Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nature's economy

I was looking out the window yesterday afternoon and noticed a big black crow on the lawn. It seemed to be watching something. Across the street in a neighbor's yard two squirrels sprinted face first down a straight tree trunk. They were moving very fast, hit the ground flat out. The first bounded across the road; the second was turned back by a car.

The lead squirrel had something in its mouth. I thought it was a hunk of  bread, and that must be what was so interesting to the crow. Then I realized the bread was wiggling, had legs and a tail. At first I thought it was a mouse, and marveled because I didn't realize squirrels were carnivorous.

When the victor squirrel got into our driveway, it stopped and started to eat the poor thing alive, opening  a bright bloody wound in its throat as it struggled. Of course I ran out yelling like a fool.  I  guess I thought it might drop its prize. As I approached I realized, this creature (whose species I had previously admired) was a cannibal. It was eating a live baby squirrel, and not a tiny infant either, a juvenile, about a quarter of his size, but still recognizable as a grey squirrel with a grey coat, white underbelly and a long but less fuzzy tail.

The crows, three at this point, were closing in too, and the squirrel leaped into nearby  tree with its poor prize clamped in its jaws. A neighbor approached and I had to explain why I was yelling.  By then I couldn't see where it went. So I went back inside the house,

Less then a minute passed and I looked out the front window. The crows had won the second round. They had the taken cannibal squirrel's meal which was now in three pieces, one bloody piece in front of each crow. And the crows were polishing off their meal. Nature is not gentle, but in its stark economy there is a great horrific beauty.  Trust me - it's not  the invention of a loving kindly god. I'd hope as a species we can have as a goal to be kinder  than nature.

I still don't know if the squirrel chasing the cannibal was the mother squirrel or a bystander like the crows, who was trying to steal dinner.