Eat Your Salad

California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi)

The Ground Squirrel’s Latin name — “spermophilus” — says it’s a seed lover. That’s accurate as far as it goes. They love seeds, all kinds of seeds, and if given a chance they would clean the park of barley (aka “foxtails”) in a week. But they also really go for juicy fresh greens. They’re death on the young sprouts of California poppies and of many other tender shoots newly out of the ground (See “Grabs the Green,” Feb 9 2022). They’ll chew areas of fresh grass down as tight as a golfer’s putting green. Here in the video, a squirrel has bit off a stem of the new crop of fennel that’s come up all over the north and northwest of the park. It’s a flavorful, juicy stalk of green, with a bit of a licorice taste, and the squirrel loves it. This rodent is a methodical eater. It chews off several mouthfuls and stores them in its cheek; then it spends several minutes (not shown in the video) retrieving the stored roughage bit by bit and chewing it dozens of times before swallowing.

The squirrel in the video looks like a grownup. In the vicinity I also noticed a number of new pups. They’re more skittish than the grownups and scurry away when a human approaches, but I managed to catch two of them in an idle moment:

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