle of schoolgirls.

#213 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2007, 10:19 PM:

More proof that the squirrels - not las cucarachas - are truly our next overlords:

Will Shortz' Desperate Plea for Help

Will Shortz, puzzlemaster for the New York Times, has for many years now presented a new puzzle every week on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday. At the end of the segment, he presents a puzzle challenge for the following week. Usually, it's a word puzzle.

Not today.

I, for one, welcome our new rodent overlords.

#214 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2007, 01:58 PM:

Kamikaze squirrels

#215 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2007, 03:02 PM:

Austin American-Statesman reported today on a man who does bonsai. He puts little figures in some of his creations; this is a traditonal method of making the bonsai tell a story.

He's got only one problem: squirrels keep stealing his figurines.

Which caused my husband to speculate on the squirrel version of garden gnomes.

#216 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2007, 03:05 PM:

Nightmare Abi (and He-man) and the Hamsters of the Universe

#217 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2007, 04:01 PM:

Patrick 213: Here's what I submitted for that one:

You cannot keep them off your roof. As usual with this kind of problem, defining the problem is most of the solution. Keeping them off the roof is not really possible.

What you really want to do is keep them out of your attic. To do that, cover the fan (and the entire hole provided for it) with a wire grating. Chicken wire is a temporary solution, because they'll pry it loose. Get a wire grating (and you should have no trouble finding the right size if the fan is a standard one) and bolt it securely to the outside of the hole. Make sure the spaces between the wires are smaller than a squirrel body.
Then wrap the whole thing with razor wire. No sense taking chances.
#218 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2007, 04:45 PM:

Xopher #217: Now, that's an ingenious solution. My mother-in-law suggested greasing everything the squirrels might climb.

#219 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2007, 04:47 PM:

Xopher, you forgot the obvious: "After you've done all that, hire three thugs from Blackwater (8-hour shifts) to guard the hole. Outfit them with AK-47s."

Don't you read the comic strip "Pearls Before Swine," with the guard duck?

#220 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2007, 01:08 AM:

Xopher 217: Make sure the spaces between the wires are smaller than a squirrel body.

You must make sure the spaces are smaller than a squirrel's head.

#221 ::: onafixedincome ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2007, 04:36 AM:

The ongoing saga of a fiber-stealing squirrel in Canada....

And why hasn't anyone mentioned the Kangaroo Rex (J.Kagan, Mirabile)??

#222 ::: deadmuse ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2007, 04:13 PM:

The squirrels have invaded Tehran... and been arrested.

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