We've seen news lately about how adaptable bugs are when it comes to plastic waste, whether it's a study about mealworms eating expanded polystyrene last year or a whole different kind of a bug — bacteria — capable of digesting PET.
But let's face it, critters have been learning their way around the current plastics world for a long time, whether it's a dog that loves the crinkle of a water bottle or, in this case, squirrels that let nothing stop them from a tasty treat.
This is no story about a study, merely anecdotes about those familiar mammals: the squirrel. In particular, the excuse to tell this story is of the squirrel that preferred hunting for plastic Easter eggs rather than nuts.
A couple of years back, I was out running through a residential neighborhood one afternoon on an Easter Sunday. I went past one house in which either the kids weren't excited about finding candy hidden in brightly-colored plastic eggs, or their parents were particularly good at hiding them.
As I stopped to toss one back into the yard that had rolled out into the street, something caught my eye. It was a squirrel who had grabbed another unclaimed egg.
He somehow managed to grab it and carry it across the yard and up a tree. There he settled himself in to a small notch.
“Well,” I thought, “that's impressive, but how are you going to unscrew the two pieces?”
Forget taking the egg apart, though. Instead, he chewed away at the plastic, dropped shredded bits below him until he got to the candy inside. It obviously wasn't his first prize, since shreds of other brightly-colored plastic eggs also were scattered around the base of the tree.
I was both impressed with his ingenuity and worried about his eating habits, but continued on my way.
Of course that's not the only time I've encountered squirrels who had learned to overcome plastic obstacles. Just check out the video below of a squirrel who managed to make off with a discarded peanut butter jar, despite the fact that it was about as big as him.
(He ran off into the woods with it soon after. I thought about chasing him down to retrieve it, but even I am not crazy enough to get between a hungry squirrel and his treat.)