Sometimes fascinating family sagas unfold in your backyard. Even if you live in a suburban or urban setting, staring into the trees and shrubs around your home can unveil a lot about the natural world. And sometimes you'll want to have your camera ready! Such was the case with wildlife photographer Melissa Groo, who had a fun opportunity to watch a mother squirrel moving her babies to a new den.

Groo tells us: "I'm a wildlife photographer, and sometimes also like to call myself a “wildlife biographer,” because I love to tell the stories of both extraordinary and ordinary wild animals. If you watch the animals that live around you — even in urban settings — you will see stories unfolding that will make you gain a greater respect and appreciation for the challenges of their lives, and, in some ways, the similarities of their lives to our own.
"One day in my yard, my husband noticed a gray squirrel up in a tree, carrying a smaller squirrel in her mouth, and leaping from one branch to another. She finally deposited her young one in a hole high up in a maple tree."
squirrel family
squirrel family

"Realizing we were witnessing a mama squirrel moving her babies to a new home, I hurried and got my camera. Over the next hour, I was able to photograph her transporting four more young ones this way."

squirrel family

"In these photos, the old home is a long narrow cavity. The new home is a smallish round hole. I don't know for sure why she moved them, but it may be that the new cavity was more spacious inside for her rapidly growing young, and/or the new cavity was much higher up from the ground, and therefore safer from predators."

squirrel family

squirrel family

"We watched in amazement how this mama squirrel traversed branches carrying her quite large young, spanning the final leg by leaping from one tree to another. How the young ones exhibited reluctance to be deposited into the new home and would resist mightily as she tried to stuff them in. How the young remaining in the old hole, would sit looking out inquisitively, but then resist her with all their might when she tried to seize them in her mouth and remove them. But I think the most entertaining aspect of all — and endearing! — was the way that, after she had finally successfully stuffed each young one into the new home, the mother squirrel would go and collapse on a nearby branch, often with her limbs hanging down. Sometimes her eyes would close. This was obviously an exhausting effort! After a few minutes she would get up, make her way back to the old nest, and start the process all over again. Observing her hard work and courage gave me a new respect for squirrels and their family life."

squirrel family

The photos Groo came away with show how much dedication (and serious strength!) a mother squirrel musters for her family. Talk about an inspiring scene for all mothers. You can find more of Groo's wildlife photography on her website and also on Facebook.

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Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.