Hungry crow vs. scared squirrel
What happened was this. At exactly 10 a.m., Monday, May 23, I was watching a young brown squirrel climb—apparently for the heck of it—all the way to the top of a wooden utility pole. This, by the way, was in a lane on the east side of Heather Street, just south of 16th Avenue.
Look out little squirrel!
Once atop the pole, the little squirrel seemed happy just to perch and survey the alley below. However, neglecting to look up very nearly cost the squirrel its life.
Just after I snapped the last photo that the drained battery in my Pentax would allow, a black blur shot down out of the sky and nearly clipped the top of the pole. It was a diving crow that had just tried (and failed) to sink its claws into the squirrel and snatch it!
I was left scrambling to get out my fallback camera—an ancient neon pink Fuji Finepix Z10fd, while the squirrel. having dodged the initial surprise attack of the crow, was left clinging by all fours to the utility pole—frozen in place a few inches below the top but not for long.
Now the crow attempted to hunt the squirrel around and around the pole. But without the element of surprise, the carnivorous corvid was at a disadvantage. It could only make comparatively slow and awkward passes, which the fast, sure-footed squirrel seemingly avoided with ease.
However, the squirrel was more-or-less trapped near the top of the pole and the crow knew it.
So the hunter settled on the ledge of a roof opposite the utility pole and waited for its prey to make a move.
For a while the two just watched each other but finally the squirrel hesitantly attempted to move down the pole. The crow immediately sailed in to resume its circling attack. And the squirrel, nimbly scrambling around the pole, managed to stay steps ahead of the raking claws.
This cycle of waiting and then attacking the squirrel continued for several minutes, with the crow retiring between forays either to a rooftop near the pole or to an even closer overhead line.
One thing going in the crow’s favour appeared to be the seemingly one track defensive sense of the squirrel.
You might have thought that the way to avoid the crow led down to the ground or laterally—by jumping into the tree branches which were nearly brushing the utility pole. You might’ve thought that but then you wouldn’t have been thinking like this little squirrel.
Several times, when it managed to dash halfway down the length of the pole, it inexplicably stopped and headed back up again. Something was telling the squirrel to blindly head for high ground. Perhaps it was the crow, throwing its voice like a ventriloquist.
I say that because each time that the squirrel returned to the top of the utility pole, the crow had its best opportunity to make a kill—launching full-speed snatch-and-grab attacks that came as close to matching the reaction time of the squirrel as the crow could hope for.
Perhaps the crow’s only real chance had been that first surprise attack but the squirrel still had be exceptionally quick throughout to avoid the crow’s persistent attentions.
Finally, no more than 15 minutes later, the squirrel made good its escape, dashing to safety along one of the new fat black fibre optic cables that was strung from the middle of the utility pole, down toward the ground and diagonally across the alley—away from the crow that was caught flat-footed (and perhaps winded), watching from the roof of a building on the other side of the lane.
Frankly, I was surprised today. I have never seen a crow put so much effort into getting a meal. There were, after all restaurant dumpsters and easily opened food scrap bins nearby (as the crow flies).
For whatever reason though, this is turning out to be quite the spring for combative crows and, to a lesser degree, squirrelly squirrels. All I can say is that I’m sure the distressed pregnant squirrel that I saw last week could’ve and would’ve made short work of today’s crow! Click the images to enlarge them.