Baby and juvenile animals are starting to pop up all over PAWS Lynnwood Campus as the breeding season continues to progress. This is a fun time of year in that the youngsters are inexperienced and less wary than their parents and this makes them much easier to observe than the elusive adults. A pair of young Eastern Gray Squirrels I encountered last week were shining examples of this young naivete. One of them was sitting on a weathered log, sampling different items to see if they were edible. You can't see it in the photo below, but the squirrel is tasting a bit of mossy bark.
Finding the bark unsatisfying, the squirrel next clipped off a nearby blackberry leaf and began to nibble on its stem.
On a nearby branch, a squirrel that I presume was a sibling of the first squirrel sat and sampled some other bit of prospective food. The second squirrel appeared to have an injured right eye as he was unable to open it all the way.
The squirrel with the injured eye jumped over onto the log next to his sibling. He paused for a second to inspect me with his undamanged left eye.
Apparently finding me unthreatening, the squirrel then picked up the blackberry leaf that his sibling had just dropped and began to nibble on it.
He found the leaf just as distasteful as the first squirrel did. He dropped it and looked at me again with his good eye before disappearing behind the log.
Meanwhile, the first squirrel had moved about six feet away to the base of a tree. She had discovered a promising piece of bark on which she was nibbling eagerly.
The squirrel didn't seem to be enjoying the bark very much, but she must have decided it was worth saving for later. She began to dig a whole in which she could hide the woody prize.
After digging for a few moments, the squirrel looked up at me with the bark still in her mouth. It was as if she had realized that if I saw where she buried her treasure, I might decide to dig it up myself.
She repositioned herself about six inches to her right and burind the bark in a spot that was just barely obscured from my view by the tree trunk.
Despite the new, and improved hiding spot, after the bark was buried, the squirrel still seemed to feel like there was a chance I would dig it up. She looked at me warily.
She then repositioned herself between me and the hiding spot and began to nibble nervously on a clump of dirt. I left at that point, because I didn't want her to feel uncomfortable and because I didn't want to scare her away with my laughter.
Baby animals are EVERYWHERE right now and will continue to be for the next few months. They are inexperienced and very vulnerable to the world. Please watch out for these little guys and help to keep them out of harm's way. Also, although it is always important to keep your cats safely contained and and your dogs on leash (especially in parks/natural areas), right now it is especially crucial that you do so. Newly born and hatched wild lives are depending on you!
Photos and words by Kevin Mack, PAWS Naturalist