This teensy North American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) fell from somewhere & landed in this spread-eagled posture on the asphalt floor of our neighbors’ garage. Neighbor Charmaine dashed over & hustled me & my camera out the door, & there it was… a little drama in the making. After some debate (during which Cocker spaniel Lucy attempted a bit of a snuffle), & much speculation about where the little squirrel’s nest was & such, we decided to leave it essentially in situ, thinking that the mother would retrieve it sooner than later. Ray got a small plastic bucket, put some grass clippings in it (along with a couple of peanuts for Mother Red… baby didn’t even have its eyes open & was clearly dependent on mother’s milk), & poked this sprat into it. Despite its small size (maybe 2-3 inches long, not counting that funny wee tail), it had the typical Red Squirrel spunk & protested vocally as it was gently persuaded. We left the bucket right there, & within a half- hour, the baby was gone & the bucket was empty. Nobody saw the rescue, but I had opined that Mother Squirrel would certainly be capable of carrying this infant, & we are 90% sure that all was well.
This happy notion was reinforced yesterday (12 August) when Ray & I witnessed our own Little Red, who is now up for nomination as Mother of the Year, removing her brood of SEVEN (count ‘em) little little reds from an ancient jacket of Ray’s that’s been hanging unused in our back shed for a decade, to a hole in a big tree in the neighbors’ front lawn. It’s pretty clear that the infant pictured here is from another lady’s litter, as there are at least a couple of breeding mums in the immediate vicinity (the females’ territories are pretty big considering the small size of the creatures, but they can & do overlap, especially in residential areas like ours). In any event, our Little Red moved all seven of hers right under our wondering noses… have seen the bigger Grays move house, but that’s a slower, more laborious process if for no other reason than that the youngsters are much larger relative to the size of the adult when this mobilization occurs. In the case of the Reds, Mother Red just sped along, feet barely touching the ground, with the tightly curled, Ping-Pong-ball-sized baby in her mouth. And she just kept coming back… running right under my feet, practically, stopping to look up at me as I talked to her & congratulated her on her remarkable brood & her skill, then moving on to the old jacket. Much rummaging ensued; then she emerged with yet another dark reddish-brown Ping-Pong ball. Down the steps, under the cars, into the neighbors’ lawn, up the tree, then back again. When she was finally done, she came back here, took a drink from the water dish we provide, came back into the shed, climbed back up to the nesting jacket, rummaged a bit more (we’re saying WHAT? EIGHT??) & came out, this time with a peanut…… She headed back to the new nest, & that was the last we saw of her. Unfortunately, no pictures of the rapid-fire activity.
North American Reds have a very high mortality rate, & only about 25% survive ‘childhood’. Seven is an unusually high number, but as many as eight in a brood have been recorded. Little Red was VERY fat when pregnant, so no big surprise. A lot of Reds are just little bundles of raw nerves, but our Little Red is remarkably calm & quiet, & likes us, in her squirrelish fashion, a lot. This has been a banner year for our local wildlife, & that includes our Cottontail bunnies.
11 August 2013