Beady-eyed bandits watched from perches high above the ground Saturday as unsuspecting volunteers hid treat-filled plastic eggs for a kids’ “egg scramble” in Richfield’s Augsburg Park.

The 1,500 eggs had barely been placed on the snow and tucked between tree roots for 120 waiting children when the hairy hordes descended.

“We tried to cover all our bases, but we weren’t ready for the squirrels,” said Nick Thompson, a recreation supervisor for the city. “We noticed them ... taking our eggs away.”

One especially scurrilous squirrel appeared to be the main culprit, but volunteers found pilfered eggs scattered around the park that had been “chewed through and busted into.” Thompson ran off another rodent as it tried to grab an egg.

Ann Hoffer, also a city recreation supervisor, saw one wily thief scaling a tree with an egg in its mouth.

“I think they just saw brightly colored objects and thought they’d go for it,” she said. “They smelled the candy inside.”

The culprits wanted only the eggs containing chocolate and jelly beans, pushing aside prizes like little toys and temporary tattoos.

Thompson said he was not sure what the city could do to protect eggs in future hunts. Augsburg Park has plenty of trees and an abundance of squirrels, he said, and on Saturday, “a few decided to participate.”

Mary Jane Smetanka