Photo: Me up a tree next to a squirrel nest. No, I’m not the squirrel!
One recent afternoon Susie, my wife, and I were sitting in the living room reading and doing Sudoku puzzles (we’re real party animals!) when the dogs jumped up and rushed outside. Simultaneously, a hawk began screeching in complaint just outside the house. It seems the hawk had harvested one of our resident squirrels (Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis) and Oso, our male German Shepherd Dog (yes, that’s the official breed name), intervened. By the time I got outside the hawk had flown away and Oso proudly held the dying squirrel in his jaws.
While I examined the squirrel to make sure it couldn’t recover (it couldn’t), I noticed it was a female and either was or had recently lactated meaning it had babies. I surveyed our yard and found five squirrel nests in three trees. Two of the nests appeared to be unused recently judging from their states of disintegration. Three, however, could well have been active. All three nests were about 25 feet up in the small branches of the trees.
I couldn’t allow baby squirrels to starve so I called Carl, our son who lives in our north pasture with his wife and our two grandbrats (granddaughters). Carl arrived just as I completed setting up a 14 foot ladder under what I considered the most promising nest. I’d already dressed in a jump suit and long sleeves so I wouldn’t get scratched by the rough bark of the Arizona Ash tree (Fraxinus velutina) I planned to scale.
I ascended the ladder (very Biblical) and shinnied (when I was a child that was “skinnying”) up the branch closest the nest (just to the right of me in the photo). Unfortunately, a Mustang Grape vine was in the way and I couldn’t pass it to reach the nest. I came down the tree and Carl used an extendable tree saw to drop the nest to the ground. It was empty.
Carl then dropped the next nest in the same tree; also empty. That left the least assessable nest in a much larger tree. As we were setting up for me to ascend that tree we saw another squirrel guarding that nest. Most probably it was the male mate of the deceased female. I wasn’t looking forward to battling an irate father squirrel 30 feet up a tree. But, then Carl noticed some young squirrels on a nearby branch. It seems the mother squirrel had been nursing and wasn’t nursing at the time of her demise. I sighed relief and yielded the tree to the widowed father squirrel.
The young squirrels are thriving although they don’t have a healthy respect for our three German Shepherd Dogs who have caught and eaten their incautious relatives in the past. I’m ambivalent. Squirrels have eaten too many of my plants to have fond feelings for them.