A Calgary couple are working with a local artist to turn their backyard eyesore into a beautiful home for a family of squirrels.

Lynzey MacRae and her fiancé, Len Torgerson, live in the southwest Calgary community of Rideau Park.

The unique project started after a heated debate over the fate of a large, dead tree on their property.

Torgerson felt the 10-metre-tall tree, which was no longer producing branches or leaves, should be cut down. But MacRae was torn. She knew a family of squirrels lived near the top of the trunk and she didn't want to take away their home.

So, she came up with the idea to transform the tree into a work of art.

The couple reached out to James Dukeshire, a local chainsaw wood carver, and asked him to carve a tableau of Canadian animals into the trunk, as well as another stump in the yard.

Chainsaw wood carver

Chainsaw wood carver James Dukeshire works on the tree in Rideau Park, a southwest Calgary community. (Lynzey MacRae)

"Our little squirrel family has moved out for a short time, but I plan to entice them back with their favourite food — peanuts — when the project is complete so that they return," MacRae told CBC News in an email.

"The best part? The squirrels get to keep their home and I win the argument."

The project is still under construction, but the finished piece will include portraits of owls, a fox, squirrels, bears and a mountain lion. LED lights will run up the side of the tree to show off the animals at night.


  • Lynzey MacRae initially said the woodcarver's name was James Woods, but later clarified that it was actually James Dukeshire of Carving Creations. As well, an earlier version of this story included photos of carved bears and owls with a cutline that indicated they were in MacRae's yard. In fact, although MacRae supplied the images, they were of a different project by another artist that she was using as inspiration.
    Oct 24, 2017 9:51 AM MT