Our two little orphaned squirrels are rapidly progressing into juveniles. Punkin, who is just a week older than her brother, Gambini, has been a self-starter from the get-go. She has become quite woodland savvy, having made her way down to the canyon, exploring the deeper woods. Gambini, on the other hand, is still more cautious and tends to stick to trees closer to the house.
In part, a squirrel’s gender determines much of how their lives are lived. Fall is a busy time of year with all of the squirrels gathering nuts and berries for a winter food cache, and I have not observed Punkin having any difficulties with the many other squirrels inhabiting the area. Gambini, however, has been chased by other males, and I have witnessed a lot of chortling and squabbling in the trees just south of the house. Apparently, Mr. Gambini has been intruding on another male’s territory. On more than one occasion, I have seen Gambini making a dash to the shelter of our back porch, with a much larger male squirrel in pursuit. To Gambini’s credit, that has not stopped him from venturing back out when the coast has cleared, to make his own way in the woodland world.
As a pair, Punkin and Gambini get along well, but their personalities are very different. Punkin is larger and quite tenacious about getting her way. At first, she was bossy and stole Gambini’s food from his paws. She raided his food stash in his squirrel house (mostly pecans). But lately, I have noticed Mr. Gambini has found his own niche in getting one over on his “sister”. She might be bigger in size, but he is swift and very clever in out maneuvering her. He is not afraid to fight back for his food and is often successful with snatching something from her paws and quickly making an exit. As a result, there are now more frequent chortles and squabbles over morning vittles. Even with two sections of corn on the cob on the food plate, the squabble will be over one particular portion. Typical kids.
Punkin is still quite vocal with us, and always quick to offer one of her “Er-er-er-er-er” conversations when we come outside. She still leaps on us and scrambles all over our bodies – especially when the gift of a pecan is involved. She will still let us pet her and seems to enjoy the attention. She still plays “finger fighting” with us and gently attacks or nibbles our fingers. In contrast, Mr. Gambini is not interested in us at all, unless there is a food giveaway involved. He absolutely does not like to be petted, and sometimes bites if you get a finger too close while he is eating. He is fast and clever at moving up and under, zigging and zagging to safety, and I cannot catch him at all anymore. But, I am really rather glad to see this, as he will need these skills as a male in the wild.
For now, the two of them still rely on a morning feeding before setting out to spend all day in the woods. But their food tastes are changing. Corn on the cob, or seeds and nuts, are now preferred over avocados and fruit slices. I often find Punkin down in the canyon near the deer feeders where she nibbles at corn left scattered on the ground by the deer. I notice they both eat tree leaves and some of the tender weeds in the back yard. The pecans we give them each day are buried in the flower beds around the house, if not immediately consumed. Recently, the two have been making shelter in a large split in a hackberry tree just south of our house. I have heard knocking and gnawing from inside, so I imagine they are setting up housekeeping. This is the same tree our long-ago-orphaned squirrel, Frosty, set up his first digs. We will leave their squirrel cage set up on the back porch just in case they need it, but I feel that they are gradually making their way to the woodlands.
I am thankful for being able to observe this time of Punkin and Gambini’s “soft” release into the wild. It is a slow process for squirrels. They are very timid creatures. They venture further into the woods a little at a time, only as they feel secure. We are able to observe how instinct leads these orphans to know how to survive. For now, the two seem to be working together to prepare for the cold winter months ahead, perhaps planning to hole-up as a pair to keep warm. But it will not be long before a less playful squabble will ensue and they will move on as the solitary individuals they were born to be – discovering and accomplishing new things, occasionally indulging in a bit of playfulness, and of course having a real squabble or two every now and then!
© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…