A Squirrel Campers view

Erin Siracusa (PhD candidate, Guelph University) is a talented writer. Read her blogs about life this summer as a Squirreller.


Canada Day Parade

Think oDSC_0951f a float in a parade. What comes to mind? Streamers, balloons, bright colours, people in costumes, loud music, confetti…maybe not an F-250 covered in cardboard. But when at Squirrel Camp, one must make do with what one has available for decorations, and this mainly consists of cardboard boxes and Sharpie ink. Our monster of an F-250, dubbed “Sasquatch”, got all dressed up to be included in the Canada Day parade in Haines Junction this past Tuesday. Sasquatch found itself with a lovely large pair of cardboard squirrel ears complete with ear tags, whiskers made of big white pipe cleaners on its headlights, and even an improvised squirrel tail affixed to the trailer hitch (the success of making an accurate taDSC_0954il was questionable, but after inhaling as many Sharpie fumes as we did in the process of its creation, we felt it had to be used).

Our bizarre squirrel/truck hybrid made its way along the two main streets of Haines Junction (this essentially encompasses the entirety of the 4th largest municipality in the Yukon) amidst many other impressive floats, including the truck behind us complete with a swimming pool in the bed! Needless to say, many efforts were made to soak the squirrelers in the back of Sasquatch. I am proud to say that I escaped, but I am not sure that everyone was so fortunate. Other participants in the parade included the Lions Club with a massive, colourful float pulled by a tractor, the Haines Junction fire department, a number of young cyclists and several animal participants. A very well-dressed dog with Canada-themed anklets later won an award for being so sporting.

The parade was followed up by a delicious barbecue thanks to the Lions Club, plenty of fun and games out on the lawn, cotton candy and even the unveiling of a pair of new murals made by the local elementary school. For a town of less than a thousand people, Haines Junction really pulled out all the stops this July 1st! It was an incredibly fun atmosphere, and a couple of us squirrelers even joined in on a nearby informal football game. When I say “informal”, I mean lacking in rules and run by twelve-year-old boys. And so Squirrel Camp did not let go of childhood this Canada Day! We hope you enjoyed your own festivities on July 1st this year. Squirrel Camp will be back again for next year’s parade, with plans to stockpile some cones to use as a more natural, boreal confetti.

–          Sarah Nason, U of Alberta

Kluane to Chilkat International Bike Relay

If you have ever been to Squirrel Camp, you know that it attracts a group of hard working, incredibly athletic and borderline nuts (ha!) individuals. No event showcases all of these traits quite as completely as the Kluane to Chilkat International Bike Relay. This year the Squirrel Camp team was stacked with a whole three regular bikers, and five members who may or may not have seen a bike in the past year. The 8-person team and its two cheerleaders rolled up to the bike race in homemade T-shirts, hanging out of a massive F-250 complete with a sign. Clearly, we were ready to crush and wow the competition with our incredible speed and our amazing cheers.

Our first biker exploded off of the start, putting Squirrel Camp decisively in the middle of the pack. The cheer squad was less confident. At first we were unsure of our cheering style. Would we just scream loudly? Would we say good job and clap? Would we throw our hands into the air and fist pump? All of our indecision was resolved when the man parked in front of us pulled a mysterious wooden box from the back of his truck. From this box he removed a glorious, magical instrument…bagpipes. With these he serenaded the first few bikers to the delights of the cheering crowd and bikers alike. Now the Squirrelers knew how we would cheers…we would dance!

For the next eight legs, as we passed through one time zone, a territory, a province and a state, and the scenery graded from mountains to alpine to Alaskan rainforest our dance moves evolved. Our cheers where no longer reserved for just our team. Along the way we picked a few lucky bikers to gift with our incredibly uplifting cheers. Their confused expressions just made us cheer louder and daSONY DSCnce and bounce around more fiercely. As we arrived in Alaska and the last leg, we had reached the height of our cheering potential. Now SONY DSCwe were truly creative. As I had the last leg I was lucky enough to have a bikers view of these glorious Squirrelers. As I rode by the team the first time I was greeted with a line of Squirrelers doing pushups…sort of. The second time around was a human pyramid of epic squirrely proportions.

If there had been a team spirit award we would have won hands down. However, awards where only given based on speed. We came in very close, getting 61st out of….65. GO SQUIRRELERS! Not bad for a bunch of crazy bush people!


–          Naomi, McGill University


Summer Research is in full swing!

It has been an interesting week for squirrel research. We saw our first Grizzly bear just up the road from one of the grids. Lisa and Shannon kicked two flying squirrels out of a cavity when they were looking for a nest and Jess witnessed red squirrel infanticide which is cool but sad. A couple squirrels were found dead (predated on) on one of the grids.

Nests are crazy – some squirrels managed to move pups as we were climbing their trees so we had to follow them across grid.  A couple of squirrellers witnessed a grey jay steal a pup while another threatened the nest. We checked all the buckets on AG and took away all the peanut butter except for on the breeding female’s midden where we left 250g of peanut butter. On the way to do this, a lynx was spotted.

Trapping has been moved yet again and is now right after supper with only one check and we have had more success than we have had for a while.  One of the squirrels (White/Red) has become the camp squirrel, she is often seen running around with nest material, some stolen from camp itself.  The whole camp was restyled to discourage more of such pilfering.

Stan nest climbing (2)

Shannon and Hannes (part of the winter crew) left for Iceland on Sunday so camp felt a little empty but we also had some visitors. Stan came up for a week and climbed some trees that everyone thought were impossible. He even tied two trees together to get to a nest at the top of a snag. Jamie came to visit too and livened the camp up a lot.

Squirrel Camp restarted Frisbee Tuesdays with Kluane Base camp and we have been going there every week since to toss a frisbee around. Frisbee Tuesday was fun this week, although only six people played. At the end we were convinced to played rugby. It was hard to grasp the concept that you can run with the ball right after playing frisbee where you can’t move.

The hare crew arrived last week, and brought JD who has rapidly become the beloved camp dog. Over winter, Lisa caught a hare in a juvenile (small) trap. I’ve only seen pictures but it looked squished!

Manu will be leaving camp to go travelling with her sister. Jordan and Jess went fishing a couple of times but have yet to catch more than a rock and lake weed. The team for this year’s bike race from Haines Junction to Haines Alaska was decided on Thursday.  We hope to finish the race not dead last!

– Jordan Lange, U of Alberta


Sliver Sled Race

After a five-year hiatus, the Silver Sled Dog Race was run again from Haines Junction on March 9th. The organizing committee was looking for volunteers; we figured we would be perfect as a crew of seven enthusiastic squirrelers. They needed a hand in various tasks, including: dog wrangling, sled course directing, time keeping, and clean up.

There were two races. 11 teams competed in a 20-mile race, and 12 in the 7-mile race. The teams hailed from within the Yukon, Alaska, Quebec, and Scandinavia. A few of our crew helped out at the starting line of the two races, leading the dog teams to the starting line (and holding them back). As you can imagine, a team of 8 racing dogs that know they are about to race has a lot of energy. It usually took at least 5 people to hold the team back.

The rest of our crew manned turning points on the trail, ensuring the teams followed the track. This proved much harder than it seemed in the loop at the half-way point of the 20-mile race. Instead of directing teams, they spent much time pulling dogs out of snow banks and dragging them back on course. In the end, no one was injured (humans or dogs) and much fun was had by all. The winning time for the 20-mile race was 1 h :22 min : 57sec.

We thought we were in for a day off from our daily snowshoeing workout, but wrangling dogs might be more exhausting than trapping squirrels. The race day ended with a community barbeque (with moose chili) and award ceremony (with cake!).

It was great to be involved in this community event, especially after it’s long hiatus. Next year, they hope to run the traditional 100 Km race to Silver City and back, along with the two shorter races. Hopefully squirrel campers will be there to help out with this event in 2014!