In Nature, Mother Knows Best
by Elizabeth Kricfalusi
When five baby Fox squirrels were taken from their nest in March 2009 by trimmers working on a large eucalyptus tree, they couldn’t have known how lucky they were that the tree belonged to Grady Jackson. The Morgan Hill resident, who raises Chesapeake Bay retrievers, didn’t know much about squirrels, but he knew he needed professional advice to help these young and vulnerable animals.
Grady contacted WCSV and was put in touch with June Ferrero, our squirrel team coordinator. She asked him if he saw the mother in the area and, when he said yes, she told him that the best thing to do would be to give the mother a chance to take them back—much to Grady’s surprise. “I thought if humans had touched them, the mommies wouldn’t want them,” he said, a common misconception.
Since he also raises chickens, Grady had some hay to make a small bed for the squirrels. He put them back under the same tree, put his dogs in their kennels, and watched. About half an hour later, June was checking in with him by phone when Grady noticed the mother running along the top of his concrete fence with what he thought was a pine cone. On closer look, though, he realized it was one of her babies! “She grabbed it, and gone she went,” he said with a laugh.
By that time it was starting to get dark out, so Grady brought the remaining four babies inside to spend the night. He didn’t have a heating pad, but then he remembered something he had learned in the Boy Scouts. He took some river rocks from his yard, heated them in his oven, wrapped them in a cloth, and put them under the hay so the babies would keep nice and warm. “They were out like a light,” he said.
The next morning, around 9:00 a.m., he put them under the tree again and, within minutes, the mother was back looking for the rest of her brood. “She was running up and down the tree, down the fence line,” said Grady. “She was a frantic mom.”
Grady and his brother, Tim, sat and watched the show. The mother squirrel returned about every half hour to scoop up another one of her babies, until she’d finally rescued them all. “From start to finish, it took about three hours,” he said.
When asked how he felt about witnessing such a rare event, Grady said he could hardly believe that the mother would go to such trouble to get her babies back. “It was a real eye-opener,” he said. “And to take all five back, that’s like batting a thousand!”
He also expressed his appreciation for the Wildlife Center’s assistance because otherwise he wouldn’t have known that something like this could happen. “I’m very grateful that there was a society out there that was able to inform me,” he said. “And if you have any doubters,” he added, “have them call me. I’ll make them a believer.”
The Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley would also like to thank Grady for his willingness to go the extra mile to help our local wildlife. Those were five very lucky squirrels indeed.