California Beach… Squirrels?
Posted by E.G.D. on May 30, 2012
Seriously? Beach squirrels? Really? Well, it would seem so! I’m sure there are a lot of Californians out there who are shrugging their shoulders at me and saying, “what, you don’t have beach squirrels in Hawaii, Texas, Japan, England or any of those other places you’ve lived near beaches?” The answer is: perhaps so, but I’ve never seen one. Mom (better known around here as Jody) proposes that perhaps it’s not that there aren’t beach squirrels elsewhere, but that the elsewhere squirrels aren’t as incredibly bold as the ones in California. That would make sense! Just this morning, I’ve read three newspaper articles about bold little California beach squirrels, which are actually standard ground squirrels that hang out on beaches. On top of that, please note that all of these photos were taken by Jody in Morro Bay, CA, and they’re practically posing! No skittish squirrels on California beaches, no sirree.
According to Kelly Stewart at the La Jolla Light, “you can find these furry little rodents running all over the cliffs in La Jolla, munching on ice plants and roots, and then disappearing into a burrow at the first sight of an approaching dog. Mottled brown and white, California ground squirrels (Otospermophilus beecheyi) are found throughout California, and along other parts of the West Coast of the United States… visitors to the coastal bluffs here in town enjoy watching these inquisitive little mammals.” Farther north along the coast, a writer for the LA Times (way back in 1996) said that beach squirrels in Ventura have “scratched out a comfortable existence on the Pacific shore for as long as anyone can remember.” That particular old article is a lot of fun to read, and I recommend it to anyone curious about California beach squirrels. The gist of it is that the community is of two minds about coexisting with squirrels, but the squirrels themselves aren’t really of two minds about anything. The article also mentions that you might want to keep your distance because A) feeding squirrels is actually against the law on California parkland, and B) squirrels can carry fleas that can carry the bubonic plague (though it also mentions that there hadn’t been reports of such cases near the actual beach).
Less professional sources on the subject also exist in spades. There’s an entire humorous website dedicated to reporting on and posting videos of squirrels called “Scary Squirrel World” that reports a “Bushytail Beach Bullies Crisis in Carmel.” There are upward of 60 videos on YouTube dealing with Morro Bay beach squirrels alone! It amazes me that so many people on the internet are willing to use so much time and energy to spread the word about beach squirrels, but hey, I’ve just found myself spending the morning doing exactly that, so goodness knows I’m one to talk.
Have a great day at the beach, everyone, and please feel free to share your photos and stories with us if you happen to spot a particularly interesting squirrel. -E.G.D.