Chainsawing Squirrels

“Chainsawing squirrels” is not a phrase you see every day, but bear with me. We’re just winding up an idyllic weekend at our Alaska summer vacation home. Actually, it’s our ordinary everyday home; it just felt like the kind of place you’d like to go on vacation because the weather was perfect and we decided to spend a good chunk of the weekend reading and relaxing. This meant putting in some serious deck time. Well, somebody had to do it. It was just that nice out—unusual for early August and a welcome break after several weeks of dedicated work.

So here we were on the deck at all hours of the day and night. This provided us with endless wildlife and neighborhood entertainment. Birds frolicked in the bird bath (we had to refill it twice, they splashed so much). The neighborhood dogs periodically got their butts poked and went into barking frenzies. Red squirrels chittered angrily and snuck around everywhere. And of course neighbors did their things. Lawns were mowed. Logs were cut. Vehicles were driven. We live in the woods and can’t really see any of our neighbors, but we can hear what they’re up to, just as they can hear us when we’re chainsawing and lawnmowing (yes, both were weekend vacation activities for us). Oddly—or perhaps not; Rose didn’t think it was unusual—there were more chain saws than lawn mowers in the neighborhood this weekend.

Now, if the title gives you images of me taking a chainsaw to a squirrel, dispel that image. That would be cruel. And as far as I know, there have been no Texas chainsaw squirrel massacres here or anywhere (if you know of such, do us all a favor and keep it to yourself). No, the image that brought the phrase to my mind is that of squirrels wielding chainsaws. Despite many hours of careful observation, I have yet to see such a thing. But from my observations I deduce that it must happen regularly. Here is my reasoning.

It is late summer, and the squirrels are collectively in two moods: disperse and fight like hell over territory boundaries. The young ones dispersing can be hilarious to watch. Timid and often unafraid, they act very funny when encountering humans and figuring out where the bird feeder is. And because we have a bird feeder, we sit at a nexus of these activities. Even the most battle-scarred old squirrel dogs with neighboring territories sneak around quietly to feast on sunflower seeds and sip the ambrosia of the well-used bird bath. And the young of the year hop with exaggerated loftiness and curiously inspect every object and have a heck of a time figuring out how to climb up to the feeder. It is fascinating to watch. Where they get irritating is in making their screaming chitters to the world that this is their territory and by god all you other squirrels better keep out and preferably die painfully. They are quite angry and serious about it. Other squirrels send them into fits, and sometimes they get very assertive at us just because we’re sitting on the deck interfering with their little lives and desires to sneak stealthily to the feeder for a midday snack.

But what really sets them off (yes, you are with me, I’m sure) is the sound of chainsaws in the neighborhood. No other motor sound evokes this response with such regularity. Passing cars, lawnmowers, low-flying light aircraft, passing four-wheelers—these are all a big yawn from the squirrels’ perspective. But let a chain saw go, and you can whip out your data sheet and map squirrel territories. And so you see my weekend deduction: surely these little woodland creatures, honed by generations of natural selection, know that they have mortal squirrel enemies out there revving their chainsaws and coming for them. So far, at least those in our yard have kept these monsters away with their fierce and unrelenting chittering.

But I’ll keep watching. With more patience and good weather, I’m hoping to get to see them myself someday.

P.S. The only disappointing thing about this staycation weekend is that we can’t stay up reading on the deck ‘til midnight anymore—it’s actually getting dark again. Rose is asking “What about chainsmoking squirrels?” Yes, I am typing this on the deck.


P.P.S. OMG It must be true! I found it on the internet!

“Squirrel Nut Chainsaw Dude” from Choppix (no, really).