Squirrel Middens

Here something of a leftover; twice over.  First, I’d forgotten about these images because they were on my phone.  They come from our trip to Canada last year but these were taken in the Rockies on a hiking trail near Jasper rather than on the West coast.   Second, they are of a squirrel midden (i.e. waste dump, leftovers - ouch sorry).  

These middens are a couple of sizeable piles, nearly 3’ high, made up entirely from the inedible, fibrous bits of fir cones discarded by squirrels after they have chewed the cones apart to get at the nutritious seeds.  The grey squirrels (i.e. the North American native) in our garden do something similar with the cones from our tall scots pine trees. I’ll often find bits scattered about plus the central spine that looks something like a dry apple core with all the flesh neatly nibbled off.    However, these magnificent examples of squirrel middens are something else entirely and quite monumental compared with the scale of a squirrel; much larger that I’d thought they might be.  On a human scale, each would be the size of a generous two story house.  They must have taken generations to build to this size.  

But then, on the coasts of Britain and, I also understand West Canada, there are ancient human middens made up of huge piles of sea shells.  These mark the sites of coastal habitation dating back several thousand years.  Somehow, I can’t get rid of the picture of a stone age group sitting on a beach with a fire on the foreshore and eating oysters as the sun sets.  I’d like to fancy they also have a mildly alcoholic brew in one hand and are telling tales of the salmon that got away while shucking the oysters and chucking the empty shells over their shoulders.  Not so very different then.  

I wonder: Do squirrels dream of collecting seeds?

Photo taken on an iPhone 6s.  (I’d forgotten to download these!)