No blog post on the Grand Canyon Village would be complete without a nod to the wildlife that also make their home here.
In the village, we saw one of the most rare Grand Canyon residents; the California Condor. I have blogged about the California Condor before, after our visit last year to the World Center for Birds of Prey, in Boise, Idaho. The center is one of only a few California Condor breeding facilities, where these magnificent birds are hatched and reared for release into the wild. The Grand Canyon is one of the locations where the condors are released, and there are currently 73 California Condors known to be making their home in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah.
But knowing that there are a small number of condors in the Grand Canyon is different than actually seeing one, and I didn’t dare to dream that I would be one of the lucky ones! He (or she) was sunning himself on a ledge just below Lookout Studio. Just hanging out, unaware of what the fuss was all about. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to see him. Jon would say I’m being sappy, but it was a very special moment.
Also, in the village, we saw one of the most prolific Canyon residents, and also probably the most diabetic. No, I’m not talking about the people, I’m referring to the Abert’s Squirrel.
Immediately upon entering the Grand Canyon Village, you see signs warning you to not feed the wildlife. In particular, the squirrels. Why not? Well, because feeding animals makes them dependent on humans and unlikely to survive on their own, which is a prerequisite for being wild… Not to mention that human food isn’t good for digestive systems that haven’t adapted to it. And squirrels carry fleas, which carry the plague – not something I want to mess around with, thank you very much. Additionally, habituating squirrels to people means that you are now encouraging super-aggro squirrels, which leads to approximately 250 reported squirrel bites in the Grand Canyon each year. And if all that weren’t enough, by the way, it is illegal under federal law.
But despite all the reasons not to, we only had to wait about 0.2493 seconds before we saw people feeding the squirrels. Right next to the sign that said not to. People are stupid.
We stepped into one of the dining establishments, an ice cream shop that also sold sandwiches and brats, to get a quick lunch to enjoy while sitting out in the open air of the village. I got a brat and some Cheetos; Jon got some Greek yogurt and fruit. Within seconds of sitting down, a squirrel ran up and stole my bag of Cheetos! Jon managed to grab them back, and in an instant, the squirrel grabbed one end of the foil bag that my brat came in! I experienced a brief but terrifying Tug’O’War with this pipsqueak of a beast, before emerging victorious when the end of the bag tore and squirrel was left with just a chunk of foil paper.
Shaking… we moved to another section further away from the aggro squirrel. We sat down and I repositioned my meal tightly in between me and Jon. It wasn’t enough… In another instant Cheeto the Squirrel had hold of my Cheetos bag once again – it wasn’t even open yet! I had been defeated. Cheeto the Squirrel tore into that bag and was munching to his heart’s content within a few seconds, complete with bright orange fake powdered cheese coating his paws. I do feel fortunate that I wasn’t bitten, and didn’t have a plague infected flea jump on me in the melee. The other tourists were highly entertained at my misfortune, so I adopted an “if you can beat ’em, join ’em” mentality and took a couple of photos of my victor enjoying his spoils. I was pretty disappointed though, as I hardly ever eat Cheetos and was really looking forward to them.
I present to you, Cheeto the Squirrel.
I should point out that the squirrels had absolutely no interest in Jon’s healthy snacks; they have clearly developed a hankering for junk food. And to the feds, if you are reading this… I really, really tried to NOT feed the wildlife. It was not my intent, but ultimately I felt that if I didn’t release the Cheetos, I would not be alive to tell the story…
And so dear readers, have you ever been a victim of National Park wildlife gone rogue?