Rainy Day Punkin

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 tore up the back porch screen in early 2015. As many squirrels as we have raised, we decided there was no point in replacing the screen, and removed it instead. But Punkin has learned to climb the screen-less door along the frame all the way to the handle. Her THUMP, as she jumps on the door, is what alerts us to her presence most of the time.

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.

Squirrels are easy to raise and are very sweet in temperament. They are quite timid and insecure as babies.
In the cage, babies feel safe, and are free to roam around. They have a little “nest” box for sleeping and hiding in.
The squirrel complex offers room to roam. A small door allows them to come and go during the day, and at nights we lock them back in to protect from predators.
Punkin was always very possessive about food. All of it was hers!

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.

Punkin in the early days as a one-year-old.
Punkin after having babies September 2019
A very pregnant Punkin in June 2020.
Mama Punkin taking a break from the kids in August 2020. She always came to us for additional nourishment after having babies.
April of 2018 was a tough year for all squirrels in our woodlands when mange or scabies hit the population hard. Fortunately, Punkin was healthy enough to overcome those still cold weeks when she had little hair to protect her.

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.

A robust and healthy Punkin in winter.

© 2020 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

28 thoughts on “Rainy Day Punkin

  1. So glad to see you doing well and learning about Punkin! Your poor screen door OMG. I had a sugar glider when I was younger… it did not go so swell. Here’s to adventure! -Aaron


  2. Gosh, this post really took me back. I can’t believe it has been that many years that I have enjoyed your blog! It is so good to see Punkin looking well. My, she did have mange rather badly, though. It’s probably your supplementary help that made the difference in getting her through it. Thank you for the lovely story, Lori. xx


    1. Thank you, Ardys! Punkin has been a great success story. She’s also helped us understand so much more about the life of a wild squirrel. We will be happy to continue to help her out when she needs additional nutrition and a little shelter on rainy days!

      The time HAS flown. I can’t remember just when our friendship started, but I’m so glad we’ve connected and stayed in touch over the years. Your writing is an inspiration and source of wisdom to me. I feel a deep connection to your thoughts and observations. XOXO

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Squirrels are a lot of fun to raise. It won’t be long and squirrel baby season will be here – usually in late January. It’s easier to raise two or more since they entertain each other. We find them delightful.


  3. What a grand phrase: “the squirrel complex.” From all you’ve described here about your experiences, you must be an expert in squirrel psychology by now. Bet you charge a pretty penny to do counseling as a squirrelologist.

    The name Punkin I get, but Gambini’s gonna take some explaining. Punkin and Gambini sounds like it’s some sort of performing duo on the order of Penn and Teller (magic), Sonny and Cher (singing), Laurel and Hardy (comedy), etc.


    1. Ha ha! Well, the women that brought Gambini had named him Gambit. But that just never felt right. We try to honor or stick to the original as much as we can, so the movie, “My Cousin Vinny” came to mind with the character Vincent Gambini played by Joe Pesci, reminded us a bit of our new charge. And Punkin and Gambini would have been a comedy pair. Oh, the memories. Squirrels are a LOT of fun to raise, and certainly a lot less work than the deer. Sadly, most of our squirrels didn’t stick around long, and maybe they didn’t live long either. Squirrels are the best alertists in the woodlands. They call out all predators moving through the area. Hey, I like that term, squirrelologist!. I’d like to think I’m a cervidaeologist as well!


      1. Speaking of not living long, I found this in the Wikipedia article about fox squirrels (assuming that’s what you have): “In captivity, fox squirrels have been known to live 18 years, but in the wild most fox squirrels die before they become adults. Their maximum life expectancy is typically 12.6 years for females and 8.6 years for males.”


        1. Yes, we have fox squirrels in this area, though just east of here there are gray squirrels. It’s true the males have a shorter and tougher life. Most of the males we have raised came back with all sorts of wounds and injuries. I think males in general have it rough in the wild.


  4. Until now, I don’t know that I would have described a squirrel as sweet considering all the trouble our neighborhood squirrels cause. But that definitely describes Punkin and your natural history of her and squirrels in general raised my appreciation for them. They certainly are fun to watch even when emptying our feeders. It’s impressive how ingenius their solutions are when confronted with some squirrel proofing. After years of watching them shinny up our feeder poles I decided that no squirrel can wrap its arms around a piece of eight inch stove pipe and just to make it tougher I placed a dome at the top of two 24″ lengths.That works just fine until there is snow on the ground which raises them enough to leap atop the dome. If one works that hard the seed is all his/hers. This was a very enjoyable post and the pictures raised the sweetness level. 🙂


    1. We’ve had our share of troubles with squirrels, but we figure they have just as much right to be here as we do. Your squirrel-proofing idea sounds like a good one! I finally gave up on bird feeders – mostly due to hawks and owls sitting around waiting for an easy snack of a smaller breed of bird. But the squirrels made a nuisance of themselves with the feeders too. And lets not mention woodpeckers! They also do a lot of damage to bird feeders! I think all wildlife are clever at getting snacks!! I’m glad my post helped raise the sweetness level for you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. An odd thing happened with WordPress. A lot of my emails, such as this one, ended up in spam. Fortunately I review before deleting. I don’t blame WP, I think Comcast has the worst software at least as an email provider.
        Anyway, I am glad I looked and found your reply.

        I agree about wildlife’s rights to be wherever they are. Most of us live in places that were not human occupied previously. Of course in general that is true for everywhere, but specifically in developed lands where we have spread even farther. Our feeder problems are similar to your except we can add bears to the equation. We no longer feed in warm weather and have to wait until we’re sure hibernation has started before putting seed out. The reality is that most of the time feeding birds is for us and not the various feeder species.Of course the harshest winters do challenge them but for the most part there is food available without our intervention.We haven’t had a problem with woodpeckers damaging the tubes but they, and blue jays, do create a racket splitting open the hulls on our gutters. The squirrels on the other hand chew the soft metal edges of the holes to make the openings larger. One year I bought corn and threw that out for the squirrels and occasional turkey which seems to satisfy them.There were a few predator killings but not too many. I did have to wash blood and guts off my car once after a Cooper’s Hawk dined atop the hood.


        1. Washing the blood and guts off of your car hood made me remember the year crow parents raised their single baby crow on our place. It was truly interesting to watch them, especially teaching the “calls”. Training it to catch small lizards was fascinating too, but when I realized they were using my bird baths, to “clean” the kill, I wasn’t any too happy. Almost daily I found some kind of lizard and small snake remains in the bowls.


  5. I just loved this post. It certainly brought back a host of memories about my time with my squirrel — eight years! I’ve never mentioned this publicly, just because most people would think it weird beyond belief, but when mine was finally furred up and open-eyed, but still needed regular feeding, I’d carry him around in my bra. Fit perfectly, at least for a couple of weeks. They do grow fast! I’ll have to see if I can find the photos of him. I have one of him helping to make coffee in the morning, and one of him on the sailboat. He did love to sail. I suppose the motion of the boat was akin to the swaying of a tree branch.


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