Sunday, October 27, 2013

In Which A Rodent Runs Amok

Frosty MMU campus Oct. 25. Lots of trees. And squirrels are mammals who are active all winter too. As I'm taking this frosty photo, one could be nibbling on my bicycle ...

Chilling news form Sioux City, blog friends, chilling news indeed.

It seems that squirrels have joined the ranks of the anti-biking crowd. See this story from the Sioux City Journal, which I saw because RAGBRAI posted it on Facebook. (How is that for social media sounding the alarm?)

Photo from Iowa Lakes Community College via Journal.
I’m lucky nothing like this has happened to Francis. At Mount Mercy University and elsewhere, I always lock my bike up—not in the serious, everything snapped down way one would have to in a major urban area—someone could make off with my front basket or my front wheel sometimes, for instance—but nobody would be able to hop on Francis and pedal away. I've always figured the greatest risk to Francis comes from errant bipeds who long ago gave up the tree climbing way of life. Little did I suspect that demons still lurk in the leaves.

I've done nothing to protect my bike from squirrels. In my experience as a gardener, there is almost nothing a human can do short of actual weaponry that would discourage a squirrel. I guess if one started to lunch on Francis, I would just park my bike inside. There used to be an art professor at MMU, Bob Naujoks, who routinely wheeled his bike onto the elevator in Warde Hall and parked it by his 4th floor office. I do sometimes lock Francis to a small wooden table right outside my first floor office door, whenever it’s likely that the bike would otherwise get rained on or snowed on, so there is what I hope would be a squirrel-safe haven should the need ever arise. Then again, squirrels chew through wood. If they became determined, the inside of a building may not be 100 percent secure.


Let’s hope the need never arises, even though squirrels at MMU are known to be a bit aggressive and a bit too “friendly.” That’s probably a tree rodent condition on virtually every North American college campus—too much human-produced spare food and too many young, friendly humans. I just never suspected bikes would fit into the “spare food” category.

Be warned, tree rats. I would not be friendly at all if I found you gnawing through a tire. I would shriek and holler like a girl (a very deep-voiced, loud girl), and maybe even swing my briefcase at you.

I carry lots of stuff in my briefcase, including bike tools, a spare inner tube, a flashlight, lots of heavy paper files … it’s not a trivial weapon. Then again, an arboreal beast that chews through rubber would probably just think it’s not a trivial snack, either.

Another MMU frost photo from Oct. 25. Here, tree rats, it's crunchy, it's cool, it's more nutritious than rubber, chew on this.

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