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At least one or two Harris’s Antelope Squirrels appear to have taken up residence in our backyard. These little squirrels — which superficially resemble eastern Chipmunks — are burrow dwellers. They are prodigious diggers, excavating burrows with openings the width of my hand and kicking out piles of dirt at their burrows’ entrances. I don’t mind, the squirrels are doing no harm and they’re damn cute.
What do they find so appealing about our yard? Well, it’s surrounded by a stuccoed wall that probably provides the squirrels with at least some shelter from predators. Moreover, there’s food in our yard. We have several Golden Barrel Cacti growing there. These cacti, a species native to northern Mexico, bloom throughout the hot months and produce abundant fruit. The fruit are filled with a fibrous, cotton-like substance in which hundreds of tiny black seeds are embedded. The squirrels eagerly dismantle the fruit and gobble the seeds.
Golden Barrel Cacti are covered with some of the most vicious spines of any cactus. One of these cacti has thousands of two-inch long bright yellow spines, spaced over the entire body of the plant. From a distance the cactus looks almost entirely yellow. The plant gets its name from the spines’ color. I find it impossible to handle one of these cacti without wearing the thickest gloves.
For the squirrels, however, the spines are no problem. They scamper all over the cacti as if there were no spines at all. I’d love to know their trick.
Images made with a Canon r5, 800mm f11 RF lens, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 1000, f11 @ 1/250, +1/3 stop exposure compensation.