Swimming Squirrel

Twice, my mom has witnessed a squirrel swimming across our pond to reach a small island of ours. Here is a story describing the little-guy’s feat.

Swimming Squirrel

Many activities are associated with the furry-tailed gray rodents that are prolific in our neck of the woods. Some of them are: scampering around in search for this year’s tastiest collection of nuts, flitting from one flimsy tree branch to another in risky maneuvers beyond the most daring antics of trapezes artists, stealing favored seeds from the bird feeder, aggravating the cat by scolding it with various loud chirps and whistles, teasing the dog by scooting just out of reach, racing across the road in unpredictable spurts that dare drivers to consider opting for road kill, and whiling away most of each day simply playing endless games of “tag, you’re it” with each other. What we don’t generally associate with squirrels is swimming!

For over 33 years, we have had the good fortune to live on a beautiful 7 acre lake in Raleigh , NC . Our home is only 8 feet from the shore. About 3 years ago, as part of maintaining the lake, we drained it and arranged for heavy equipment to clean it out and construct a small island in the middle. The island measures about 16’ by 16’ and is only about 30 yards from our shoreline. I stabilized it with a rock edging and enjoyed landscaping it with a weeping willow tree, a couple of holly bushes, and various ground covers.

The expected array of wild animals has opted to appreciate my little island. A Canadian goose family occupied it the first spring. A loon spent a whole week flirting with a plastic egret I placed there, unwittingly providing us with much entertainment. Beaver and muskrats have snuck out there under cover of night and stolen some of my plantings, proving to be connoisseurs of the most expensive varieties. Bluebirds nested in the birdhouse I placed out there and we delighted in watching their offspring’s first attempts to fly. Turtles have occasionally taken a rest along the edge as they meandered around the lake. Once I was even surprised by a water snake that was making itself at home sunning upon the rocks.

So, what about the swimming squirrel? A few months ago, we happened to notice a small animal swimming toward the island. As we watched more carefully, it reached its destination and climbed ashore. Much to our surprise, it was a squirrel! As it scampered around a bit, we got out the binoculars and got a good view…….yes, it really was a bushy-tailed gray squirrel! Very soon thereafter, it hopped into the water on the other side and proceeded to swim to the opposite shore. As we related this sighting to friends, we were not surprised that many did not believe us.

Our credibility has been boosted since our second viewing of this phenomenon on October 24, 2004 . Since we had a house full of relatives for a family reunion, about 20 folks witnessed this particular squirrel antic on this date. The squirrel (of course we have no way of knowing whether or not it’s the same one) left our shore, swam intently to the island, hopped around to explore for about 30 seconds, then jumped back in the water to complete its journey to the other side of the lake.

As one might expect, we have wondered why we never before witnessed squirrels swimming across the lake. Perhaps they always wanted to, but considered the journey to be too far. Now we’ve surmised that since our island has cut the long swim in half, it’s a manageable adventure. So, we figure our aquatically talented squirrel is finally able to demonstrate its answer to the age-old question: “Why did the squirrel swim across to the island?” The answer, of course is “to get to the other side of the lake.”

We wish we had photos or videos to share, but alas, we don’t. We would be very interested to learn of other similar sightings.

–Ann Pearce


  1. My girlfriend and I were in our small fishing boat about 2 weeks ago, when we saw a squirrel sizeing up an island about 20 ft away. We witnessed him up in the tree, checking out the journey, running down and swimming a few yards, having second thoughts and swiming back, up the tree to think about it some more. He made a few more attempts, doing the same thing, running up the tree to re analize the journey, then finely achieving his goal of reaching the island. We had never seen such a thing and feel fourtanute to have had the oppourtunity to wittness it!!

  2. Hey Anne… We live in Bristol,Virginia and spend weekends on South Holston lake. Last night (evening) my husband and I were out for our customary slow boatride and we came across a swimming squirrel. I have lived here all my life and I have never seen this ! He also stunned us when he would stop and float. It was as if he wanted to rest…he stayed all steached out in the water as if he had a life jacket on. What fun!

  3. We were truly fascinated by our little swimming squirrel. We haven’t noticed him or one of his relatives since that time, however. It’s good to know her has at least one very floating cousin in Bristol. Thanks for getting in touch.

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