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How 'Wild' is a Wild Squirrel - how hard can it be to get one to hand-feed?

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Published on Nov 22, 2011

It seems that wild animals will trust humans, if they think that humans will:

(1) Feed them.
(2) Play with, and be kind to, them.
(3) Feed them.

So, this is one of the 'wild' red squirrels at the Alverstone Mead Nature Reserve, on the Isle of Wight. I understand that the 'hide' was constructed about 15 years ago, and several generations of red squirrels will have learned that humans come here to leave food.

Armed with 35 hazelnuts, and some other edibles, I arrived in the morning, to find several squirrels feeding. As fast as I could put out the hazelnuts, on the obvious photographic spot outside the 'hide', the squirrels were running off with them; disaster for 'still' photography. Many blurred and out of focus pictures resulted. All the while, up to three squirrels were chomping away in the 'hide', just a few feet behind me.

Early on, I managed to get one squirrel to take a nut from my hand. Down to just three nuts, I wondered whether I could get movie 'footage' of a squirrel taking a nut from me. On my last nut, success!!!

Not as easy as it might appear in the edited version! The squirrel charged around all over the place, into the hide, where he knocked some food onto the floor, discovered my tripod, and eyed up the camera! Finally, he went where I wanted him to. A few minutes later, he came up to say "Hello!", and didn't seem to understand that he'd eaten the last nut. More nuts, next time!

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