Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Squirrels of Mirkwood

Having previously written about the Rodent Peril I think it only fair to give reassurance in such small areas as I can manage.  For instance like so many insurgent groups the Rodent jihadis have split up into factions and are fighting among themselves.  This may buy us some time to regroup.

In our neighborhood we have two competing gangs:

These are the Greys, who have been the dominant faction for many years.  Not notable for their brilliance, they are a formidable force only by virtue of their fecundity and their dogged persistence.  Ah, but in the last couple of decades their turf has been invaded by:

The Black Squirrel Gang.  Allegedly these are simply a melanistic variety of the Eastern Grey, kind of the spectral opposite of an albino.  But if top squirrel scientists can be believed the story is a little more complicated.

Supposedly before European settlement of North America the black variant was more common.  It had better cover in the deep virgin forests you see.  J.R.R. Tolkien was thus zoologically spot on to put black squirrels into Mirkwood forest, where they added not the note of mirth that squirrels can manage on a good day, but another bit of somber darkness.
"There were black squirrels in the wood. As Bilbo's sharp inquisitive eyes got used to seeing things he could catch glimpses of them whisking off the path and scuttling behind tree-trunks."
-The Hobbit

Grey squirrels did well when the wilderness was cleared, but now that we are in many areas actively re-foresting the Elder Race of Squirreldom is reasserting its power.  For unclear reasons the black squirrels seem to have a slight competitive edge, and at least locally are slowly pushing their rivals out of town.

By the way in England we have a three way imbroglio.  The native red squirrels are being hard pressed by the invasive North American greys, who in turn are being leaned on by their sinister black counterparts.

My British friends give me a hard time about this, to which I reply; "Yes, and thank you so much for the starlings".

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