Moving the Little Ones

Douglas squirrel carries her baby to a new nest

Just for one day, love everything and see what happens.  Author Unknown

Relaxing on the back deck with my morning coffee, I watched the sun ease above the tree-line and savored the gentle breeze that made the treetops whisper.  Just then, I heard a rustling in the leaves.  It was a Douglas squirrel.  Not unusual, but this one carried a special package.  Around her neck, she wore a fur baby.  The little one clutched her mother tightly.  Mother squirrel grasped her baby by the fur, steadying the little one with a gentle bite.   

Douglas squirrels often move their babies to a fresh nest—two, sometimes three times. The most common reasons for this is that the nest is infected with ticks, or threatened by predators (including human interference). I was part of such event that couldn’t be helped. A Douglas squirrel, had birthed two perfect little ones inside my Jeeps air filter box, which I later replaced with a cold air intake filter.  (You can read their story at Squirrelly Stowaway’s.)  Having solved that problem, it led to another. In 2017, a Douglas squirrel built a massive moss nest in the clutch terminal.  The clutch went out while I was in town, thankfully, and not on some back road. That little squirrel cost me a small fortune. Rural life isn’t always easy, but it surely is interesting.   

In our side yard stands our tallest snag, the one I call Big Cedar that we purposefully left when we topped it for safety.  Snags remember, are important habitat.  Many wild things depend on them, and we try to leave as many as possible.  At the top of Big Cedar Snag, is an old woodpecker cavity where mother squirrel kept her little ones.  It’s a busy snag among the wild things—a beautiful, rustic, high-rise whose housing is competitive.  So much activity worried mother squirrel, so she up and decided it was time to move the little ones. 

Mother squirrel with baby negotiates branches near the new nest

She found to her liking, a pileated woodpecker hole, newly carved in a live cedar not far from our back deck.  One by one, she moved her children until all three were safely hidden.  Once stuffed inside the tree hole, the baby squirrels squeaked loudly as mother squirrel tended to them.  I could only imagine what was happening in there.  I could picture mother squirrel rolling them around, and patting them down to get them arranged just right to fit the nest.  After all, these were large babies with eyes wide open, and they would be leaving soon.

Three days later, the first baby squirrel left the nest.  I could see the wonder in her eyes as she explored her world for the first time.  By day five, she was joined by her second litter mate, and on day seven, the third litter mate was among them.  For several weeks they did everything together.  They explored and played softly, and ate sunflower seeds.  By the third week, they added peanuts, and huckleberries to their diet.  They also became more sassy and distanced themselves from one another. They were becoming independent. Despite their smallness, they were fearless defenders of their space, and would act aggressively if necessary.  I am so proud of them and am happy to report that all three are doing well, and thriving. 

The first of three baby Douglas squirrels leaves the nest from Live Cedar

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