Watching and learning from a family squirrels

Published March 23 2013

Whenever I find a little free time, I sit on the back porch appreciating the sight and sounds of nature.

I especially enjoy the squirrels running around outside climbing the trees and chasing each other playfully. They take a break, see me through the screen, sit straight, munch on the nuts between their front legs and smile in between showing off their small and sharp teeth.

One day my wife brought to my attention a small hole at the bottom of the pool screen made by the senior squirrel so his family and friends can come in and play.

After a few weeks, I caught the senior squirrel jumping down five to six feet on to the top of the big hibiscus plant by the pool through a meticulously crafted circular hole at the top of the screen, right above the plant. The rest of the family came through the bottom hole.

I was astonished after a few more weeks to see the senior squirrel climbing up the hibiscus plant and jumping up several feet through the air and getting out through the same hole at the top of the screen. I could not believe his acrobatic skills.

My wife was very worried about his safety and had the hole at the top of the screen sealed by a handyman several times. The materials were no match for the squirrel’s sharp teeth.

Then, the squirrels learned to make their way into the first floor attic, jumping from tree branches and crawling through the gable vent to play in the insulated attic any time of the day or night. My wife reached her threshold. She called the handyman again and had screens put up covering both sides of the gable vents.

Right after the handyman left, we were about to leave for the airport to attend a family function out of state. As we were pulling the car out of the garage, we heard the squirrels running in the attic. They must have hidden or played dead while the handyman worked on the vents.

We looked at each other. We knew what we had to do. We canceled the trip and called the handyman back to let the squirrels out. He then reinforced the screens for the vents.

After a few days, while my wife was away, I received a call at the office from the security company that our house alarm had been tripped and they called the police. As I pulled into my driveway, I was greeted by the senior squirrel with what I thought was a mischievous smile. I knew what it meant.

He climbed about 20 feet of the bare wall and crafted a similar, small circular hole in the screen covering the vent on the second floor. That tripped the alarm even though he could not get in.

My wife was not happy. These animals are trespassing, she said. Really, who owned the land before us? I asked. Originally the land belonged to the squirrels, even before Native Indians, I pointed out.

We decided to be tolerant. After all, they tolerated us all these years. In a place where most of the people come from somewhere else, the squirrels existed for a long time and they will be here after we exit.

They are well-known for good qualities like working hard, saving for the future, playing for fun and displaying community spirit. They show the essentials for long-term survival. They are also good at accommodating, adjusting and adopting.

If only we humans could learn.

This article was originally published in the Tampa Bay Times:

Rao Musunuru, M.D. Mini Bio

Dr. Rao Musunuru, who has called Pasco County his home since 1981, was instrumental in transforming a 50-bed rural hospital into a 290-bed Heart Institute at Bayonet Point/Hudson Regional Medical Center. He has received numerous awards and continually serves the community at large through education and philanthropy.