Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

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The Fears Have Washed Away

An eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) sitting on the wooden picnic table in our campsite at Hillsborough River State Park.

Campground Site 028, Hillsborough River State Park, Thonotosassa, Florida: 20 March 2016

part of the Hillsborough River State Park album

I am frequently surprised with how close some animals will approach during my encounters with them in nature. This was certainly the case during a March 2016 family camping trip to Hillsborough River State Park in Thonotosassa, about thirty minutes northeast of Tampa, Florida. Although we saw and were in proximity to numerous animals during our visit, none were more up close and personal than the eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) that visited us in our campsite.

We were sitting around our campfire enjoying a pleasant Sunday afternoon in the woods when a curious squirrel descended a nearby tree and sat on the handrail of a small wooden bridge. It seemed to be checking us out and, much to our amusement, slowly crawled along the handrail and then lounged on it like a cat.

The squirrel then proceeded to jump off of the bridge and slowly circle and approach us from the ground. It then jumped onto the wooden picnic table and observed us from the table's bench opposite from our campfire circle. It seemed to be foraging for food but there was not much available, save for some seeds and acorns here and there, so the bold and brave approach seemed unnecessary although quite friendly.

Full of individuality, this squirrel exhibited a number of amusing behaviors that none of us had quite seen before in garden variety backyard squirrels. One of the behaviors that this squirrel repeated was lifting up its right paw and holding it close to its chest. It was terribly cute and although I was somewhat concerned at first that it might be hurt, we could detect no signs of sickness or injury.

It was not long before the squirrel jumped from the bench to the tabletop and once again executed its slow crawl maneuver to inch closer and closer to us. Within a minute it was laying flat on its belly at the edge of the table.

From the tabletop, the squirrel noticed some seeds and acorns that were on the bench closest to our campfire circle. I was sitting in a chair right next to this bench, but that did not dissuade the squirrel from jumping down to it and pausing to eat the small cache of food rained down from the trees overhead.

There have been so many other times where my camera gear was nowhere in sight when some creatures wandered into our campsite. As you might imagine, I was quite pleased that this was not the case on this occasion. Common, uncommon, large or small — I am always happy to get close portraits of wildlife in nature.

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