Except that's no ball, that's almost certainly a baby squirrel. I was catching the little guy hitching a ride. At least that's what it looks like when compared to this photo.
Given how common squirrels are, you'd think I would have seen this sight some other time in my life. But no, this was a first.
Oh, and next time you kvetch about having to change your child's diaper, consider what the Momma Squirrel goes through:
Baby squirrels must be taught to defecate. This fascinating bit of information came from Don Moore , associate director of animal care sciences at the National Zoo. Earlier in his career, Don worked in Syracuse, N.Y., rehabilitating baby squirrels.
Squirrels are among species — deer are another — where the mother uses her mouth to carry her offspring’s poo and pee away from the nest. This is to protect her litter from predators.
“Evolutionarily, that’s a great strategy,” Don said. “The mother’s removing the only thing that can give [the baby] a scent: the pee and poo.” With no scent to follow, predators can’t find the defenseless baby.
The mother’s selfless act is so hard-wired in a squirrel’s very being that babies can urinate and defecate only after being stimulated by the mother licking around . . . down there.
It's not gross, it's evolutionary brilliance.