Last December I mentioned the furry forest friends we met during the pandemic. Baby Squirrel and later Big Mama became hand-fed squirrels. I don’t think of them as pets but more like hairy long-term campers that scrounge for food around our neighborhood. But also happen to be cute so we don’t mind them.
I’m not a squirrelologist and do not have any degrees in squirrelchitecture but I have noticed a few things about our backyard buddies.
Squirrels tend to be pretty territorial. Big Mama used to get jealous Baby Squirrel was getting free nuts from me and would try to chase him off. I was mad at her at the time, but once Baby Squirrel left (or perished) she was the only squirrel game in town. So we were cool.
A Well Red Squirrel
Recently, Big Mama was attacked by something, I’m guessing a hawk, and lost two large patches of hair on her back, sports some scabs and her left leg doesn’t seem to work right. She has taken to spending more time on the ground than we see her in the tree and her color has changed from a grey to a reddish hue. I tried googling this and read that squirrels can change their color in the winter. But…
It seems like it could be one of three things:
- She Durty. The red dirt in our backyard might be getting into her fur and it is that color I am noticing.
- Squirrels are… Chameleons? Can a squirrel match their fur to its environment? They blend in pretty well with the trees. If a squirrel spends time near reddish dirt, can its fur turn a reddish color?
- Eating humans pecans. I buy Natural Grocers Raw Organic Pecans (because I like them) and that is what we feed our squirrels. Knowing we are a source for easy pecans, is that all she eats? Does her diet get the normal variation that a squirrel requires? She isn’t digging for buried nuts…maybe there is something like a fermentation process they require.
In addition to Big Mama, there is a squirrel we call Pierced Ear Squirrel (there is a notch in her ear) who has been approaching us for nuts.
As we have been… grooming… Pierced Ear Squirrel, she has been less and less afraid of us. Both squirrels tend to come in the morning for breakfast and Pierced Ear will run off Big Mama so you have to leave their nuts far away from each other. At one point it was enough that a human was outside with Big Mama so she could eat in peace.
How can I pet a Squirrel?
You might be wondering how you can get a handfed squirrel of your own. It helps if you first take in an infant squirrel that doesn’t know any better, will eat pecans out of your hands and other squirrels see your kindheartedness and love of nature.
But if you don’t have that, first find a place where squirrels congregate. Put out a handful of pecans and watch from afar while the squirrels eat them. Feed them every day staying a little closer while the squirrels eat, eventually feeding them from your hand. When you start feeding by hand, be really still and don’t give eye contact. As the squirrels get used to you, you can start petting them on the head.
We had Baby Squirrel who Big Mama would watch feast on pecans from our hands. Once Baby Squirrel was gone and Big Mama was chummy with us Pierced Ear Squirrel is now edging closer and closer. This morning she actually smelled my hand about an inch away from my finger!