Squirrel Supermoms!

Creator's Blog, September 30th, 2009

Just this week I've seen two things that made a deep impression, and left me in awe of squirrel moms!

The first thing was a series of photos someone forwarded to me of a squirrel mom kicking the butt of a big black dog who was threatening her baby.  There were only 4 photos in the series so you couldn't see how this drama began, but in photo 1, Big Black Dog has Squirrel Baby on the ground between his paws and is nosing him over;  Squirrel Mom is about 4 feet up the tree on her way down.

In photo 2, Squirrel Mom has pounced upon Big Black Dog, and is attached to his jugular vain.  The surprise attack has allowed Squirrel Baby enough time to flee, and he is running away toward the tree.

Photo 3 is a further development of photo 2, but here you can see Big Black Dog's terrified expression.  He is wheeling around, teeth bared, thrashing to remove Squirrel Mom who is still attached to his neck.  Squirrel Baby is in a high speed dash toward the tree. 

In frame 4, we see Squirrel Mom and Squirrel Baby reunited, on their way back up the tree.  They have paused about 6 feet up, mom’s arm is around baby, muzzle buried in his fur. Who knows what they are saying to each other, but it has to be something like,

“Are you alright?!”
“Mom it was awful!”
“OMG I nearly had a heart attack, how did you get down there?!”
“I, er, uh, I-”
“Oh, you are so grounded!”

Big Black Dog is looking up the tree after them, and the caption says, “Did I just get my a– kicked by a SQUIRREL?!”

It was very impressive.  My ‘Mom of the Year’ award goes to that squirrel!

Then, just yesterday, my porter happened to be in the alley when a squirrel nest fell out of a tree with a squirrel baby still in it.  SB, stunned but unhurt, scampered into the neighboring alley.  He wasn’t an infant - his eyes were open and he could walk and climb - but he was very small.  You could see he had never been out of the nest before.  He had no idea what he was supposed to do.

He clung to the wall of the neighboring building for awhile.  In about ten minutes, he made his way up to the first ledge where he could sit instead of hang.  This is a ledge of extruding bricks that goes all the way around the building and includes some jutting corners and the window ledges of the ground floor apartments.  He sat in a corner on this ledge for awhile.

I could see him from my kitchen window, and the porter and super, going in and out of the alley all day would pass him frequently, so we decided to keep a mutual eye on him while I Googled squirrel rescue.

After another short while, SB made his way about 7-8 feet along the ledge to a window that had an air conditioner installed.  I guess he felt a little less exposed with that as cover.

An hour passed.  It was September 28th, the weather was just turning, and I began to worry that he would get cold.  I made a shelter for him out of a Barilla Penne box with some torn up tissue and nuts inside.   I took this downstairs and perched it on the window sill.

No one wanted to touch him because we hoped his mother would come for him.  The chances of that diminish greatly if a wild animal baby is touched by humans.  But even if I’d wanted to rescue him, I was disabused of any such notion when he screamed and spit and lashed out at me as I placed the shelter on the perch.  He scared me to death, and I was proud of him.  One hopes their human child would create such a scene if ever approached by a stranger.

But I also felt awful for him.  A baby is just a baby after all, of any species.  And we all know the feeling of being a little child and turning to find your mother suddenly not there.  Even if it’s only for three seconds, the world goes black and terrifying.  Imagine an hour… two…. three…. You don’t want any poor soul to feel that.

I left the tiny shelter on the ledge and came upstairs.  None of the squirrel rescues were calling me back, and having done the best I could for the moment, I did some work.

I checked on SB in another hour, and he must have eaten a nut, because he seemed energized.  He was busy scratching dust out of the corner.  He stopped for a second and blinked at me.  He didn’t scream and spit this time.

About 4PM, a little nippier and dusk not far off, I was back on the phone calling more wildlife rescues.  I was on hold and looking out the window when I saw an adult squirrel come hurrying along the ledge.  In a second I knew it must be the baby’s mother because (at this point in the story, when I told it to my aunt, she interjected “how, because she looked just like him?!” -  har har) though she rushed, she paused here and there sniffing the path along the ledge — all the places where the baby had been during the day.

Squirrel Mom followed her baby’s scent all along the ledge to where he was huddled under the AC.  At this point, my view was obstructed.  I couldn’t see the happy reunion under the air conditioner but I heard it.  Squirrel baby exclaimed three times.  It almost sounded like “MOM! MOM! MOM!”  Squirrel Mom chattered back a comforting reassurance.

After a few seconds of silence, SM emerged with a bundle in her mouth.  She sprinted along the ledge toward the back of the building, and at the place nearest her tree she braced and launched.  Mom and baby squirrel disappeared up into the tree and, hopefully, a brand new nest.

It was beautiful.  I can’t tell you how relieved I was, and how happy to see those two back together.  And how impressed I am.  I cheered.  This is better than some cat mothers I know!  Like one Ms. Cowboy (a.k.a. The Captain), for instance, mother of Jack who gave birth on our doorstep, wandered off in the rain and didn’t come back for her baby - ever! 

As you know, I love cats- they’re my people- but I find myself wondering this week if squirrels maybe have just a little something extra in the Mom department.  - JD