Funny animal stories

Everyone likes a funny animal story, especially if it has a happy ending. A good example appeared in The Guardian newspaper recently:  Police in Karlsruhe, Germany, came to the aid of a man who was being pursued by a baby squirrel.  The drama ended abruptly when the squirrel, which is believed to have lost its mother and was in search of a new home, lay down and fell asleep.  The squirrel was later taken to an animal rescue centre where it was reported to be “doing well”.

The disoriented juvenile was a red squirrel, a native species that is now rare in England and Wales, having been largely displaced by the more adaptable (and increasing vilified) grey squirrel, introduced to the UK from North America in the 1870s and now regarded as an invasive species. However, as the naturalist Peter Wohlleben points out in The Inner Life of Animals (Vintage, 2018):

“(T)he red squirrel (is) a prime example of how we sort animals into categories. Their dark button-eyes are adorable, their soft fur is a beautiful reddish colour … and they pose no threat to humans. In spring, young trees sprout from their forgotten food caches, so you could say they help to establish new woodlands. In short, we are kindly disposed towards them. We avoid thinking about their favourite food: baby birds.”

In fact, both red and grey squirrels have a largely vegetarian diet, and are only occasional, opportunistic omnivores. If the baby squirrel turns out to be one of the fortunate 20 per cent or so that survive their first year of life, he or she can look forward to an average lifespan of three years.  Fortunately, neither species is considered to be at threat of extinction, so at least this funny animal story seems destined for a happy ending.

Paul Appleby


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