W e had a visitor at The Journal last week who inquired about the strange-looking squirrels he spotted on a Sebring golf course. For years my friends called them “money squirrels.” After a little research, I found an article on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website. My friends were wrong. The squirrel is called a Fox Squirrel: Sciurus Niger.
When we played golf at Harder Hall Golf Club or Sebring Municipal Course we encountered these strange-looking squirrels. They are larger than average squirrels and have a black face and feet. The hind quarters are larger than other squirrels and the tail looks like a fox. They also run like a fox and spend most of their time on the ground.
Fox Squirrels are drawn to the two golf courses by pine seeds. These seeds are their favorite meal. They also eat fruit, buds, nuts, seeds, and fungi.
My friends would show up at the golf course loaded with snacks and soda. The one extra item they would bring was a bag of raw peanuts. Since they played the course almost every day, the Fox Squirrels knew the golf cart.
There was one problem with feeding peanuts to the squirrels: they always wanted more. Once my friends teed off and started driving toward their balls, the squirrels would start to stalk them. You could spot little squirrel heads peering out from behind pine trees cautiously waiting for a snack. The stalking would start with one or two squirrels and gradually increase as the day progressed.
At first I thought, “how cute.” But as we would leave the golf cart to putt on the green, the squirrels would help themselves to whatever they wanted. They took my friend’s sunglasses. I understand living in Florida they may think they need sunglasses.
One squirrel would approach the cart with three or four of his friends hunkered down cheering him on. They don’t just take one potato chip, they take the entire bag to feed their friends.
One day a squirrel took my friend’s favorite hat. He spotted the thief and took off on foot after the furry critter. The squirrel soon left his pursuer in the dust. All day we looked for a Fox Squirrel wearing a Pennsylvania State Police ball cap. I assume the hat had made a great nest for the little ones on the way.
By hole 14 or 15 we usually had a lot of squirrels following my friend’s golf cart. By that time the peanuts were gone and the squirrels became pests.
One persistent critter followed my friend to his car and waited until the trunk was open and jumped inside. The wife played golf with the ladies and returned to the car and took off for home. A half a mile down the road a little head peered over the front seat. The squirrel was in her car! She made a sharp U-turn and a quick stop at the course. The critter jumped out. If the squirrel had waited until she got home, he may have been in her house.
The moral of the story is not to feed the squirrels, no matter how cute.