I live in Northumberland County – Baltimore to be exact, 10 km north of Cobourg near the Balls Mills conservation area. We are surrounded by forest. Our own property is 3 acres of forest that backs on to Baltimore creek. Beyond that is a mix of forest, marsh and farm land. Anyway, Since July I have noticed that there are no more Red Squirrels around! There used to always be 3 or 4 hanging around, getting into my feeders and making a racket! It’s so quiet without them that it’s bothering me now. I’ve had one Gray Squirrel (black colour morph) come by a few times, and they are actually rare to see in this forest environment normally. What could account for their sudden disappearance? We’ve lived here 5 years now, and they’ve always been around. I’m assuming a predator of some kind might be present, but I expected the space to be re-populated rather quickly. I have a game camera set up on, and I’ve caught everything you can name – coyote, fox, raccoon, deer, etc. I even caught a blurry image of what I believe to be a Fisher. In past years they would be busy gathering all the cones from the conifers, but this year the cones are all still there and it’s a bumper crop! Anyway, I was wondering if you might provide some insight or opinion?
Pierre Gilbert, Baltimore, ON
Note: Since Pierre wrote this (August 29), one Red Squirrel is now present. It may be that a predator such as a Barred Owl is responsible for the drop in squirrel numbers. That being said, small mammals like Red Squirrels and Eastern Cottontails go through population cycles in which abundance can vary dramatically. These are poorly understood as to cause.
Pierre also reports (October 1) that the usual forest birds that visit his feeders have completely disappeared. “Where I used to fill up the feeders daily and weekly, they now sit almost full for weeks on end. Usually in abundance, I almost never see chickadees (although I hear them around) or nuthatches. Could it be that there is such a good crop of natural food that they are simply not bothering with the feeders? The only frequent visitors I have are several woodpeckers (both small and large) that visit my suet feeder. Other then that, I’ve had almost no traffic.”