It may be time to bring back the spring black squirrel hunt in North Bay. Cousin to our native red and grey (fox) squirrels, the black squirrel moved north some 25 years ago, escaping from their popular environs of Queen's Park in Toronto. This diaspora may have had a political basis caused by Bill Davis, but the now common North Bay black squirrel has, until now, become non-partisan. (Although both Blackie and G.D. Squirrel assure me they are on the voters list.)
I admit to welcoming the new black squirrel to North Bay and helping them through the long unaccustomed cold winter by feeding six of them in 1984. In 1985 there were 29 at my feeder and that spring I told them to disperse. I did not say go forth and multiply but it seems that is what they did for now black, since squirrels can be found throughout North Bay.
It is still entertaining to watch them in winter as they travel through the treetops to avoid the deep snow. And I do still feed four or five of them. But it just costs peanuts a day. I admit they do dig in my flower garden and will eat my tulips despite the generous helping of blood meal that accompanies each new bulb.
They replace the eaten bulbs with acorns and each spring I have a fresh crop of oak tree sprouts. Some kind of symbiotic relationship on their part, I suppose. But I do enjoy their antics, especially Blackie and G.D., my two boldest scroungers. My wife calls them tree rats, so you know where her sympathies lay.
Squirrels are hunted for their meat and hide in the far south, there being nothing much else to do down there in Kentucky, I assume. I have approached the local Fur Harvesters but my offer to supply black squirrel hides was looked upon with disdain. As for squirrel pie, I doubt it will ever replace sea-pie as the main dish at the Bonfield fair, even though it tastes just like chicken. The only hope is to market the little critters as small game and attract those former bear hunters to our city as a tourism draw.
Peanut baiting would, of course, be banned, but intrepid hunters with virtual guns could have a field day for three weeks each spring. Can you imagine watching grown men in green camouflage suits slipping from garden to garden, using their walkie-talkies, giving out squirrel calls, urging their hunting puppies to seek out the not so elusive black squirrel! This would be as entertaining as watching a city council meeting!
Which brings me to council's current problem with black bears. There is an obvious solution to having black bears wander around inside the city looking for food. Just as I lure the black squirrels away from my flowerbeds, we could lure the black bears away from the city proper.
All we need to do is establish a few feeding stations in the outlying area, away from homes, and deliver Scraps on Wheels to the bears. (We set up feeding stations for deer in the winter - why not bears in the fall?). Here, at last, is a job for our conservation authority -- a job that may even fit their mandate.
Apparently the CA has millions of dollars of real estate spread around the city, which it must sell to pay off some old debts. The Friends of the Black Bear Association (FobbAss) could buy three or four of these properties -- bears do not mind if the property is in a flood plain -- and set up virtual observations towers.
The towers, with a small video camera, could show the bruins at lunch and play, making the site an excellent web page (with discreet paid advertising) for viewers around the world. These virtual towers (a camera on a 30 foot pole) could be named after prominent CA personalities or members of council, as we are wont to do in North Bay.
One only hopes that these two opportunities do not slip by the powers that be in North Bay. Bring back the spring black squirrel hunt and establish black bear feeding stations: what a platform for some innovative and pro-active politician!