A Squirrel In The Owl Box

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

        Maybe it was just curious, just checking the box out for future use.  As I watched hummingbirds chase each other from the feeder, a small brown head popped out of the owl box entrance.  A squirrel.  I like squirrels; they are cute and funny, but we don’t want them taking over our owl boxes and two nesting seasons have gone by without screech owls raising a clutch in our box for no reason we could figure out. 

        I grabbed a nearby broom nearby and banged on the owl box pole.  The squirrel jumped out immediately, hopped on top of the box and launched itself to a tree branch.  “She” ran up and down tree branches and along the fence, stopping halfway to bark at me.  It was an angry tirade.  After sitting for a few minutes, she ran back to the trees, jumped on the owl box roof, and slipped into the entrance.  Again I knocked on the pole with the broom handle, and again she popped out, chattering angrily, frantically.  She perched on a nearby oak branch, looking straight at me sitting at the patio table. 

       She has something in there; she has babies in the box, I guessed.  So, I waited as she stared at me, ran up and down the tree trunk, then climbed to an overhanging branch and flew to the box.  In a minute or two she came out of the entrance holding something round and brown in her mouth.  A baby squirrel.  She jumped to the owl box roof, then flew to a branch which was yards away. She held that baby in her mouth, ran up tree branches to the fence, then along the top of the fence and down into the next yard.  I am in awe of her. 

       When Tim returned from his bike ride, we watched the squirrel scurry back along the fence to the trees, to the box, and retrieve another baby.  Tim was going to block the entrance, but I suggested waiting to give the squirrel a chance to take her babies out of the box.  And she did.  She came back for a third baby.  By that time, we put Daisy in the house and I waited and watched. 

        She came back two more times, entered the box, jumped on the roof, then ran back along the fence.  She would stop along the fence, staring at where I was sitting, obviously stressed by my presence, so I waited inside, watching from the kitchen windows.  I felt so bad for her then, evicting her, even as I admired her.  Such a devoted and protective mother.  Such agility and skill.  How did she do it?  How did she fly across from box to branch without dropping a baby?

        Later I checked the yard around the trees and fence to make sure a baby squirrel wasn’t left behind, or lost – which is probably why the squirrel returned two   times.  She was probably just checking to see she didn’t leave a baby behind.  Was she counting?  Did she think she lost one?  That squirrel is awesome and a part of me would have welcomed watching baby squirrels grow up. 

Christine Baleshta