This year’s Squirrel Week photo contest winner is Niki Branoff of Southgate, Mich. She calls her photo “Waiting for Mother.”

The winners of the 2018 Washington Post Squirrel Week Squirrel Photography Contest — or WPSWSPC ’18, as we call it around the office — have something important in common: They all love squirrels.

They’d have to. How else would they be able to capture the handsome, moving, funny images that it was the judges’ pleasure to peruse this year?

We received close to 500 entries. That’s a lot of squirrels. The winner is Niki Branoff of Southgate, Mich., just outside Detroit. She called her photo of three juvenile fox squirrels peeking from the corner of an attic “Waiting for Mother.”

“They were just a lot of fun to watch,” Niki said.

Niki volunteers at an animal shelter taking photos of rescued dogs and cats. She got into wildlife photography during morning walks with her son, Tyler Bright. In 2015, Tyler died of a drug overdose. He was 20.

“Picking up Ty’s camera and getting out to photograph deer, squirrels and whatever else may come my way is very therapeutic, partially because it is quiet and partially because it was something we enjoyed doing together,” she said.

Niki said her neighbor eventually boarded up the hole in his attic and relocated the squirrel family to a nearby park: “My husband got online and said, ‘Looks like they can find their way back home.’ It wasn’t long before she was back.”

Corey Seeman captured second place with this photo on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor.

Our second-place photo is also from Michigan. It’s a fox squirrel in a bed of colorful mums in front of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Corey Seeman is the director of library services there.

“They’re wonderful,” Corey said of the UM squirrels. “Unlike a lot of places where they run away from you, on campus they run toward you.”

Corey’s job requires him to stare at a computer screen. He takes a welcome break every day by walking around with his camera and some peanuts. He estimates he has taken more than 40,000 photos of squirrels.

“I’m trying to develop the notion of squirrel tourism,” he said. “I’ve seen them in India — the five-stripe squirrels there are fantastic. And the plantain squirrels in Singapore are really tremendous.”

Angela Napili, third place, imagines this squirrel saying, “And here we have the Washington Monument …”

Our third-place winner is Washington’s Angela Napili. Angela is also a librarian, at the Library of Congress. She was our WPSWSPC ’15 grand-prize winner. This year she submitted a postcard shot of a curious squirrel on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial.

The judges decided to award two honorable mentions.

A tree squirrel in South Africa by Ken Fairfax.

Ken Fairfax of Portland, Ore., snapped a photo of a tree squirrel during a safari in South Africa.

“Here’s looking at you!” A squirrel photo by Gemma Davimes of Winchester, Va.

And Gemma Davimes of Winchester, Va., got up close and personal with this squirrel at Wheaton Regional Park in Maryland.

Here are some of our other favorite entries from this year’s contest.

A squirrel chows down on blossoms in this photo by Maria Charest.

“Apple Blossom Love” is the title of this photo by Maria Charest of Ellicott City, Md.

Among the daffodils by Katherine Zhao.

Washington’s Katherine Zhao captured this inquisitive squirrel during an afternoon walk.

My what big claws you have, by David Sislen.

Not all squirrels are cute. This rather frightening one — look at those claws! — was photographed in Namibia by Washington’s David Sislen.

Jan Markham calls this photo “Guilty.”

And not everyone is fond of squirrels. Some people would like to see them sentenced to jail for stealing birdseed. For them, we offer this photo by Jan Markham from Silver Spring, Md.

A squirrel mechanic investigates in this photo by Mary Cushing.

This squirrel in this photo — shot by Mary Cushing of Arlington, Va. — seems to be checking the radiator.

A grand squirrel, by Ondine Marquer.

No, this squirrel did not dig that hole. That’s the Grand Canyon. The photo is by Ondine Marquer of Silver Spring.

A chilly squirrel, by Ed Episcopo.

From the heat of the desert to a frigid winter. Ed Episcopo of Fredericksburg, Va., calls this photo “Is it spring yet?”

Just hanging around, by Kristina Wheeler.

Kristina Wheeler of Vancouver, B.C., shot this squirrel in Phoenix. She imagines it delivering a squirrel pickup line: “How ya doin’?”

Can you hear me now? By Chelsea Gregory.

Chelsea Gregory calls her entry “I prefer smart snacks to smartphones.”

A trio of squirrel photographers — and a squirrel, by Patricia Ullman.

Tourists on the Mall can’t resist snapping photos of a squirrel — and Patricia Ullman of North Bethesda, Md., couldn’t resist taking a picture of them.

Meow mix, by Wade Sovonick.

Cats Dave, James and Suki salivate as they watch a squirrel in this photo by Wade Sovonick of Bethesda, Md.

Is that a cat flap or a squirrel flap? By Charlotte Briones

Charlotte Briones keeps a bowl of nuts in her Long Beach, Calif., kitchen. On this day, a squirrel came through the cat flap as Charlotte’s cat Briscoe waited outside.

Matthew J. Stein stoops to Bruno’s level.

Matthew J. Stein of Falls Church, Va., got into a staring contest with this squirrel. He’s named him Bruno.

A squirrel catches some Zs in this photo by Mary McGonigal.

Mary McGonigal of Franklin, N.C., seemed to catch this squirrel napping.

Sweet squirrel dreams, everyone!