Bright sun, a clear blue sky, and morning temperatures that have currently soared to a balmy 14˚F, may be partly to blame for the increased activity level of the gray squirrels I've been amusedly watching. But mostly, these daily treetop chases—reckless exhibitions of high-speed pursuits and flying jumps—come in response to a deep, interior tugging bred into their genetic makeup, a primal call stirred by the season’s eternal rhythms, one which ignores February’s cold and snow for the ongoing exigencies of the species.
Such antics, you see, aren’t mere play, nor has the cold induced some contagious gray-squirrel lunacy. Their zany high jinks are due to the behavioral drive reflecting the urgency of procreation.
These snow-bound midwinter days mark the start of the gray squirrel's mating season. For the next few weeks they'll be as interested in romance as they are in pilfering my backyard feeders—conducting vigorous courtships played out among sky-high limbs and branches.
Then, from mid-March through April, amid the cozy darkness of a hollow sycamore, the resulting young will be born—though I'm not apt to catch sight of them venturing outside their lofty dens until a month or more later.
This is the way of gray squirrels as it has been since time immemorial. The earth speaks and wild things listen, responding to an ancient message that whispers of future life and coming spring…a sort of atavistic faith.
Belief is easy when you listen to your heart.