Red squirrels are our constant companions up here in the North Woods. They do not migrate south in the winter like the loons. Nor do they sleep away the cold months like the chipmunks. Their chiding calls can be heard ringing through the forest in every season. Playful antics and streaks of rusty red liven the boreal forest even in the bleakest of weather.
Tiny little red squirrels are constantly teasing the dogs, daring the large canines to get as close as they can before they sail off into the tree tops to chatter and scold the foolish pups. Their tiny tracks crisscross the snow as they make their way over to the bird feeders, scattering the jays and ignoring the caws of protest. They adapt easily to a close proximity to people. While never tame, they are more than willing to live in tandem with us, if only for the food. Squirrel raids on food packs of unsuspecting campers in the summer are persistent and ruthless.
In the quiet fall months, when the people grow scarce and the daylight grows more so, these tiny little survivors easily slide back into doing what their kind has been doing for centuries. They stock their winter larders with anything they can find. If you look close, you can see my favorite squirrel habit. The little guys carefully collect mushrooms from the ground, prune them to just the right size, then place them on the ends of balsam branches to dry in the fall sunlight. Once dry they are collected and stored over the winter.
This Thanksgiving, we are thankful for the bounty of the season. We are thankful for our friends and family. And we are thankful for the beauty of the natural world around us, including the red squirrels. If you find yourself with a mushroom on your plate at dinner, just think, a red squirrel just may be dinning on the same thing today!