23 August 2007

Squirrel freedom day

The girls really wanted to go. It helps to know that.

This morning the last of the spring "babies" went home to their new lives in the trees, the lives that had been interrupted at some point in their babyhood, when they were brought into wildlife rehab care in the first place.

I always marvel at the way some of these soon-to-be-released squirrels perk up when they get their first whiff of the woods, as I tote them, in their little carrier, down the trail. And this pair positively perked up.

Even the most problematic part of releasing squirrels, the act of getting them out of the big outdoor pre-release pen, was too easy: They stepped willingly into the transport carrier, indifferent to the greens and corn I'd put there to tempt them. It was as if they sensed they were moving on to some next stage, something good.

So this ritual was more of a reunion for them and not a so-called "hard release." (I used to hate this form of release, which doesn't allow for a preferred day or two of adaptation to new surroundings. But I think when these releases are well-planned, done early in the day, and when the squirrels show they not only want it but need it, it's OK to give them their freedom this way.)

So I opened the hatch and these two went nicely and smoothly, didn't even look over their shoulders or look back with regret. They dug their noses and claws into the forest floor, then some tree bark, and were on their way. I suspect by now they are scouting out a nesting spot for the night.

My job is through.

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