Mulling things on my morning ramble with Storm, the family's mixed Lab
By chance, I met Joel Brown Wednesday night.
The UIC prof, something of the ultimate expert on urban wildlife, was on the panel discussing Lords of Nature: Life in a Land of Great Predators, a nature documentary at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
Brown has been my go-to guy for years on squirrel questions, both my own and from readers. He helped start Project Squirrel in 1997.
I hoped to ask a personal question this time, but he was swamped with people lined up to speak with him.
In the summer of 2008, we had what I thought was the first black squirrel in town, at least in recent years. By last year, there were several.
I put the count of black squirrels at three or four, including the one above that regularly visits the bird feeder in our backyard.
Earlier on Wednesday, the youngest boy and I were wandering a back route from the Dinosaur Park, a playground nicknamed for the design on its equipment.
And we walked past a house where the woman religiously feeds the birds. She happened to be out, so I stopped to talk.
She said there was at least five black squirrels because she had five in her backyard one morning stealing the peanuts she had put out for the blue jays.
Black squirrels are color variations of gray squirrels, in a similar way the white squirrels of Olney are. (BTW, I highly recommend a side trip to Olney see them.)
Cuteness does matter. I can't work up the same dislike of black squirrels that I can for grays.
And our reaction to that cuteness in nature matters.
Cuteness is why conservation is easier for mamals and birds than it is for say snakes.