"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Squirrel Anomalies
Copyright © 2007 by Bill Scifres

Jim Wall, a Muncie reader of this column, called the other day to tell me about a strange physical characteristic of fox squirrels that he had observed. Jim, incidentally, lives in the Muncie boonies, so he has good opportunities to see wildlife at fairly-close range.

“I was stopped at a stop lights near a little park,” he said, “and there was this squirrel there (on the ground) that seemed to have bare patches on his shoulders and back . . . ever heard of that?”

Somehow, I seemed to sense that he, like I, thought we were dealing with a very thoughtful and kind act of motherhood--or maybe parenthood--that the squirrel was preparing a cozy, warm nest for young in the near future. It is, or will be soon, the mating season for squirrels, you know, as late winter and early spring roll around.

“A nice thought,” said I, explaining to Jim that the sympathetic veins of my system were happy, even reveled, that a so-called dumb animal would somehow harbor such a magnificent urge--motherhood at its level best--but totally untrue. It is, says Dr.Harmon P. Weeks, Purdue University professor of wildlife, just a case of gibberellic acid. He says it seems to develop in shelled field corn, probably at this time of year.

Gibberellic acid also is used some to make plants grow better and produce greater yields.

So I can offer no warm stories of parenthood. Nor can I give squirrels the ability to think (still I catch myself wondering about that at times). But I can help set the records straight, maybe.

The reason I have such great faith in Dr. Weeks, wildlife generally; Dr. George Parker, plants, and the work of Dr. Russell E. Mumford, mammals, is that they have never failed in helping me solve problems of identity, and some wildlife questions.

Once, while investigating scratch marks on a large tree in the rugged hills of Brown County a female Eastern Towhee flitted out of a brushy spot 75 yards ahead, and Dr. Weeks immediately identified the bird. Enroute to the site, Dr. Weeks added that there would be cowbird eggs in the Towhee nest. The eggs were there. 


If you occasionally find yourself burdened with cold cooked venison--or any other leftover meat, for that matter--think in terms of a dish of hash in you’re old iron skillet. Putting it together and cooking requires about an hour but the final product will be worth the time and effort. 

The ingredients: 

Half a cup each of celery, cabbage, onion, potato, green pepper, or any other relatively-dry veggies found in the refrigerator; one cup of meat (more if you like) and the leftover gravy (optional). Also 3-4 tablespoons cooking oil (I recommend olive oil). 

Place the veggies (all diced very small) in iron skillet at medium heat and add the cooking agent and two ounces of tap water. Stir often to cook veggies uncovered until water has cooked away. Add diced meat (leftover gravy, if you like), salt and pepper to taste, and cook until veggies and meat are mixed and well browned.

Serve as a side dish, or top it with fried eggs of any style and shredded cheese of your choice as a en-tree with green salad or pineapple ring with cottage cheese. Gravy or sauce is optional.

Throw bathroom scales in river.


It is a bit early to tell how this legislature leans, but there is no dearth of bills. Last count on my computer there were 1,837 Senate bills and 1,877 House bills, including vehicle bills. 

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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