A squirrel treat

December 16, 2018 • 2:30 pm

by Greg Mayer

Pulling into the parking lot behind my office this morning, an eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) sat in the middle of the road, blocking my way. This is an unusually bold posture for a squirrel– they are usually darting across roadways and parking lots: perhaps it knew it was Sunday, and wasn’t expecting any traffic? (This parking lot is not much used on weekends.) After a brief defiance, it relented and dashed off, which is when I saw the object of its mid-road attention– a treat:

It’s chocolate covered, looks like it might be peanut butter inside, and about 4 inches in diameter. The “chewed” side seemed more definitely chewed, with tooth marks, when viewed in person, than it does in this photo. I went out about 2 hours later, and the treat was gone. Presumably, the squirrel came back and absconded with it into the woods, which is a better place for squirrels to sit and eat.

I’m not sure if chocolate is good for squirrels. Chocolate is full of alkaloids, and unhealthy for some animals. I do, however, vaguely recall that squirrels in Costa Rica will eat cacao pods off trees, and this abstract seems to confirm that recollection. The tropical squirrels are in the same genus, but a different species, than the eastern gray.

26 thoughts on “A squirrel treat

        1. Yes, 4 cm seems much closer to my recollection of a standard Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Although Wikipedia devotes a page to this product and has a lot of info, it doesn’t show the diameter. However, the internet comes through again:


          The claim is 2 inches which seems about right to me. However, based on the Wikipedia page, they have made a large version, though I believe the one in the picture is the standard version.

    1. UK calling: Tesco is selling gigantic Reese’s peanut butter cups which weigh 13 times more than the normal-sized treat. The diameter is in the region of 4″ judging from a pic of the thing in someone’s hand.

      The packets, which are in shops for £5, contain two of the popular American chocolates. They weigh 227g a piece, compared to a normal-sized version which are just 17g each. In US terms the packets contain 2 x 8oz Giant Cups. Here is a comparison pic & packaging:

      1. And I thought the US was the home if giant candy. When I was in high school, I’d get my friends to being me back the 1 pound bag of peanut M&Ms because we couldn’t get that size in Canada. Now that size is everywhere.

      2. A 4-meter diameter one is under development at the test facility outside Hershey, and a 4 km diameter “supercup” is on the drawing board.

  1. I once saw a squirrel up a tree in a parking lot making a “weeeeee” sound. I looked up and saw he was holding a big apple with a bite out of it. I guess he was trying to scare me away from his treasure. The apple was almost as big as him.

  2. I believe chocolate is poisonous to all animals; it is a matter of size relative to the amount of chocolate eaten and the ability to metabolize theobromine. As large animals that metabolize theobromine easily, humans can eat a lot of chocolate without serious harm, but a small animal like a squirrel could be poisoned. On the other hand, that looks like milk chocolate which has less theobromine.

    1. It’s a peanut butter cup with little chocolate. And squirrels, at least here
      in the SF Bay Area, are notorious for eating a portion of fruit and tossing it away. We don’t have grey ones here. They’re in Sacramento tho, and have protected status.

      1. Many restaurants round here market “Death by Chocolate” as a dessert option. It varies, but is typically a chocolate sponge containing chocolate chips served with a chocolate sauce.
        Sadly, they almost always use the diluted abomination which Britain allows to be described as “milk chocolate” and the EU thinks we should call “cocoa-flavoured mixed dairy and vegetable fats”.

        1. I like chocolate but I steer clear of dessert items with names like “Death by Chocolate”, “Chocolate Insanity”, or the like. It seems a very American thing to think that if a little chocolate is good, a massive amount is better.

          1. Erik Russell at Kaysens, a London-based dessert manufacturer, supposedly came up the name “Death by Chocolate” in ’84, but I remember it from before that date. Now it’s a UK & EU trademark & there’s a separate trademark for it in the USA. In the UK the trademark isn’t enforced & there’s many recipes for it.

            It’s lovely – depending on source! The idea is not to go crazy with the chocolate, but to present a balanced dessert containing a variety of chocolates of different textures with a contrasting element or two – say a light choc sponge, with fresh cream filling covered in crunchy dark Belgian choc skin. The choc content is comparable to the more complex Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte [Black Forest Cherry-torte, or Black Forest Gateaux]

            I have seen some very bad recipes where the levels of choc & sugar are cloying [often served with a choc sauce too!], but that’s silly stuff from people who don’t understand food needs contrast.

      1. Talking of vets ,got to take my cat Misha to the vet at 4pm ,he seems to have a wound on one of his toes on his back leg .He made one hell of a racket last night when i first noticed it .Got the front door locked now so he can’t disappear ,he is now prowling around giving vent to the odd hiss now and again .

        I think he suspects a trip to the vet is on the cards ,he is due his shots next month so i will get that done as well .I am hoping he will bite the vet this time .

        1. Reminded me of the time when we took one of our cats to the vet for shots and a checkup. He was purring so loudly that the vet couldn’t hear his heartbeat very well. She had an instant solution: turn on the tap! The sound of water was enough to stop the purring.

    2. Not to all animals. Rats do not experience the toxicity of theobromine that dogs and even cats do. Apparently, large quantities are associated with sterility in male rats, but no other ill effects.

      Rats love chocolate, as I learned with one of my rats who absconded with an entire Hershey bar when I left one in his vicinity. Trying to wrangle it away from him was not easy!

  3. So do squirrels pronounce it “Rees-ees” or “Rees-is”? Missed an opportunity to find out when this one got away.

    1. They pronounce it “chechechecheche” which is generic squirrel for “get away from me and/or my stuff”.

  4. I have to wonder if Jerry’s pulling our leg about not knowing the name of that candy 🤣…hasn’t everybody eaten thousands of Reese’s peanut butter cups?! (I have literally had thousands of them over the last ~40 years)

    1. Apropos the earlier discussion on size, it seemed too big to be a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. It was indeed on the order of 4 inches. I did not measure it, but compared it to the size of my mobile phone, and then measured my phone when I got to my office.


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