Baby Squirrel Who Fell From Roof Loves Getting Into Trouble
A man and woman were inside their chalet when they heard something "splat" onto the concrete floor. A baby squirrel had fallen from the rafters of the thatched, cone-shaped roof, landing between their beds.
The squirrel was tiny - no bigger than a thumb - and he couldn't survive on his own. His mother must have been nearby because the baby squeaked and squealed for her.
Chris and Debbie Compton gazed up at the chalet's roof, hoping the mother squirrel would return for her baby. After an hour of waiting, they decided to take the squirrel to their friends, Michele and Ian Merrifield, who run Daktari Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage, an organization in Hoedspruit, South Africa, that cares for orphaned and injured wildlife, and teaches local children to care for animals and their environment.
The Merrifields weren't terribly surprised when their friends showed up with a baby squirrel. Squirrels often make their nests in the thatched roofs of local buildings, and it's common for babies to fall from the rafters.
"If there's a threat such as a snake in the thatch, the mothers will carry their babies in their mouths," Ian tells The Dodo. "If the snake chases them, they might drop the baby and run for their lives. We've had many over the years, falling from the roofs and rafters in a similar manner. At one stage we had 10 volunteers at Daktari, and each one had a baby squirrel!"
The baby squirrel, named "Compton" after his rescuers, hadn't opened his eyes yet, so the Merrifields guessed he was only 4 or 5 days old.
Compton was weak, and probably a little concussed from his fall, so Michele and Ian helped him get better by keeping him warm, and feeding him syringes of warm milk every three hours. Compton got his first syringe of milk at 6 a.m. and his last at 9 p.m., consuming 10 to 20 percent of his body weight in milk each day.
After about three weeks, the Merrifields weaned Compton from the milk, and started giving him Pro-Nutro, a nutrient-rich porridge that would help him grow strong. Then, six months later, they started feeding him fruits and seeds.
Compton had an enclosure, and the Merrifields locked him inside at night to keep him safe. But during the day, Compton liked running around the Daktari property, and getting into as much trouble as he could. He especially liked helping himself to food on the breakfast table.
"He loved opening the peanut butter and jam jars with his teeth," says Ian. "He also loved stealing cereal, opening the sealed flaps of the containers. Very clever little fellow."
Compton liked cereal so much, he chewed through the plastic lids. The Merrifields tried keeping the cereal containers upside down to "Compton-proof" them, but this just caused spillage, meaning more cereal for Compton.
This cheeky squirrel also had a sweet tooth, and loved licking leftover Coke from glasses. "He would hang inside the glass, by his back legs, licking it up," says Ian. "Of course, quite often he would knock the glass over, trying to drink it."
Compton didn't mind orange juice, either.
When Compton wasn't eating, he'd venture into the bathroom to steal toilet paper for his nest. "Often the whole roll would go missing because of his antics," Ian says.
Mischief-making can be tiring for a squirrel, so after stealing his daily dose of peanut butter and toilet paper, Compton would lie under the sun, stretching out his tiny body to soak in the heat. He also loved snoozing with the dogs.
By now, Compton had become completely independent, and Ian and Michele decided it was time to release him. They started leaving Compton's enclosure open at night, but for about six months, he continued to sleep there. Then one day, he stopped. "We think he eventually found his own 'home' in the wild," says Ian.
Compton might be a wild squirrel now, but he still returns to Daktari every single day for breakfast.
"I suppose he knows he's safe here, and there's always food," says Ian. "I also think he believes he's human. He chases other squirrels away. I am also sure he believes everything is his, by right! He seems quite upset when you chase him away and really sneaks up again when he thinks you are not looking."
Daktari relies on public donations to run its bush school and wildlife orphanage. You can support Daktari by donating here.
You can also get more involved with Daktari by volunteering as a caretaker and teacher. Find more information about Daktari's volunteer program here.