Mark and I have placed many wooden nest boxes around our small yard in the hopes that birds or squirrels will take up residence. We’ve witnessed enough squirrels over the years that we know a mother squirrel keeps her babies in their nests–or in our case, wooden nest boxes–until the babies are about 3/4 the size of the parents. Unbeknownst to us, a mother fox squirrel and her two babies had made a box in our front yard their home. May 16 was the first time I saw one of the babies.
Nearby was the squirrel’s sibling.
We guessed that the mother of these two squirrels was one of the ones we’d seen stuffing her face on the mountains of sunflower seeds we pile on our deck for birds and squirrels. And sure enough, the next day, we saw the mother squirrel guide her babies out of the box, up the tree, onto our roof, and onto the fence on the one side of our deck.
Since we’d seen the mother squirrel enjoying our sunflower seeds, we suspected she was showing the babies where they would always find food. She climbed onto the deck, and, when the babies didn’t immediately join her, she went back up to reassure them.
After touching both of them, she returned to the deck, ate some sunflower seeds and waited. I watched both babies for several minutes and noticed the one on the left seemed to start shaking or shivering. The mom noticed, too, and ran back up the fence. It was only after I snapped this photo that I saw the baby on the left was missing part of its tail.
The mom reassured the first baby, then turned her attention to the one with the chopped off tail. She licked his wounded tail and then put her arms around him to comfort him, to get him warm?
We watched a moment longer and realized the same baby with the wounded tail also was holding up its right front paw, as if it, too, was injured.
Shortly after I took the above photo, the mom led her two charges back up the fence and to the roof. The healthy baby leaped and hopped along, while the wounded baby walked carefully, slowly, stumbled a bit, and barely put weight on his front right paw.
For days afterwards, we didn’t see any baby fox squirrels outside our front yard; we did see one on our deck, and it was the healthy baby with the healthy tail. Days went by as we wondered what happened to the wounded squirrel. Then on June 1, we looked out in the back yard and the squirrel baby we bravely named Stumpy was eating corn!
By June 22, Stumpy had braved the deck and was eating sunflower seeds.
For the last few days, each morning, we wake up at 6:30 to see Stumpy outside on the deck eating seeds. And each morning I see Stumpy, I think of Stumpy’s mom and that tender moment on our deck.