The Mayor of West Beach
I heard the distinctive noise the moment I got out of my truck. It was the persistent, chattering alarm call of a Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii). In Deception Pass State Park, there is a small grove of Shore Pines right next to the West Beach parking lot. The noise was coming from inside the grove. There were other, higher pitched squeaking sounds also coming from the pines. The squirrel was obviously upset, and a hollow rotted log under the trees was the focus of his ire.
Douglas Squirrels are aggressively territorial. I suspect another critter had invaded his domain and it was not to be tolerated. I found an account of a Douglas Squirrel killing a much larger Norway Rat which illustrates how pugnacious they can be towards intruders.
I believe this is the fellow I met in the same location last fall. When he spotted me watching, he interrupted the task at hand to come out and say hello. A second hollow log next to the path served as an expressway out of the grove. His winter coat has faded a bit and contains some gray now. Typical of park critters, he made no effort to avoid me.
I wondered if he was expecting treats. I am sure he has become accustomed to well-meaning visitors providing food. He has chosen a territory right in the midst of one of the busiest spots in the park. He may also have been ready to engage me as another intruder. One thing was certain. He was unmistakably in charge of that small grove of pines.