Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Separate Peace

keeping their distance

It was showdown time. I knew this day would come, just didn't know when and didn't know what would happen. I realized that like humans, squirrels have a dark side, that envy and territoriality had their place in the squirrel world. We see it in males like Mr. Operator (RIP) and ET (Alphie's Evil Twin), although Alphie doesn't show a dark side. We see it in the females that are the most successful at raising babies. Here the dark side has a definite purpose.

There are two territorial queens that I've been feeding: Spunky and Gray Momma. Spunky is a long-time friend of mine. I've watched her successfully command her own tree, where she has raised brood after brood. She also has another throne:  a seat on the bench  next to me when I'm around. Other squirrels know that's Spunky's spot  and dare not challenge it. Occasionally an errant squirrel will make the jump onto the bench, then veer off before making a complete landing. If they don't know their place Spunky will quiver and growl and if need be, give chase. It's funny because she's such a small squirrel. She never grew very large, but she's very spunky!

Then this winter another queen came to the neighborhood and captured the finest tree around, the big tree near the flagpole. This was quite a feat, especially since they had recently cut down the big tree next to it, which used to house many squirrels.  This squirrel which I named Gray Momma, bonded to me like Spunky had. So I foresaw a confrontation and was a little worried about what would happen, as I loved both squirrels.

The two were aware of each other but so far had kept their distance. As territorial as they are, they seemed to be ignoring each other's presence. If both were around when I was there, Gray Momma would sit near my feet or under the cart when Spunky was sitting beside me on the bench.

Then the other day Gray Momma jumped up onto the bench and took the place of honor. She had never been on the bench before, and that would have been cool if Spunky hadn't been around. But Spunky was around.  And Spunky also jumped up on the bench! Uh-oh, what would happen next?

advancing from the rear

that's better!
near the goodies

as close as it gets

a separate peace

As we can see, the two grandes dames did not mess with each other. They seemed to have a mutual respect and managed to maintain decorum at close proximity! Gray Momma, the bigger squirrel, remained in one spot for most of the time, while Spunky made the moves. At one point Spunky got impatient when Gray Momma was blocking her access. No problem, she simply zoomed over Gray Momma's head and landed on the other side, in a move that seemed right out of a video game! Aren't squirrels wonderful?

I was surprised when Gray Momma didn't even flinch, although she continued to repel other lesser squirrels away from the bench. It was amazing to watch, almost teamwork.  The two squirrels had obviously sized up the situation, and knew that they could not use the usual tactics and have  a win-win situation. Which it ended up being. Smart squirrels!

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