Regular readers of this blog (if such there be) may remember how delighted I was when the Black Squirrels of North Parkersburg migrated to our neighborhood, our block, and finally, our yard. Having waited for them for what felt like forever (and was in fact a year or so after my first sighting of the little creatures), I was surprised to learn that melanistic squirrels are in fact fairly common. This last week, I spent time in a place in which black squirrels were the only squirrels in town (or at least in the immediate area).
The vicissitudes of life necessitated spending several days hanging around Union Hospital in Dover, Ohio, part of a sprawling medical complex that includes nicely wooded parking lots. Since I get antsy sitting for too long, I walked around most of the parking areas at one time or another. As is typical of Ohio in late fall, squirrels were busily locating and burying acorns and other winter foods (on their breaks from stuffing their little faces). What was not so typical, at least not in places more familiar to me, was that all the squirrels in the complex were solid black--not a gray squirrel in sight. The oak trees directly in front of the main entrance boasted a whole herd of melanistic rodents. These squirrels looked healthy--they were active, their fur was shiny, they were alert in the way of squirrels--but they were uniformly tiny, somewhere between the average gray squirrel and the fairydiddle in size. I did not expect to discover a distinctive local race of squirrels while waiting around a hospital, but that was in fact the entertainment of the week.