Good Sunday morning!
If you have been hanging around my blog for awhile, you might recall that we share our lives with a squirrel named Henri. This little girl came to us last fall as an orphan, and was hand raised. It’s not my first rodeo in squirrel rearing, but it is my first with a female squirrel. Because she is a wild animal, our intention was always to raise her and then return her to a somewhat protected environment where she can ‘be a squirrel’ as God meant her to be.
Her release was gradual when the time came…. first letting her spend time outdoors and getting her acquainted with the area (in her case, our wraparound porch). We went from supervised playtime outdoors to semi-unsupervised playtime outdoors, and from nights spent indoors to nights spent outdoors. We bought her an enormous parrot cage that has a top that can be left open, and she began sleeping outdoors in that protected environment. I left the top open, and she would play all day out of her cage, and then return to the cage on her own free will to sleep there at night. One night several months ago, she didn’t come ‘home’ for the night, and I tried my best to hold down the panic of her absence. She was a teenager after all…. and we all know what kind of trouble teens can get themselves into after dark, especially given the predators that come out once the sun goes down. Thankfully, she was ok, and showed up the next morning for breakfast. She did however find a new home…. kind of. She had started her own apartment in the sub-ceiling of part of our barn/stall area that is attached to our home (yes, I know it sounds weird, but we are very animal friendly around here!).
The months have gone by, and Henri has turned into an independent adult squirrel. She still lives 100% with us, but is free to do whatever it is that squirrels do during the day.
I’ve been biting my nails as spring has approached. We live on the tree lined edge of pastured land, so Henri would actually have to make a bit of a run to the trees to find a community of her own kind. Surprisingly, as communicatively extroverted as they are, squirrels do not tend to be ‘pack animals’ (a group of squirrels is actually called a ‘scurry’)…. preferring to live life on their own terms. They will come together a few times a year (usually spring and fall) to mate and have babies. THIS is what I’ve been biting my nails over! While we love Henri, and she’s found a good safe place in the auspices of our care to live out her life (under our roof), I’m more than a little concerned about what might happen if she finds a cute little male squirrel to make babies with. Doing the math, it appears that in just a few short years, we’d have 262,144 squirrels living with us (provided that they all survived of course). I hope you are now biting your nails too… because that prospect is a little daunting. So far, Henri, has shown zero destructive tendencies in her living arrangements, but squirrels can be fairly destructive to a home if left to their own devices, and we’d be a little outnumbered rather quickly.
Henri is an Eastern Fox Squirrel, and I just did a little more digging on their mating habits. I’ve been watching her like a hawk this spring… looking for evidence that she’s had a tryst with some little guy who caught her eye, but other than getting a little chunky, she’s shown no signs of impending motherhood. Technically, and according to literature, spring litters should have already sprung. I worried then, that something had happened to the babies (I know, I’m bipolar on my stance on this… but what’s a mama to do?). This morning I found the following: “Females become sexually mature at 10 to 11 months of age and usually produce their first litter when they are a year old.”
Gahhhhh! Given this information, I can relax for just a wee bit longer…. Henri’s only 7 months old. I can breathe a little more freely until late summer and early fall, and we can worry about this all over again :).
So this morning, I bring you a little sunshine from my little girl, Henri. Enjoy your day!