The lack of squirrels in the woods didn’t seem like a big deal to me at first, but after seeing one predator after another, I couldn’t help but link the two.
I grew up in southern Pennsylvania and that’s where I learned to hunt. I started out by hunting gray squirrels in the early fall with my Dad. We’d find some nearby state forestland, walk in a few hundred yards, and then stop when we found a good log to sit on. Sure, there were times when we didn’t see any wildlife, but if you were patient, quiet, and sat still, squirrels just seemed to hop out of nowhere and into shotgun range.
As I got older, I became much more interested in bowhunting for deer and my feelings about squirrels became more complicated. Squirrels were my main source of entertainment when I wasn’t seeing deer, but squirrels also frequently blew my cover and my chances of seeing deer within bow range.
I had a brief break from bowhunting recently, so when my wife and I moved to Delaware County, NY this past summer, I was excited to get back into it. When September came around, I went out to Bear Spring Wildlife Management Area between Walton and Downsville to hunt squirrels and scout for deer sign. I did see deer and bear sign in places, but I was amazed that I didn’t see a single squirrel.
I even sat next to some oaks that were dropping acorns furiously… Nothing. I did see a barred owl near the oaks on my way out and I thought: “Is that why the squirrels are in hiding?”
I returned to the same spot during bow season and I’m here to tell you… If you’re a squirrel at Bear Spring WMA, you have a lot more than owls to worry about. After three hunts, I’ve seen one bobcat, one coyote, and one fisher. Zero squirrels. So far, I’ve seen more squirrels in town than I have in the mountains and who can blame them? It’s dangerous out there!
I am just blown away at the lack of squirrels/abundance of predators I’ve seen in a short period of time, granted this is a new place for me. Is there a link between the two? Perhaps the Catskills region has a high predator diversity? Several of my colleagues at the Watershed Agricultural Council have also spotted bobcats while bowhunting this year. Maybe it’s the habitat? I was hunting in a saddle at the edge of an old clearcut and I have heard that young woods can provide important wildlife habitat for both predators and prey alike. Whatever the reason, these animal sightings have really made my season so far. The My Woodlot team and I would love to hear from you on the subject. Find us on Facebook and share your thoughts, experiences, or photos.