A strange humorous episode occurred at our cabin over the last couple of days.
For the last few summers, a red squirrel has taken over a tree cavity outside our gallery window. Usually she has the youngsters elsewhere, then moves them in to the cavity at about a week to ten days old. Well, this year we watched a female gather grasses and line the cavity for days as she obviously became more and more pregnant. Then one day she could no longer fit her growing belly into the hole. Fight as she might she could not squirm in more than half her body length. She backed out and tried different angles. No luck. All that preparing her birthing chamber for nothing.
The next morning, a different squirrel arrived with two week old kids. She shoved one after another inside, but the final one would not allow himself to be pushed in. She tried and tried but finally gave up and left him hanging to the trunk just below the cavity.
Slowly, inch by inch, the baby squirrel would loose his grip and slide down farther and farther from the hole. Eventually he landed on the ground. We were considering putting him in the cavity ourselves when the female re-appeared to pick him up and try again to shove him into the cavity. No luck. Once again she left him hanging below the hole, but this time the little fella was able to pull himself up and over into the cavity. The saga was over.
It reminds one how fragile life is for the forest youngsters. At any time a fox, coyote, marten, weasel or hawk could have appeared and ended the babys life before it had a chance to start. How many times do you come across a mother grouse with 8-10 chicks in the spring, then see a mother grouse in the fall and find only 2-3 young?
Something to remember. When ever a youngster dies, it serves as food for the youngsters of another family.