Friday, February 28, 2014

Cruel Winter

It's the last evening of February. Despite the subzero daytime temperatures, two feet of frozen slush on the ground, and windchills that continue to dip into the negative thirties (degrees Fahrenheit), the animals continue to survive. The chickadees and nuthatches and goldfinches continue to visit the birdfeeder, even in the most foul of weather; the foxes continue their nightly prowls down the banks of the Chocolay River; the red squirrels continue to defend their territory from gray squirrels, all the while sniffing out potential mates.

It's incredible.

And it's sad and frustrating and endlessly upsetting to think that these animals can somehow make it through a winter so cruel, only to be abruptly ended by the treads of a tire.

Over the last few weeks, we'd noticed a pair of red squirrels expressing interest in one another — they'd chase each other through our backyard, but never in a threatening manner. We became hopeful that they'd produce offspring; red squirrels are great backyard companions, as they keep gray squirrels away and are enjoyable to watch. 

A few days ago, as I was driving home from work, I came upon a red squirrel, hit in the road, just up the street. Whether or not it was one of "our" red squirrels remains to be seen. Still, it was upsetting to see this tiny animal — an animal that survives the winters here with such an inspirational ferocity — utterly destroyed by a car tire.

After photographing the red squirrel, I left it on the riverbank — hopefully it was discovered by one of the prowling neighborhood foxes, and was a good meal.