While sitting in the park recently, I noticed someone chucking small bits of her lunch (maybe nuts) to a squirrel. All well and good. Then she half-peeled a satsuma (or it may have been a tangerine or some such – I don’t really know my citruses that well), ate a segment or two, and put it down momentarily. Then, while she was looking away–
(Look, I wasn’t staring at her or anything like that. I didn’t actually see most of the above; I’m just filling in the gaps between glances.)
The squirrel jumped onto the bench, grabbed the satsuma and hopped off with it. Then he stood midway between that bench and the one I was on, and squinted at this enormous piece of fruit in his hands (adjusted for squirrel size, imagine yourself holding a massive pumpkin), wondering how to approach it. He tried simply sticking his head in, but with little success.
(It may have been a female squirrel; I mean no sexism in my idle masculinising. I promise that the next time I anthropomorphise an animal, she’ll be a she.)
Then, somehow, he figured out what to do. He put the satsuma down, wrestled the rest of the peel off, and then ripped off one of the segments (imagine yourself holding a two-foot-long slice of watermelon). And he started nibbling at it. Curiously, he didn’t eat the whole thing. He just took a couple of bites from each end, and from some of the side – apparently being more interested in the white stringy bits than the juicy part. Then he dumped the remains on the ground and grabbed himself another segment. Et cetera.
By this stage, several of us were gaping with amusement at this animal who was not only displaying an inventive cunning in handling this unusual foodstuff, but also wisely reducing his risk of scurvy. After a while, he scampered off.
There is no point to this anecdotal whimsy; I just like it when animals find themselves interacting with bits of the human world in unexpected ways.