Meet this curious NJ squirrel that walks right up to you
Something you don't see every day in New Jersey. When wildlife walks right up to you without you doing anything to prompt it.
This is something that happened to me while working on my laptop at Monmouth County's Thompson Park in Lincroft. I was just sitting there minding my own business when all of a sudden, this little squirrel approached me.
This happened toward the end of the summer in 2022. I happened to be off from work that day and was bringing my kids to one of their summer camps for the day (the Monmouth County Park System has some fantastic programs year-round for children and teens).
Since I was looking to try out my new hot spot remotely, I decided to bring my laptop along to see if I could sign into everything from the park. I knew the hot spot worked since I've used it at home during power outages, I just haven't tried it anywhere outside my house.
So after I dropped off the kids, I proceeded further into the park to an area that had picnic benches. This area was between one of their walking trails and a playground and wasn't too far from the parking lot. An absolutely perfect spot to give this a try.
As I'm rolling along on my laptop trying everything out to see if it would work with the hot spot, I noticed a squirrel in one of the trees not too far from me. After a while, I noticed it looking my way. No big deal, I figure it was just doing its thing.
But then, it climbed out of the tree and started heading my way. Slowly, the squirrel continued to approach. Just as I started thinking it wanted to come toward me, it stopped to pick up something off the ground to eat.
At this moment I'm thinking it just saw something it wanted that happened to be near me. All way good for the time being. When it was done eating, however, the squirrel started looking my way once again. Only this time, it did come for me.
This little guy came so close that I thought it was going to jump on the bench with me. I kid you not, this squirrel had no fear. But it wasn't being aggressive or anything, it was just highly unusual to me for a squirrel to come so close.
I decided to walk up and move to another picnic table, just to see what it would do. Sure enough, it hopped into the picnic table I was just at. And after a little bit, it started looking my way and began to approach me yet again.
But this time, something distracted it in the tree and it made a sudden turn back up. And after a bit, I started to piece together why it was probably so brave.
As I mentioned earlier, I was right by a playground. Based on the location, as well as the way the squirrel was looking at me, it occurred to me that kids probably feed it and that's why it was so comfortable approaching me.
It made total sense. That would also explain why instead of it showing fear or acting aggressively as it approached, it went on its back legs and gave a look almost like how a dog might when it's begging for food.
The squirrel was most likely checking me out to see if I had anything I could give it. This all occurred during the morning hours while I was there.
Little did I know that when my wife picked up our kids during the afternoon that she would go to that very same spot to let my sons play at the playground. And guess who paid them a visit?
Yep, the squirrel went to her. In fact, it also approached my sons when they walked over. Crazy how brave this little guy was. But it does go to show you how much we can change the behavior of wildlife when we feed them.
This wild squirrel was harmless toward us, but what would've happened if it got so brave that it became aggressive? What's more, what if it got aggressive toward kids?
It's why it's better to let wildlife be. No matter how cute a wild animal might act, you never know when it'll lose its fear of us and something unfortunate happens as a result.
For now, though, this little guy doesn't seem like it's anywhere near that point. But we should resist feeding it so it doesn't get the idea that it's OK to get aggressive, should it not get what it wants.
Yes, squirrels are naturally curious and may only be watching to see what you're going to do. Nevertheless, we don't want to give it the wrong idea.
Your experiences with wild squirrels
When I first talked about this on-air, I asked if any of you ever experienced anything like this. And I have to say, some of you had some interesting stories.
Carrol from Trenton, for example, ended up making a friend with a wild squirrel. Over time the squirrel got used to meeting her in her yard and she would feed it nuts. The squirrel never got aggressive and eventually became a reliable companion that would come to visit regularly.
Then there's Mike from North Brunswick, who had a very different experience. He was sitting outside one day when this squirrel decided to approach him on the front stoop of his apartment. But after that, the squirrel entered the apartment and he had to coax it out with peanuts.
And Estell from Allentown also had a unique experience. In her case, a squirrel kept coming to her window and would eventually knock on it. What was the squirrel's reward? some peanuts, of course.
That's just a few of the additional stories, but what about you? What's your experience with squirrels, or New Jersey wildlife in general? Feel free to share your story in the comments.
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The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 Sunday morning host Mike Brant. Any opinions expressed are his own.