Look, squirrels have it rough when it comes to Christmas traditions. Their little paws are terrible at wrapping presents, they don’t know the words to any carols, and they never have money for decorations.
We like to think that’s why one fluffy-tailed critter is taking matters into his own paws by snatching Christmas lights from his human neighbor, a Seattle woman who caught the adorable thief on camera.
“He has stolen 150 colorful Christmas bulbs within 24 hours,” wrote Margaret Rican, who posted videos of the “bulb bandit” on YouTube this week.
But while it might look like the thieving squirrel is stocking up to make his nest a little more festive, there’s a much more likely explanation — the squirrel is mistaking the bulbs for food. Rican noted in one of her posts that the squirrel — who chews through the wires to get the bulbs — buries them around the neighborhood.
“This kind of behavior is reported each year as squirrels see the bulbs as similar to an acorn or fruit,” John Koprowski, a University of Arizona professor and noted squirrel expert, told The Huffington Post. “While hard to know if this indicates a difficult winter for food, this behavior is likely just the result of being an industrious squirrel and caching a bounty of potential food to be used over the course of the winter.”
Koprowski said the behavior could be risky, as a squirrel could get electrocuted in the process. He added that it’s unlikely squirrels would actually consume any part of the bulb, since once they attempt and fail to chew through the object, they “would quickly realize their error.”
And what happens in the winter, when the squirrel’s buried food turns out to be lightbulbs? Luckily, Koprowski said, our little bulb bandit will probably have other food available.
“Squirrels typically overprepare for the winter and do not relocate all of the nuts that they bury,” he said. “Thus, a few mistakes will equate to spoilage of stored foods and would likely be of little consequence unless an individual starts to specialize on holiday bulbs across a neighborhood in a year of extreme food shortage.”
Koprowski didn’t totally rule out the possibility that the squirrel was just looking for some holiday cheer, though.
“Of course, there is the highly unlikely possibility that we simply have style-conscious squirrels,” he said.