Yesterday brought a quiet, drizzly morning. The day promised increasing wind and dropping temperatures with a chance of snow, so I took my time getting outside to do deer and chicken chores. The weather radar showed a slight clearing in the next hour so I decided to wait for that opportunity to tend to the chickens and deer. Meanwhile, a loud THUMP at the back door let me know my rainy day girl had arrived.
Punkin the squirrel came to us in August of 2014. The woman who brought her said she was visiting with a neighbor when she saw something fall out of a tree, hit the garage roof and roll to the edge, and finally falling on the cement driveway. The baby squirrel looked unharmed by the fall, but there was no getting that baby back up in the nest, high in a tree. A couple of weeks later, we also took in a little male squirrel. He was malnourished and in poor shape. His mother had been hit by a vehicle on a city street while apparently in the process of moving her baby to a different nest. Fortunately, a woman that lived nearby found him near her house, crying out. Punkin was much bigger than Gambini and, though she tolerated him, she was every bit about herself! Punkin was fearless, while Gambini was timid and afraid of everything.
By the time we moved the duo out to the squirrel complex on the back porch, Punkin was already showing signs of being ready to explore the wild. She was the first to leave the complex and move about on the back porch, even venturing out to a nearby tree or two. Squirrels do best with a “soft” release, where they are able to move out on their own, but still can find food and shelter in their old digs – the complex. By the following spring, Punkin had set out to the north, in the neighbor’s woolly backyard. I watched her come to our back porch for food every so often, but it was evident she was faring well in the wild, eating new leaf shoots and other spring greens. Gambini headed to the west, where I often found him with a lot of other squirrels down at the deer feeders. Eventually, we didn’t see him anymore, but Punkin remained.
At times, we may not see Punkin for weeks or even a few months. She has adapted to her life in the wild very well, despite constant threats from predators like raptors, foxes and coyotes. She has raised several litters of babies, and visits often when she needs additional nourishment. A lactating mother gets mighty thin! She’s come back with wounds at times, and once she suffered mange, like many squirrels in the woodlands did that year. Through all, Punkin has survived.
But one thing we have always been able to count on with Punkin, are visits on a rainy or snowy day. On those days, she will spend the entire day camped out on the back porch, eating, resting and flopped over a porch rail looking out to the canyon. This winter, we have had lots of inclement days, so we have seen her quite a bit. I don’t mind. Punkin is getting rather old for a squirrel in the wild, and it’s the holidays after all.
May we all find welcome and love at that place we call home – for holidays, certainly, but especially when rainy days and hard times come along.
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