Monday, December 1, 2014

Bushy-Tailed Condo

The instincts that animals have always fascinates me. Ten squirrels Jean released back in April, eight in Oklahoma and two in Virginia, were orphans that had been rescued and brought to her when only a few days old. With no parents to teach them how to survive, their instincts nevertheless kicked in and they started building a couple large nests within minutes of being released. Jean had been feeding them different types of feed suited to their ages, but still they started foraging for food, and as time passed, they found the commercial food less and less desirable. The food didn’t go to waste, however, as we discovered that some of the food left at the base of a tree for the squirrels was being eaten by deer, including a couple fawns.

I took this picture of the nest box next to the canoe just
so you can better gauge its size.
Jean released two more rescued orphan squirrels a couple weeks ago, a male and a female. She is more concerned about these. Unlike the other squirrels that have had an entire summer to mature and prepare for winter, these two are going out into the world in the fall with freezing temperatures and ice and snow storms expected at any time. Jean read an article that revealed that a full 40% of juvenile squirrels in Michigan perish in their first winter due to inadequate shelter and preparation, thus Jean decided that since I have some time on my hands, I should build a nest box. Admittedly, our winters are much more survivable than those of Michigan, but with all the work she has put into raising them, she wanted to improve their chances of survival.

Sixteen feet off the ground.
As you can see from the picture, the nest box is really good size---22” tall in the back and 9 ¼” on each side. The entrance hole is 3” in diameter. It took about four hours to build, including shopping for the wood. An error in the design was discovered for the top of the box. It was also shown as 9 ¼” wide, but that fit into the sides of the box rather than covering the sides, leaving plenty of room for melting snow, ice, and cold rain to get inside. It also allowed moisture into the end-grain of the wood to promote rot. The top should be at least 10 ¾” wide. I also added a shelf to the front so they can more easily enter and exit the box. I offered several options for finishing the box to protect the wood, but Jean opted to leave it natural. Bright colors attract predators, and even stains worried her about the chemicals involved. Even natural, we should get three or four years service out of it. Once done, the directions called for the box to be set in a tree 10-30 feet off the ground. My small ladder helped me get it up about 16 feet, and that will have to do.

Open house
If you have interested in building shelters for different types of animals and birds, the link below will take you to a site with plans for 16 different critter shelters from something as small as a bat to as large as a Great Blue Heron.

Ahhh. Home Sweet Home
Last night was 20-degrees. The squirrels experimented with the nest box for some time, but with the cold nights appear to have moved in full-time. The loss of the leaves from the tree, the absence of pecans this year, and high winds tearing apart their home of leaves and twigs, the nest box and Jean’s feeding should get them safely through the winter.


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