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They’ll move right in if you let them

Mrs. Squirrel’s nest in my attic

For a year or two, I have been chasing a pesky squirrel off the deck. My argument with it (she turned out to be a she) was that she had plenty of space in the woods, so go home. She also loved climbing on the house. She would often sit on the deck railing and scratch, and I blame her for the case of fleas that Lily — a house cat — acquired last fall. Some months ago she started gnawing on a ventilator grill about twenty feet up the back of the house. I chased her away and threw potatoes at her more than once.

Then I heard a scratching noise in the attic. She had gotten in. I tried to plug the hole as a temporary fix. She gnawed around it. Two weeks ago, I went up to investigate the scratching and found four baby squirrels. Mommy left when she heard me coming, but the babies were sound asleep. They were several weeks old, I’m sure, because they had plenty of fur and were the size of two-week-old kittens. I was defeated. What choice do I have but to let them live there until the babies are grown?

I checked on the babies today after seeing Mrs. Squirrel in the front yard eating leaves of some sort. She had brought in litter and had built a very snug squirrel’s nest, because the weather has turned cold. I heard rustling inside the nest but didn’t disturb the babies.

Mrs. Squirrel has become shameless, though I have not tried to tame her. I scold her, and she just looks at me and barks. She’s also curious about the grill on the deck. Either she’s trying to get inside it, or she smells food. She gets close enough to me that I can see her wet little teats.

Living up against the woods as I do, it would be easy to be too lenient with all the creatures needing safe homes and a handout. It’s a forest, really, and there are coyotes and an occasional bear. Mrs. Squirrel wouldn’t mind the deer, but there are plenty of owls and hawks. If it’s safety that she’s looking for here, then she’s less afraid of me than what’s in the woods. I’m flattered. But if the doors here stayed open for too long, I’d soon have opossums, raccoons, and skunks, all expecting supper, and a warm fire, and bedtime stories. The voles, at least, stay in the basement. A few weeks ago I discovered that Mrs. Raccoon was bringing her three children to eat the leftovers that I put out in the backyard for the possum. She’d be among the first to arrive.

I can imagine worse neighbors, though.

Mrs. Squirrel, eating for five

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