Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Squirrel Report

The four Flying Squirrels are doing very well. I consider them completely weaned, although I do still hand feed each of them once a day, just for fun and bonding. They can even crack open sunflower seeds and other seeds and nuts in the shell.

Not so with the two Gray Squirrels, Polka Dot and Swiss Dot. They are finally getting some fur, although it is still much shorter than it ought to be for their age. The fur on their tails, which ought to be fully fluffed out by now, still makes their tails look no bigger in diameter than your little finger. (At least they no longer resemble rats.)

And now a new problem has developed with them: they refuse to be weaned. I cut back their feedings to two a day, one in late afternoon and one late at night, but they still ate nothing else all day. Sunday night I fed them at 9:30 PM, and then I didn't feed them again until the same time Monday night. In that 24-hour interval, they refused all solids, even fresh apple slices smeared with peanut butter - a treat normally irresistible to a squirrel. I even put their formula, which they take so greedily from the bottle, into two small dishes at the bottom of their cage and dipped their noses in it to let them know what it was. They weren't interested. They hurried back to the quilted, hanging bag that is their nest. I countered by removing it. They just looked lost and frightened in their cage, once they had nowhere to hide. They clung to the sides. They did not feel encouraged to move around, to investigate the rest of the cage they've lived in now for a week. They refused their formula repeatedly when I kept dipping their noses in it.

This is totally ridiculous behavior from nearly full-grown squirrels! Yes, they do have both top and bottom teeth, and yes, even the top teeth (which come in later than the bottom teeth) are long enough for them even to be able to crack acorns. They just refuse everything except the bottle.

My latest plan is to feed them well for the next two days, to compensate for their near starvation these last 3 days, and then to try again. Next time, if they don't eat, I will not feed them anything at all. I will keep them hydrated by subcutaneous injections of Lactated Ringer's Solution if necessary, but I won't give them anything by mouth.

I hate tough love. But their mother would have been tougher; she would have stopped nursing them three or four weeks ago, on account of their teeth. (And then they would have been in real trouble, because they would have been forced to venture out into the Fall weather without fur, to forage for food.)

They never would have survived in the wild. Maybe they shouldn't be kept alive in captivity, either. Maybe their mother, with that uncanny understanding wild mothers have, rejected them and that's why they ended up in rehab in the first place.

But I'm not ready to face that decision yet. I've had 'em since they were smaller than your thumb.