It’s really hard to turn away when you find an injured person or animal. Simone Serfontein from South Africa definitely knows this feeling. In October of 2016, she found a baby squirrel who fell out of a tree and her mother was nowhere to be found.
Simone knew that the squirrel would never survive in the wild alone, so decided to raise her and named her Dingetjie
But no matter how cute these little animals are, “raising a Squirrel is definitely not an easy task,” Simone admits. “For the first few weeks I fed her every hour, even at night I normally set my alarm to feed her and help her with the ‘bathroom situation’,” she explained. For three whole months, Simone brought her new little friend to work and let Dingetjie sleep close to her body.
“I got her a small shoebox with some blankets inside, but she did not want to sleep in at all. She felt warm and safe with me and to this today she still sleeps in the bed with me.” Slowly Dingetjie has become a beloved pet. “We used to always take her with us when traveling and she always seemed to enjoy it. She would get out of her traveling cage in the car and get onto our shoulders and just enjoy the road trip with us.”
But Simone knew that she eventually would have to release her to the wild. And when that time came, Dingetjie decided that she didn’t want to say goodbye to her rescuer. After spending some time outside for the first time, she came back to the house she was raised in. Simone says, that allowing her to stay outside has become a daily routine. “Dingetjie almost always came back in the evening. There were only 3 nights when she slept outside but returned in the morning”.
Instead of a tree, the squirrel picked out a drawer in the house and made a nest in it out of toilet paper.
However, her first pregnancy was complicated. “She was not ready, and the natural instincts did not kick in as it should have. She fell asleep during birth and we had to keep her awake and help her get the baby out. This process took about an hour and the baby did not turn and come out tail first. We knew the baby was not alive and still had some hope but unfortunately, it was stillborn.”
But things went a lot better with her second pregnancy. “We noticed that she’s quite fat but overall she was always bigger than the normal female tree squirrel. It was only a few weeks before she gave birth that I felt and saw the baby moving in her tummy.”
In April she gave birth to Tinkie in the nest she made in Simone’s closet. Sadly Dingetjie’s baby passed away a few months later. Last year, in September, she gave birth to another baby – Mistie. And once again Simone had a chance to raise a baby squirrel because Dingetjie was not producing any milk.