By guest writer Hodari Nundu
It all began when my sister (back then we were both in junior high) found three baby rock squirrels (Spermophilus variegatus), with their eyes still closed, and lying seemingly "abandoned" in the school's grounds (which were near an uninhabited ravine and so were crawling with animals of all sorts, including armadillos, skunks, frogs, caecilians, small snakes, a huge diversity of moths and very large beetles).
If I had been there when she found them, I would have told her that mother rock squirrels often move their babies from one burrow to another and that it was probably going to return for them, but I wasn’t, so the squirrels ended up in our house, where my sister and my father tried to bottle feed them (they had successfully bottle fed a newborn kitten at about the same time so I guess they were feeling confident) but unfortunately two of the squirrels died, and only one survived, a female.
And so the horror began.
Rock squirrels are very aggressive. Colomos Park in Guadalajara is home to both Mexican gray squirrels, which live in trees, and rock squirrels, and when people feed peanuts to the squirrels, the rock squirrels are always dominant and chase the gray squirrels away, hogging all the attention (and the peanuts) and biting fingers in the process. In this same park I have seen fierce battles between the rock squirrels themselves and many of them are covered with scars, or have missing ears or chewed up tails from past battles. Anyway, the squirrel at home started out playful—chasing and fighting the cats and just being hyperactive as one would expect a squirrel to be—but then it started charging at everyone in the house, tail all puffed up and making a sound like a rattle which was its battle cry.
It got to the point where the lady who helped us with the chores would climb up chairs in fear whenever she saw the squirrel (or "el ardillo" as she called it), and there wasn’t one person in the house who didn’t get bitten in the toes or ankles by the squirrel. It became so bad-tempered that it had to be kept in a wire cage, where I (a kid after all) would torment it by blowing air in its face, which it hated, but it seemed fair to me because it had bitten me many times already.
Eventually the squirrel was moved to a larger cage built for it in the yard, but it then started gnawing at the wires trying to escape, until its mouth and teeth were all bloody and the decision was made to release it into the wild.
We took it to the grounds of a seminary, where we had seen plenty of rock squirrels as well as other animals such as skunks. We knew that the squirrel would probably have a shorter life now, but thought that at least it would get to live like it was intended to instead of going crazy(er) in a cage. As soon as the animal carrier was opened the squirrel leaped into the grass and disappeared. We never knew what became of it. If rock squirrels are anything like rats or other rodents I suppose the local squirrels may have killed the intruder but then again, it was a vicious little beast so, who knows?
Photo courtesy of Hodari Nundu