A lot of drama occurs in nature, and sometimes they leave the observer mystified about why certain things are happening the way they are.
One of the biggest dramas associated with squirrels is the movement of baby squirrels from nest to nest by the mother squirrels.
The mother carries out her actions energetically, and it is a beauty to observe. However, many people wonder why she carries out the exhaustive act.
This article aims to uncover the reasoning behind the movement and how the mother squirrel does it.
Reasons Mother Squirrels Relocate Their Babies
One of the actions the mother squirrel performs while the baby squirrels are dependent on her is to transfer them from nest to nest. As she is very protective, she doesn’t perform this action lightly. There are usually strong reasons behind her actions, and they are:
1. To Protect The Babies From Danger
Many wildlife animals protect their young ones in various forms. For mother squirrels, protection involves relocating her litter’s nest. When a mother squirrel is preparing for her litter’s birth, she creates multiple nests in the same area in case of potential relocation.
When the mother squirrel spots a predator close to the nest, she begins the process of relocating. Once an intruder disturbs the nest, she abandons the nest and moves to a more secure one. The new nest is usually on the same tree but at a higher level.
A simple act such as shaking the nest is enough to trigger the mother squirrel. She identifies the nest she wishes to move the litter and proceeds to move them one by one.
She gently holds the baby with her mouth, then swiftly crawls and leaps the distance to the new nest. When she gets to the new nest, she stuffs the baby squirrel into the hole.
Once the young are safely deposited, the mother squirrel scurries to a nearby branch and collapses. Whether large or small, the mother squirrel carries the baby squirrel to the new nest as it is still under her protection.
The act is usually exhaustive. The mother rests on the nearby branch, closing her eyes for a few minutes before starting the process over again until all the babies are successfully transferred.
2. To Provide A Bigger Nest For The Growing Litter
When the mother squirrel notices that movement in her current nest is limited and her litter is growing beyond the size, she relocates them to a bigger nest.
In this situation, she searches beyond the tree housing the current nest for adequate space. When she finds a comfortable cavity or branch, she builds the nest – drey – by interweaving twigs, moss, grass, leaves, bark, feathers, and fur.
The nests are usually at least 30 feet above the ground and shaped like a globe. Due to the similar location, squirrel nests are usually confused as bird nests by humans, but birds do not use leaves when making their nests.
3. To Protect The Litter From Harsh Weather Conditions
During wet and stormy weather, mother squirrels can also be seen relocating her litter.
If her current nest is unable to protect her litter during heavy rainfall, the mother squirrel temporarily moves them to a cavity within the same tree to protect them from the weather. Holes within tree made by other animals offer more protection than open nests on branches.
Once the weather returns to normal, the mother squirrel either returns to the old nest or creates a new nest in the cavity.
When the baby squirrels gain enough survival skills, they venture out on their own and never return. The young squirrels leave before they are 12 weeks old; this is usually before the arrival of another litter. Before they go, the mother squirrel effectively performs her role and is very protective of her babies.
Resistance By Baby Squirrels During The Relocation
The mother squirrel’s courage and hard work when relocating her litter are to be commended. As she transfers the babies one after the other, the first baby doesn’t put up much of a fight while relocating, but this is not the case for the other babies.
The ones not carried watch their mother inquisitively from the old nest and develop an opposition for the entire process. When the mother is done resting, and she moves to take another squirrel, the baby fights with all its might to prevent the mother squirrel from placing it in her mouth.
When the mother squirrel successfully secures the baby and moves it to the new nest, another resistance is encountered as the baby tries to avoid being deposited in the new nest.
Despite the trial the mother goes through to transfer the successive babies, she never gives up and continues the procedure until all her litter members are in the new nest. This shows how dedicated mother squirrels are to protecting their litter.
Reproduction In Squirrels
Squirrels reproduce twice a year – during winter and early summer. After mating, female squirrels gestate for an average period of 45 days and deliver their litter during early spring or late summer.
Each litter consist of about 3 babies that rely on the mother for food and protection.
Squirrels are polyandrous, and there is no limit to the number of females a single male squirrel fertilizes per season. Once mated, the male squirrel leaves the female and may only return to mate again. The female is alone during the pregnancy and single-handedly takes care of the litter after birth.
Nature’s beauty lies with observing growth, movement, and reproduction. The little things such as watching a squirrel move its baby can be just as beautiful as a flower blooming or birds flying in formation. But all of these would be lost to us if we don’t take time to observe it as it is happening.
Next time you see a squirrel moving its baby, be sure to appreciate its protective instincts. Also, have your camera ready to shoot some beautiful moments!