Squirrels vs. the Honey badger

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

I’m pretty sure our Museum has the world’s greediest squirrels. I can’t blame them, really. The Museum’s courtyard squirrels live in a veritable Shangri-la of corn kernels (from students learning how to use a mano and matate), ginger cookies, homemade ice cream, and pretzels (from our Home Arts and Boxelder Schoolhouse summer programs) and the plethora of foods dropped by all of our younger visitors. Forget being a kid in a candy store, it’s all about being a squirrel in a courtyard!

This smorgasbord has emboldened our squirrels – the tasty treats have turned them into brave and ravenous rodents. A few weeks ago I was sitting on a bench eating an apple only to turn and see a squirrel perched next to me, watching the apple with amazing concentration. And just this morning I watched one squirrel patiently follow a staff member carrying several containers of frosting, waiting for just the right moment to claim some of it for himself.

I was just about to nominate our squirrels as the “World’s Most Fearless Animal” (which you have to be if you contemplating coming between a group of children and chocolate frosting), but then I learned that the award has already been given out. To whom? The Honey badger.

Honey badger digging for food

The Guinness Book of World Records named the Honey badger, a small member of the Mustellidae family who looks a lot like a skunk, the most fearless animal in the world. You might think that an animal the size of a skunk whose name includes the word “honey” couldn’t be all that fearless, but you’d be quite surprised. These animals are known for killing venomous snakes, burrowing into the hives of African honeybees, preying on scorpions, crocodiles, and there are even accounts of them attacking elephants.

This piece of a National Geographic documentary shows just how fearless the Honey badger is:

So Honey badger has our Museum’s squirrels beat. For now…

P.S. Just in case you think I’m kidding about the gutsiness of squirrels, this past June researchers from Yale University published evidence of prehistoric rodent (proto-squirrel) bite marks on late Cretaceous period dinosaur bones. These mammals didn’t attack the dinosaurs when they were alive, but it’s still pretty brave of a small rodent to go after a big dinosaur bone with all the larger scavenger competitors out there.

July 2010

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