Reader doesn't see 'Rocky' being all that amusingOctober 26. 2012 7:01PM
A Grafton reader told about a less than joyful experience in a recent letter that read in part: 'My wife and I live in rural NH, and our friends from more urban areas enjoy our animal stories from bear and moose visits to the activities of the various livestock that we have kept. We've been a reader of your column for years and have always learned something about nature and have been entertained by the stories of the antics of various birds and animals around your farm, or those stories sent in by readers. Your column is one of the few that take us back to the simpler times. We can relate to the things about which you write.
'While the story you passed along some months ago about 'Rocky' the flying squirrel (June 16) was initially fun to read, my own personal experiences tempered my amusement with a concern that the people who submitted the letter to you didn't really appreciate the destructive nature of flying squirrels. 'Rocky' is, after all, a rodent. And rodents live to chew. My wife and I have experienced first hand the degree to which 'Rocky' and his friends and family can ravage a house. The writer said that after enjoying his presence for a short while, he disappeared, never to be seen again. I recall they said that he appeared from under their refrigerator and had been eating food out of the dog's dish. While they seemed to think that it was the end of the story, I fear it was only the beginning.
'I was expecting that you or another reader might warn the writer about the destructive nature of flying squirrels, but never saw any mention, so I felt an obligation to write.
'First, the fact that they haven't seen 'Rocky' again isn't surprising. What was surprising was that they saw him at all. Flying squirrels are nocturnal and we have never seen a flying squirrel here except when we have removed trim boards on our house and exposed their nests, or when we have trapped them. The alarming truth about flying squirrels is that they are colonizers, and most experts warn that if you have one flying squirrel in your home you probably have anywhere from 10 to 30. This summer I heard squirrel activity in the ceiling of our 200 year old home and recognized it as likely a flying squirrel, since we have had an infestation before. Beginning the next night I set a trap in our ell and trapped a flying squirrel every night for two weeks! We heard one, and as the experts had warned, we had 14. I have heard stories of people finding up to 50 in their attics and ceilings.
'I had seen the unmistakable signs of squirrels in our barn too, the black stains running down the side of the barn from the 'squirrel latrine' in the soffits. I moved the traps down to the barn and lost count of all the squirrels that we caught. I'd estimate over twenty.
'I am a retired electrician and have seen the damage that flying squirrels do when they chew through electric wiring, and naturally that poses the risk of a fire. Not only are the rodents capable of doing structural damage to a home, but they are also unsanitary and a very real fire danger. I hope your reader would be informed about the realities and dangers of hosting 'Rocky' & Friends' in their home. Thanks for your writing, We enjoy it every week.'
I have lived for the past 71 years in this house and so far have escaped from the flying squirrels. I certainly do not wish to have such an experience as our Grafton readers had, but I thank them for the warning.
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A mid-September computer-created postal card was forwarded to me for identification. It was postmarked Manchester, but I could not make out an address. Also, no telephone number was enclosed. The photo was of a juvenile northern cardinal sitting on the floor of someone's home.
Juveniles have a black beak for a while. Females do not.
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Much to my regret, I have stopped feeding the birds due to several visits from bears. More than one? I don't know as I have only caught sight of this one while eating breakfast. It is quite large perhaps weighing around 250 pounds. I watched it quite gently knock down my squirrel-proof feeder. It showed no anger. The feeder hit our paved bird feeding area but was little damaged. It landed on its side, the top partially open. The bear lay down, poked his nose into the feeder and tonged out the seeds. When all were gone, it rose, climbed over the 6-foot chain-link fence, and left.
Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey 03446.