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Bird Lovers Aren’t Amused by Antics of Tree Squirrels

Those eastern red fox squirrels (Tree Squirrels: Good, Bad and Unpredictable, June 29) have taken Southern California by storm in the last few years, and those of us working to protect native species from predation, competition and habitat loss have been overwhelmed by the recent explosion.

They have been in parks locally for years, but now they are popping up everywhere. Animal Control, of all people who should know better, are relocating them, which seems to provide at least a partial explanation.

Our concern is that the red squirrels seem to be nest robbers, eating the eggs and perhaps young of nesting bird species. With the onslaught of population explosions of other nest robbers (crows, ravens and grackles), nest parasites (cowbirds) and nest competitors (starlings), our native species are really suffering.

I also have to wonder if the red squirrels compete with our native gray tree squirrels? And to put in a good word for our Beechy or California ground squirrels, who you seem to bash a bit for their disease-carrying potential: They do play a very important ecological role, both as part of the local food chain (hawk food), as ground irrigators, and as the only home-burrower for our nearly extirpated burrowing owls.

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They don’t demonstrate as many of the cute antics of the reds, or even grays, but they play a vital role, and I bemoan their loss from many areas.

MARTIN BYHOWER

Director

Birding Southern California

Redondo Beach

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I enjoyed your informative and entertaining article on tree squirrels. However, there is an ugly side to these furry little rodents. That is, squirrels raid bird nests and kill, then eat baby birds.

I did not believe this until we hatched chicks in our kindergarten. We put the 2-week-old chicks in a pen on the playground. We thought, naively, that they would be safe there. But, one afternoon a squirrel cornered all four of the chicks and killed every one of them.

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We were told that she was probably a nesting mother and did this to feed her young. Until this time, I would never have thought that squirrels ate anything but nuts and fruit. To say the least, this was a traumatic experience for the children and teachers alike.

CINDY LOKITZ

Oak Hills Elementary

Oak Park

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Recently, I was surprised to see a squirrel running up the large maple tree in my backyard--in 10 years, I have never seen a squirrel here. But then I was really shocked to see him tear apart and eat some baby birds in a nest. I looked at the scraps falling out of the tree, and they were bits of baby birds.

MIKE SIMONEK

Long Beach

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I enjoyed the article on squirrels. My experience with squirrels is very similar to yours. They scratch on my window and follow me around the yard. However, when I would give the squirrels peanuts, a blue jay would observe where the squirrel would bury it and then dig it up. Now, I give the squirrels walnuts, which are too big and hard for the jay to handle. I go through about 80 pounds a year, which I buy at Lucky’s annual sale in October. The jays and doves are satisfied with bird seed.

GARY A. ROBB

Los Feliz

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You may want to know that the tree squirrels in our neighborhood like pizza crusts. In fact, they fight over them. Next time you order Domino’s, try it out and see what happens.

ROBERT E. LISENBY

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I just finished the squirrel column, and I disagree with you on one statement. You mention that squirrels do not eat leaves. They do. We have watched them nibble away at all sorts of leaves in our garden--roses, petunias, vegetables. They’ve eaten one rose bush virtually bare. They also seem to love certain flowers. They ate every pansy flower in sight plus agapanthus, but no roses or impatiens.

You’d think those squirrels would have plenty of other delicacies to eat in our area. I think there are just too many squirrels for the territory.

MARY SNYDER

Bel-Air

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