Did you know stampeding squirrels once overran Ohio, damaging crops?


When all those leaves fell off the trees one year, we were surprised to see a clump of dried leaves up high in the maple tree. We had seen these nests all over local subdivisions and woods but this was a first for us. We had a squirrel.

Oh, we had seen two squirrels running up and down the fence rows all summer but we had no idea that a secret construction project was going on behind the cover of our leafy green branches.

DETAILS: Cottrel: Take a closer look at moths, butterflies in Clark County

Looking up at the nest, it appeared to be no more than an armful of leaves loosely stuck between some branches. We expected it to fall apart but it didn’t. I couldn’t help but wonder how they put these together without thumbs. And how do the loosely organized nests stand up to these winter winds?

I called Donna Lewis, the naturalist at the Clark County Park District, in hopes that she would know. I caught her at the Davidson Center at 5638 Lower Valley Pike on the far eastern end of Bethel Twp.

As Lewis explained, we weren’t the only people surprised to find a squirrel nest in our tree when the leaves fell.

Squirrels make their nests, or dreys, out of debris — generally large leaves and branches on the outside and smaller softer layers on the inside. They generally build two nests just in case one is blown down by a storm. When I looked for it, I did see a second nest in a neighbor’s tree. Often the winter nests are in an upper fork of a tree and not in the thin top branches like the summer houses.

RELATED: New Year’s first full moon brings a deep winter chill

They also sometimes winter over in a hollow tree. Hopefully the elves don’t mind sharing.

When I searched online I found a beautiful drawing of a squirrel’s nest looking all rough and disorganized on the outside and lined with fur, dried grass, feathers and moss on the inside. It did look cozy. There was just enough room for a mama and a baby.

Squirrels are very resilient, Lewis said. Baby squirrels are able to survive a fall from the nest when they start exploring. Squirrels also love to solve problems

“I love the things that people do to try to stop the squirrels,” she said.

MORE BY PAM COTTREL: Cottrel: Clark County has plenty of local recreation options

I imagine I could fill this column with entertaining stories of how bird lovers spend most of the winter trying to outsmart the squirrels who rob their feeders.

But squirrels haven’t always been funny.

In the early 1800s, squirrels were a huge problem in Ohio. The population exploded in Kentucky and thousands of squirrels swam across the Ohio River to attack the corn fields of Ohio.

It was no lie, the great squirrel invasion. There were so many squirrels swimming across the river that they almost sunk one of Lewis and Clark’s canoes at one point. Really, it’s in the history books. Squirrel invasions, or stampedes, were a huge problem in Ohio and Indiana.

My great great great grandfather had to delay moving his family to his new farm because the squirrels had totally cleaned out the corn fields. The state of Ohio actually required that all farmers kill a certain number of squirrels. That had to be one of the strangest laws on the books.

Children with sticks in hand had to spend their day guarding fields from the squirrel invasion. And it was reported that clothing trimmed in squirrel fur was quite the height of fashion at that time.

I imagine the folks from 200 years ago would be amazed that some of us now put out corn to attract the squirrels to our yards and that the antics of these furry entertainers brighten our cold winter days.

And I find myself quite relieved that squirrel fur is no longer fashionable.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Community News

Country music star, actress Lari White dead at 52 after battle with cancer
Country music star, actress Lari White dead at 52 after battle with cancer

The multi-talented singer, songwriter, musician and actress Lari White has died. >> Read more trending news  The artist was diagnosed with peritoneal cancer in late 2017. White first broke the news in a blog post on Artist Works, telling readers that she had already endured pneumonia, surgery and was dealing with pain management. A...
Pulse Trial: Police body cam, surveillance video allowed in trial of alleged gunman’s wife
Pulse Trial: Police body cam, surveillance video allowed in trial of alleged gunman’s wife

A federal judge ruled Tuesday on what evidence will and will not be allowed in the Noor Salman trial. >> Read more trending news  Salman is the wife of Omar Mateen, who authorities have said killed 49 people and injured more than 100 at the Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016. Mateen was killed by police the night of the shooting. Prosecutors...
’Barefoot Contessa’ Ina Garten shows off fancy $15,500 stove
’Barefoot Contessa’ Ina Garten shows off fancy $15,500 stove

“Barefoot Contessa” Ina Garten just took upgrading your appliances to a whole new level. >> Read more trending news  The Food Network star and celebrity chef took to social media last week to show off a new, stunning stove that she just added to the kitchen of her Manhattan apartment. “First day cooking on my new @lacanche_us...
Man wanted in Cincinnati for climbing in unlocked window, assaulting woman
Man wanted in Cincinnati for climbing in unlocked window, assaulting woman

Cincinnati authorities are searching for a man with distinctive tattoos covering his face and neck, who is accused of climbing through an unlocked house window and assaulting a woman. >> Read more trending news  Michael Mann, 34, is wanted for aggravated burglary and domestic violence. According to police reports, Mann entered the woman's...
Man with tattooed face wanted for climbing in unlocked window, assaulting woman
Man with tattooed face wanted for climbing in unlocked window, assaulting woman

Ohio authorities are searching for a man with distinctive tattoos covering his face and neck, who is  accused of climbing through an unlocked window at a Cincinnati home and assaulting a woman. >> Read more trending news  Michael Mann, 34, is wanted for aggravated burglary and domestic violence. According to police reports...
More Stories