I got bit by a squirrel. That’s right. A squirrel.
How did I get close enough for that? I don’t typically feed wildlife, but this little animal had been hanging out on our back fence for months. It would sleep sometimes, stretched flat-out on its tummy, and looked so cute. I named it Little Squirrel even though there were often two of them on the fence. They looked exactly alike, interchangeable for me, so I called them both Little Squirrel.
I admit I’ve had mixed feelings about squirrels for years. I have one friend (she lives out in the country) who shoots them in retaliation for doing thousands of dollars in damage to her truck. My mother hated them because they competed for the nuts that grew on her pecan trees. Yes, squirrels could cause problems. But when you’ve seen those fancy long tails, looked into their shiny brown eyes, and witnessed their climbing skills, it’s hard not to be drawn in.
Being a sucker for cute, I started putting a handful of unsalted peanuts on the fence a couple times a day and was thrilled the little animal didn’t run away as I deposited them. I wanted it to trust me. And my husband George knew my fondness for this squirrel so he even took to feeding it when I wasn’t around.
George usually left the jar of peanuts outside after he fed the squirrel and sometimes, we’d find the jar on the ground. Was a strong wind to blame? I didn’t think so. We learned the truth one day when George spotted the squirrel wrestling the jar to the ground in its attempts to open it.
When I picked up the container, Little Squirrel retreated to the fence. I went to the fence and held up a handful of nuts, palm stretched wide, and Little Squirrel took one from me. This was a special moment for me. Why? When I was two and my sister, Debbie, was five, she regularly hand-fed a chipmunk that lived in our yard. She even named it Chippie. But Chippie ran away any time I came near. The two-year-old inside me had been waiting more than six decades for this moment.
I dropped the nuts on top of the fence, right beside Little Squirrel. And what did it do? Grab another? No. It bit my finger. Drew blood, too.
Not okay. No one should bite the hand that feeds them. Did the squirrel feel threatened? Did it mistake a finger for a nut? No idea.
I cleaned the wound, put pressure on it to stop the bleeding, and applied antibiotic gel with a bandage. I hadn’t observed erratic behavior or foaming at the mouth, but still jumped on the Internet to learn what my chances were of contracting rabies from a squirrel. Slim to none. Phew. This was before I learned a squirrel in Colorado had tested positive for bubonic plague.
I was angry, I didn’t provide nuts the next day. Little
Squirrel lay atop the fence for hours, staring at me through the
window and appealing to my love of cuteness. To feed or not to feed….
But guilt finally got to me.
I went back to putting out nuts, only far from where Little Squirrel was sitting, in hopes of avoiding another bite. When it ran towards me, chattering, I wondered if it was thanking me, chastising me, or giving serving instructions. Maybe its feelings were as mixed as mine.
Photo property of the author.
Both Little Squirrels were asleep on the fence another day. Moments later, they were awake and mating, having squirrel relations right in front of me. Alrighty, then.
That’s when I decided to close the blinds. No need to see all the interesting things that happen on the fence.