Then the bogs were drained, the forests were cleared, roads were built, farms spread, suburbs sprawled.... Now there are only a few square miles of shore pine forest left, a tiny fraction of the historical habitat of this interesting little mammal. But if you ask anyone who lives here, "Are there squirrels in Richmond?" the response is likely to be a roll of the eyes and muttered expletives. There are too many squirrels!
But they are thinking of this one, the Eastern Grey Squirrel, which was introduced to Stanley Park in Vancouver about a hundred years ago (yes, the black ones are also Grey Squirrels). Oh what a mistake. They thrived and spread, invaded garages and attics and were captured and transported elsewhere, across the river for example, to here for example, and here too they have thrived and are in our garages and attics. They are a conspicuous feature of almost every neighbourhood. They love the balmy west coast, with life so much easier than in frigid Ontario, where months of hard work are needed to collect and hoard enough acorns and beechnuts to last out the lengthy sub-zero cold spells.
They cannot turn this instinct off. While in Ontario they would be curled up in the hollow of an oak, snoozing though the chilly weather, here they are still foraging, and will continue to forage. A few years ago this led to a file being opened by the RCMP, when a public Christmas light show was being systematically vandalized. Lights were being stolen, dozens every day. Not just the bulbs, but the sockets too, snipped from the lengths of wire. Who would do such a thing? Well, there (above) is the answer. Diurnal bandits, gleefully collecting all those pretty shiny GIANT acorns.
That particular Christmas light show no longer exists, but if you go to that park and dig around in the leaf litter you are almost certain to find buried Christmas lights. Something to puzzle archeologists.Mmmmm, red acorns.