“I did not really know anything about raising a baby squirrel and had to do a lot of research,” Simone said. “I never knew that raising a squirrel could be this hard.”
Simone Serfontein never thought that she would have a pet squirrel. However, she not only wound up being a foster mom to a squirrel but also a foster grandmother to squirrels.
It all started on a cold October day in South Africa.
Simone was at a friend’s house when they saw a baby tree squirrel fall out of a nest. The poor little thing was terrified and crying for its mamma. But its mother never came along.
“We honestly did not think that this tiny thing would make it, but we needed to try and help this baby,” Simone told The Dodo.
The poor baby squirrel was so tiny and young that it barely had any fur.
“When we picked her up her body temperature was very cold and she was obviously very scared,” Simone recalls. “Her eyes were still closed … We kept her nice and warm and she eventually stopped screaming.”
Simone wasn’t about to just let the baby suffer all alone, so she took the squirrel, which she named Dingetjie, home with her. Simone and her boyfriend Christof now had to learn how to raise a baby squirrel, which was kind of like caring for a human baby.
It required her to feed the baby squirrel several times during the night.
So, Simone created Dingetjie a little nest in a shoe box.
“She went with me to work every day for the first three months. I normally fed her when I woke up and then get ready and then she got into my scarf, shirt, or anywhere warm close to my body and off we went to work,” Simone says.
But eventually, Simone know that Dingetjie would have to be released back into the wild.
And she did, but it wasn’t goodbye for good.
“We live in the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa and everything is wild around us,” Simone said. “There are many dangerous animals around us that she can run into and she needed to be ready for that.”
Dingetjie’s animal instincts immediately kicked in when she was let outside.
But she always made sure to come back and visit her human mommy.
“Every day for the first few months was a bit stressful saying goodbye; I always thought that this could maybe be the last time I see her,” Simone said. “But then every day when I came home she would be there either waiting or maybe she’d see me walking home from a tree or something and then a few minutes later she will run inside to come and say hello.”
Eventually, Simone started leaving a window open so that Dingetjie could come and go as she pleased.
When the squirrel was 6-months-old, Simone noticed that her belly was getting pudgy.
“We realized she was picking up a lot of weight,” Simone said. “We knew she made a few squirrel friends but also thought that she was not yet sexually active. We then discovered that she was pregnant.”
Dingetjie ended up staying in Simone’s house for most of her pregnancy. She used toilet paper to create a nest in a drawer.
Unfortunately, her first baby was stillborn.
But Dingetjie ended up getting pregnant again. This time she created several nests in Simone’s home. This time she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
“There is so much trust. She allows us to look, touch and hold her baby,” Simone says. “We never thought she would stay with us. But she chose to.”
Dingetjie now spends most of her time outdoors but knows that Simone’s house is a safe place for her baby.
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