At the end of last year (2022), we adopted a squirrel from an overbooked rescuer. The young squirrel wasn’t a kit when she’d been found in the street, but wasn’t old enough to survive the winter on its own. We took it off the rescuer’s hand because she was otherwise healthy.
Having cared for squirrels in the past, we expected this to be a similarly loving and rewarding experience.
We were in for quite the shock.
Since she wasn’t a kit, she already had a strong personality and a good understanding of who we were and weren’t. Needless to say, there was a learning curve that involved some biting. She didn’t take to living indoors quite as easily as our first squirrel and the terror of constant property damage never dwindled. That said, we did find a relationship that was unique and rewarding. And we did come to love her very much.
Naming her Mariposa, she came to be a member of the family as the rest of the varmints (dogs, cats, rats). She had fun and played and slept and nested and got along well enough with all the household. But one day – and we still don’t know how – she escaped. She snuck out of the house and disappeared outside.
We accepted this as a likelihood, especially for a non-fixed squirrel as warmer weather (IE mating season) arrived. But we called for her and kept an eye out for her. And lo and behold, a few days later, she came bouncing back inside. We let her in, fed her, loved on her, and resumed our normal life. For about two days.
After two days, she wanted out again. She did as the dogs and cats do when they want out: she just sort of scratched at and jumped against the glass door onto the porch. Unable to bring myself to hold her prisoner, I let her go again and into the trees she went bounding.
And she’s come home almost every day since.
She doesn’t stay long. Oh no. Usually just a few minutes, often just to get some grapes or some almonds or something. She’s become a very picky eater since moving out on her own. But we see her at least once every two days, with a whole stretch often of seeing her daily (sometimes several times a day). And I am curious if she’ll decide to ‘move back in’ when the weather turns colder.
But unsurprisingly, the other wildlife of the neighborhood have gotten a lot more friendly. The other squirrels, who accepted her with seemingly little trouble, have started letting us get a bit closer. And they don’t run quite so far away from us, or quite so fast. The birds, too, have become a little more willing to explore us and our porch to see what we’re all about.
Whether it’s because our smell is on Mariposa and therefore just a little less strange, or if they watch us love on her and realize that maybe, just maybe, we aren’t as bad as other humans, I couldn’t say. I just know that our porch gets a lot more wildlife traffic than it used to. And that makes these hard, bitter days of 2023 a little bit easier to manage.