Readers’ Tales of Urban Wildlife, Final Installment
Esau the dog is an avid squirrel watcher.
And most New York City squirrels are avid dog and people watchers,
ready to approach, or
ready to run.
In our final installment of readers’ entries to our urban nature contest, Kelly Rypkema of Nature in a New York Minute writes about an encounter with a neighborhood squirrel.
Games with Squirrels
I’m heading out to treat myself to a nice Vietnamese dinner. I have yummy thoughts of cilantro, curry, and coconut milk swimming through my mind as I step onto the stoop. The click of the door behind me causes something to jump. I look to the tree on my left, and I lock eyes with my wily neighborhood squirrel. Is this the same one, I wonder, who’s been munching on my impatiens? He’s frozen in place on the tree trunk, staring at me, heels-over-head, hind feet swiveled back to grip the tree as only squirrels can do.
He’s staring me down, so I decide to play with him. I move one step down to see if I can make him flinch. He’s implacable. I take one more step. Nothing. This guy has truly mastered the art of becoming a statue. I give up the contest and continue on my way around the tree. But now he seems to be playing hide and seek with me. With every foot I move, he scoots around the opposite side of the tree. His tail gives away his location though. And sometimes I catch him peering around the tree at me – just an ear and eye sticking out from the tree trunk. He’s too cute!
So I stop again, this time on the other side of the tree. Now he’s fully visible, once again the statue. Game on! And this time I’m closer. I take a step. Aha! The tail starts flicking up an angry storm. One more step closer. Whoa! Now his whole backside is vibrating with the vehemence of his tail twitching. The tension is palpable, yet no sound comes from his mouth. His tail, however, is screaming, “Get out of my face, lady!” It even makes me uncomfortable, so I break the silence by saying, “Psst.” Now, he vibrates so much, he looks like he’s going to explode.
I wonder what could be so important about this tree that he stands his ground like this? Does he have babies? A movement in the corner of my eye makes me glance up. There’s another squirrel up there, making his way down towards us. A friend? A mate? A sibling? The newcomer gives challenge to his friend, my squirrel, who turns and high tails it after him into the tops of the tree. Thus commences their high-wire act that I so envy, careening from tree to tree, using the tiniest branches as trampolines to the next, their own private freeway in the sky. And I am left earth-bound.
My stomach rumbles, and thoughts of Bun thit nuong return. So I turn, and my gravity-laden feet take me further down the street toward the restaurant. But part of me stays with the squirrels, flying through the trees with the greatest of ease.
Thank you to everyone who sent in a story for our Urban Nature Contest, and thank you to all my readers for your continuing support of Out Walking the Dog.