A biologist named Katie LaBarbera accidentally overheard her neighbors talking outside her window. Their car wouldn’t start after it hasn’t been driven for some time.
When the couple opened the hood, they found a pile of branches and leaves all piled inside the car engine compartment. LaBarbera was Intrigued and went to see if they needed some help.
This bunch of leaves in the engine compartment was actually a squirrel nest. Looking inside, LaBarbera noticed a fluffy brown face staring at her from between the engine components. She instantly recognized it was a squirrel, and in the nest there were her tiny pink newborn babies.
This evening I heard a neighbor talking outside my window: “Yeah, it won’t start, I think the battery’s dead. ....oh my god!!! I think it’s a squirrel! Is it nesting?!?”— Katie LaBarbera, PhD (@FeatheredKatie) March 28, 2020
So I popped right out and asked if I could look. Well: pic.twitter.com/P5SUJTB8f1
“Far and away the best option would have been to close the hood and not use the car for a month, but my neighbor wasn’t a fan of that idea,” LaBarbera said on Twitter. “So I grabbed a box and put the nest-plus-babies inside.”
“Squirrels make multiple nests,” she added. “So I was hoping we could convince Mom to take her babies to a different nest.”
And in the nest, sure enough: four pink babies pic.twitter.com/1BoSHmCAmQ— Katie LaBarbera, PhD (@FeatheredKatie) March 28, 2020
LaBarbera positioned the box next to a big tree and waited for mom squirrel to smell out her newborns. She realized time was running out as it was nearly dusk, and if she didn’t find her youngsters before nightfall, she might not take them at all.
“I put the box next to her tree, but she wasn’t sure what to make of it,” LaBarbera said. “She was furious at us and not connecting the box to her babies.”
I put the box next to her tree, but she wasn’t sure what to make of it. She was furious at us and not connecting the box to her babies. pic.twitter.com/sD5w1KuNM0— Katie LaBarbera, PhD (@FeatheredKatie) March 28, 2020
LaBarbera had to get mom’s attention, so she took one of the babies out of the box. Gloves would be useful, but she didn’t have them with her at the time.
Annoyed by the movement, the baby whined and, quickly, mom appeared. She immediately looked inside the box, and she seemed relieved that her babies were safe and sound.
I had noticed while moving the nest that the babies could be inspired by motion to make noise. I tried picking up a baby (normally I’d do this with gloves, but who has gloves now??) and it helpfully squeaked, and then suddenly - Mom was there! pic.twitter.com/28w4lbzRvc— Katie LaBarbera, PhD (@FeatheredKatie) March 28, 2020
“She ran through a neighbor’s yard, under a fence, up the trunk of a large tree just starting to bud, and disappeared into a hole at the base of a large branch,” LaBarbera said. “After that she didn’t need any help: She knew where her babies were. One by one, she came and fetched the remaining three.”
After that she didn’t need any help: she knew where her babies were. One by one she came and fetched the remaining three. pic.twitter.com/akCAETYHbe— Katie LaBarbera, PhD (@FeatheredKatie) March 28, 2020
LaBarbera was delighted she was able to bring together a worried mom and her babies, and she will keep an eye on the cute family until the babies are all grown up.
And for people who aren't using their cars much these days, she has a message: "Check your engines for squirrel babies!"