Pinelands Squirrels

The old coat of arms for Pinelands is adorned by a squirrel holding what is considered to be an acorn. However close inspection shows it could be a pinecone although it differs from the pinecones on the rest of the coat of arms. The old coat of arms carved in wood, can still be seen outside the Pinelands library and outside the chamber of Subcouncil 15 in the Pinelands Municipal building. Many organisations and businesses have also used a squirrel as part of their logo. The wooden coat of arms which was on the front wall of the Civic Hall has disappeared.

The grey squirrel was introduced to the Cape by Cecil John Rhodes in the early 1900s, along with a number of other animals and birds including European starlings, red deer and the red squirrel. The red squirrel is less destructive than the grey squirrel but did not thrive in the Cape. The grey squirrel is considered destructive as they have the habit of preying on small birds and eggs.

The grey squirrel originated in the east of North America, although species are found Europe, Russia and Japan. The original batch of grey squirrels in the Cape was placed in the Groote Schuur property but they rapidly moved into other areas where pine trees and oak trees were found. By 1910 they were seen in Plumstead, 1919 in Retreat, 1920 in Stellenbosch and by 1943 in Elgin. It is not known when the first grey squirrel arrived in Pinelands, but by 1957 the Divisional Council of the Cape attempted to reduce the number of squirrels by offering a reward a six pence per squirrel tail. This was unsuccessful as they only paid out a total of two guineas.

Albino squirrels are incredibly rare. One in 100,000 creatures have white fur and red eyes due to a lack of melanin. An albino squirrel was seen running around in Pinelands in 1962. A second albino squirrel was found in 1985 living in the roof of a Pinelands house. It was part of a litter where the other squirrels were normal grey squirrels. The homeowner saw the albino around the property for just over two weeks before it disappeared. Albino squirrels usually don’t survive for long as they generally suffer from poor eyesight, hearing disorders as well as being highly visible to predators. In 2015 an albino squirrel was seen in Oranjezicht. Around this time an albino squirrel was also spotted in the Company Gardens, however it is suspected these could have been the same squirrel.

The local historian Lawrence G Green had an untested recipe for grey squirrel while James Garfield who was US President for 7 months before being assassinated in 1881, claimed squirrel soup was his favourite delicacy.