By Bear, Critters, and Steve Den
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
We thank neighbors Kathy and puppy Piper for their inspiration.
This short story is about pine squirrels up here in our yard in Poudre Park this summer (2021)…pups, does, bucks, and my puppy Bear. Colorado is home to nine squirrels, but only three tree squirrels: fox squirrel, Abert’s squirrel, and the pine squirrel. We’ve had all three frequent our yard through the years. Squirrels are nature’s foresters. Researchers have found tree squirrels don’t remember where they buried 10% of their seeds and nuts. Squirrels are in the family Sciuridae which comes from two words: skia which means ‘shadow’ and oura which means ‘tail’. This describes a squirrel relaxing in the shadow of its tail.
For the first time in thirty-five years, we had a pair of pine squirrels nest in our yard in one of our nest boxes out back along the Poudre River. We took this photograph of two young pine squirrels (pups or kits) in our nest box. Poudre Park lies in a ponderosa pine forest surrounded by the Roosevelt National Forest named after President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. In 1897, this forest was part of the Medicine Bow Forest Reserve. In 1910, it was called the Colorado National Forest. Then in 1932 President Hoover renamed it in honor of Teddy, who passed away in 1919, since he was largely responsible for its preservation.
Now, back to that dadgum dog and the drey. Throughout this forest fire smoke-filled summer, Bear and I had several encounters out back along the river with Petie, an adult pine squirrel. Not sure if Petie is a buck (male) or a doe/sow (female) since they both appear alike in shape, size and color. We use the word dadgum (aka: puzzling) because Petie and Bear bonded much closer than Petie and me. Petie would slink down the trunk of a nearby pondo (ponderosa pine tree) and absolutely chatter and chew me out daily…very defensive and seemingly territorial behavior. Meanwhile, Bear and Petie would come quietly nose-to-nose very calmly each day. I was puzzled but figured it was some kind of critter-to-critter bonding thing.
One afternoon out on the deck recently, I heard a rather wimpy pine squirrel chatter and looked downstream and up a backyard pondo. By golly I saw three young pine squirrels in one of our nest boxes attempting to chatter…awesome! I knew it had finally come full circle…all summer long, Petie was defending his nesting territory. Oh, by the way, a squirrel’s nest is called a drey.