Monday, February 9, 2009

Animal Romance

Love is in the air . . .  and it's driving the critters crazy. 

 Our resident mob of backyard squirrels has been acting really, well, squirrely lately.  One guy (I think it was a guy; anyone know how to tell?) was going nuts in the lilac bush, tearing up and down the trunk, somersaulting among the boughs, tearing off twigs, leaping to the ground, spinning around, then starting all over again.  Like a show-off kid (Hey guys! Look at me!) in the playground monkey-bars.  Was he having fun? Was he working off steam?  Was he getting in shape for the annual mating race? 

 It looks like it might be time.  Streams of squirrels flow across the lawn, all in hot pursuit of one  (the girl?) who appears to be annoyed by this tail-gating horde. Eventually, one will outrun the others, catch her and manage to do the deed.  In the meantime the boys are being really nasty to one another:  I see gashed flanks, shredded ears, and tails with chunks bitten off of them.

Now, squirrel sex is kind of interesting.  I've read that the male's ejaculate hardens into a "copulatory plug," which blocks her vagina so none of the other guys can get theirs in there too.  But the little vixen!  As soon as first-guy-in looks away, she grooms herself, pulls out the plug, and she's back in the game again.  Maybe two or three or four times more.  So I guess her litter could be the product of multiple fathers.  None of whom, of course, sticks around to help her raise the kids.  But then, some daddy squirrels will actually die from all this mating effort.

Our rabbit, too,  appears to be defying death in pursuit of reproduction.  I thought we had just one, who, so far this winter, has sneaked about the edge of the yard, taking shelter under a neighbor's shed, emerging to nibble the leaves of our evergreen hedge, not venturing into the open.  But lately, some rabbity someone's been scampering all over the open lawn, owls be damned, and leaving piles of poop and puddles of pee for all to see (and smell).  And it looks like the word has gone forth. Tonight, by the light of a silvery moon, a gorgeous full moon that lit up the yard like day, I saw there were two of them out there.  And they weren't ignoring each other. And you know what that means:  baby bunnies come the spring.  

That's why I keep my cats inside.  

1 comment:

NatureGirl said...

Hee hee hee - I got a real kick out of reading this post! And what a lovely moon shot! I thought of trying a moon shot last night, too, but had left the camera at home...with the tripod.

The only time of year I can tell female squirrels apart is if they are nursing mothers in the summer - you can see the swollen teats on her belly. At least you can with red squirrels.