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.