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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of four. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Carnivorous squirrel

Rocky hauls off a squirrel's head

Sierra County, California; August-September, 2011 -- Camera trap set # 531

Our northern flying squirrels have a refined palate.

Not only do they relish mushrooms, truffles, and tender lichens; they also enjoy well-aged meat -- in this case road-killed western tree squirrel.

At this set amongst red firs on a north slope we expected a bear or a fox, hoped for a marten, and dreamt of a wolverine, but the only takers were the flying squirrel, a chipmunk and an American robin.

With 16 visits over 2 and a half weeks Rocky's persistence paid off.

He succeeded in running off with the head, which we had left lying on the rock.

Then he somehow managed to extract a joint of squirrel from under a slab of rock.

Fifty plus years ago, Robert T. Orr (late curator of birds and mammals at the California Academy of Sciences) told the boy-codger he was surprised to catch flying squirrels on Sonora Pass in meat-baited traps set for martens.

These appealing rodents haven't lost their taste for meat.


Jacques Prescott said...

Nice shot! An eloquent confirmation of the meat loving habits of the most carnivorous of all squirrel species.

randomtruth said...

Wow. Good thing they don't flock!

Chas S. Clifton said...

Maybe I should be putting something other than sunflower seeds in the bird feeder that the squirrels like to raid.

Alyssa Johnson said...

Wow, this is so interesting! This past semester I've done alot of learning about flying squirrels, particularly NFS, and it still amazes me that they are so omnivorous. I actually just set small mammal traps this past week in hopes of luring in FS and we baited with a miix of seeds/nuts/peanutbutter/molasses. It didn't occur to me to use meat. If I did, what would I use? Roadkill bits?

I write a blog on similar content, and have written about my experiences with FS in NY, if you're interested!

Trailblazer said...


I've seen some guys who have posted pics of flying squirrels on hunting forums after putting out roadkill to attract scavengers. Most of the time, it looked like the carcasses were sort of picked clean (some meat, but a lot of exposed bone)...so I just assumed the Glaucomys were chewing on the bones.

This is very interesting!

Camera Trap Codger said...

Thanks all, and Alyssa, I like your blog -- you are obviously having too much fun. Try road kill; I don't think they are particular as long as it isn't skunk.

Alyssa Johnson said...

Interesting, I will pass it on!

PS- what brand of cameras are you using?

Camera Trap Codger said...

Homebrews, Alyssa; check out Hags House or camtapper.com for information on homebrewing. I use Sony s600s mostly.

Paul said...

He's a vegetarian that thinks no one is looking.

Camera Trap Codger said...

I've got to chuckle at that assessment, because I remember a vegetarian colleague's kids at a picnic who thought no one was looking when they took the real hot dogs instead of the veggie dogs. Parents interceded but the kids fought gamely for the real thing.

Fuzzyfostermom said...

At my parents' old house, birds kept braining themselves on the picture window, but we always figured they must have recovered and flown off, because there wasn't a heap of carcasses down there. Until the day Mom heard a "whack!", saw the bird fall, and then a squirrel run out of the bushes and haul it away. And I thought I was disillusioned about butterflies and fireflies!

Anonymous said...

I once had a problem with a chipmunk that used to lurk below our bird feeder. The little psycho would jump on any small song bird that landed on the ground and kill the bird by biting through its skull. Very strange thing to witness first hand.


Camera Trap Codger said...

Interesting -- a serial killer that was a chipmunk. Most squirrels take meat when they can get it, but that guy seems to have gone totally carnivore. Thanks for the observation, Zac.