Sunday, April 20, 2008

Squirrel Update

For anyone who may have been following the progress of these orphans in rehab...

Archie, the oldest of my 8 squirrels, is quite grown up now and ready for release. I moved her cage outdoors about 10 days ago. She has a “nest” hanging from the roof of her cage, consisting of two flannel pillowcases, one inside the other, with flannel baby blankets in between. So she stayed nice and warm even when the night temperatures dipped last week into the mid-thirties. There is a plastic sheet draped over the cage, hanging three-quarters of the way down, so she is also protected from the rain.

Friday, I opened the door to the cage and left it open. Archie immediately ventured out, sniffed around a few minutes, then decided the cage was the most comfortable place to be. Later in the day, she made three more forays into the Big World and one attempt to climb my leg (ouch!), but by nightfall she was snuggled back in her nest, so I closed the door for the night.

Yesterday, Saturday, she explored the neighbor’s yard, walked along the top of a fence, and attempted to climb her first tree. She got about 12 feet up before deciding that was a bit scary, and she came back down. She took her after-lunch nap back in her cage, then went out some more in the afternoon, before returning again in the evening. Again I closed the door (to protect her from cats, dogs, raccoons, etc.) and she spent the night there.

Good thing she’s back, too, because today is solid rain, and in her cage, she is warm and dry and snug.

I have a policy against releasing animals in my own yard, but am making the exception because that’s virtually where Archie came from in the first place (well, a tree six houses down is where she was born).

Mozart and Beethoven have also been outside about 10 days, mostly just to get accustomed to being there, and to make space in my rehab room for the other occupants. And to reduce the squirrel odor in that room! They are taking formula twice a day from bowls and are otherwise weaned. They are eating every kind of solid and will be ready for release in another couple of weeks, as soon as they are able to crack open a walnut by themselves. (That’s the final release criterion.)

Puer and Puella, together with their foster sisters, Isadore and Isabel, have been transferred from the cat carrier where they lived before their eyes opened to a wire cage. Yesterday, they, too, began taking their formula from bowls. It’s comical, and very messy, the first few times they try this, as they run through the bowls and get the milky stuff all over themselves. They require baths afterwards. I just hold them under the faucet, the water being lukewarm, and then towel them off with a receiving blanket, then put them back in their nest to snuggle together and dry off and keep warm. As of this morning, they no longer needed a bath after mealtime.

Hooray! It means I no longer have any babies that need hand-feeding! (That’ll have to be rectified soon!) Maybe the scratches on the backs of my hands will get a chance to heal. They don’t scratch on purpose, but their claws are very sharp.

Lucky, the Flying Squirrel, is ready to go. The trouble is, neither of us is in any rush! He’s in a cage I now realize he could have gotten out of any time he wanted to. But what for? He has a warm hanging nest, plenty of food and water, privacy (for I keep a baby blanket draped over his cage) and a safe feeling. He obviously sees no point (so far!) in escaping.

I’ve stopped handling him, so he should get over his tameness very soon.

Flying squirrels need to be released where other flying squirrels live, since they all nest together in the winter. Linda has a colony on her property (several acres) so next time I’m out her way (no hurry!) I’ll have to take him and let her do the release. That’ll be by next week. I should probably put him on a reducing diet between now and then... or he may be too chubby to glide among the trees. (I plead guilty to spoiling him!)

Amber, when she was interviewed by the television and newspaper reporters, kept getting questions about how she felt releasing all those cedar waxwings. They were trying to get her to say it was so difficult, it broke her heart, but for the good of the birds, etc., etc. They didn’t understand! When release day comes, a rehabber is anything but broken-hearted. As Amber told them, “For a rehabber, there’s nothing better than this. It’s what I’m here for.” She was being gentle with them, not wishing to disillusion them. She meant, “If you only know how much work this has been, day and night, and how much expense, you would know how relieved and grateful I am they’re gone!” That’s how it is. One doesn’t regret it. One goes on to the next injured or orphaned creature(s).

I need to wait until after Bright Week to do that, so I can go visit my children and grandchildren in North Carolina then. What with Barbara's illness and Demetrios having been in a cast, I haven't been able to do that since we got back from Greece in December.