I was sipping a cup of coffee from the confines of our screened porch while our cat romped around in the backyard doing her morning rounds, when a squirrel and what it was carrying caught my eye.
The half-dozen or so tree rats that occupy our two 100-year-old elms shunt around nuts all the time, but this was something new. This squirrel was lugging a large tuft of fiberglass insulation, the pink stuff made by Owens-Corning.
Where it got the insulation was no mystery. A few years ago our next-door neighbor tacked on an addition to their house, and recently decided to remove it. So on the previous Saturday they used a reciprocating saw to cut where the addition connected to the house then pulled the amputated section off the foundation with a truck. I suppose that is one way to demolish a structure, but it does leave a pretty large mess, and in this case, plenty of insulation strewn about for an enterprising squirrel to recycle.
While most people would look at this squirrel's efforts and see it as just another animal scavenging to improve its chances of survival, a different thought crossed my mind. What if this behavior is a sign that the squirrels in my neighborhood are no longer your run-of-the-mill tree rats? Maybe living next to humans for decades has finally rubbed off on the cohort of squirrels that live in my backyard and they've become self-aware and intelligent, crossing some evolutionary line in the sand.
If in fact they are smarter than the average squirrel, then they realize that living in damp tree nooks lined with leaves is truly for the birds and that there are a lot nicer ways to live.
Perhaps they've been peeking in my window at night while I watch episodes of Treehouse Masters -- the strangely addictive TV Show on the Animal Planet network that follows the construction adventures of a company that specializes in building well-appointed houses in trees -- and something clicked in their little squirrel brains. They were inspired.
I predict that tufts of insulation will be the first items they put to use. Any day I fully expect to see teams of squirrels hauling two by fours and sheathing up into the canopy, and to hear sawing and hammering coming from up high.
Good for them, I say! You go squirrel!
I just draw the line at them wanting to carpool with me to Menards for supplies or borrowing any of my tools. I suppose if they need a reciprocating saw though, they might want to talk to my neighbor.