31 October 2007

'Tis the season to NOT be jolly

It's open season on squirrels (or so it seems). I don't mean just for hunters.

Today's New York Post featured, in one of its upfront pages, a huge photo of a cute, fat squirrel with the headline "EAT ME." It included a recipe for preparing and cooking 8 unfortunate rodents.

It echoes a movement right now in Britain, which is seeking to solve its crisis of red squirrel displacement - yes, caused by non-native greys - by urging loyal Britons to capture, cook and eat the greys.

Here in the States, newspapers and Web sites abound right now with stories about hunting season in various parts of the country and about squirrels causing municipal blackouts in some of those same states by biting into power lines. One such story gives details about how one such squirrel fell after biting a power line in New Jersey and blew up a car parked below because the squirrel had ignited somehow. This was presented as being funny and the squirrel was called a "suicide bomber."

It's a pretty sad commentary on our society when incidents like these are considered comic. They're actually quite tragic because not only is suffering involved but the reaction mirrors indifference to that suffering.

I'd hardly call that gallows humor. It's bad humor. And, recipes notwithstanding, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

29 October 2007

Growls with gratitude

She doesn't have a name yet, and perhaps she won't be needing one.

But as of today, the squirrel who turned up at the base of my driveway a week ago Saturday has something she needed even more than that: hope that she may make it. She is no longer lying on her side, no longer surrendering to lengthy sessions of being hand fed formula, electrolytes and water through a syringe. She is tucking all four legs beneath her, using her front legs to dig, sitting upright, walking on all fours and, best of all, starting to tear at some of the nuts and fruits and nutritional biscuits I'm leaving in the pet carrier. (I put them in there quickly, by the way. She is fast, she is furious and she snarls louder than a freight train.)

She throws herself at the front of the carrier when I walk into the room. She detests me. How normal and how comforting. She knows she is a squirrel again!

Her balance is not yet 100 percent, she still falls over sometimes when she walks - and yes, she'll be spending the winter with us, at least. But with a little time and lots of good nutrition her prospects for release in the spring are excellent.

23 October 2007

Fate intervenes

She didn't fall from the sky. Perhaps she fell from the overhead power lines, from a tree, from the mouth of some predator - or perhaps she didn't fall from anywhere at all.

But there she was, suddenly.

I don't know how the little squirrel ended up at the end of my driveway late Saturday afternoon, curled up (and looking quite dead 'til we realized she wasn't) but fate intervened. I would have been at the NYS Wildlife Rehabilitation Council's annual conference this weekend if my weekend plans hadn't changed, and I never would have found her.

Will she live? I don't have a clue. Once I got her into the house and got her settled in I could see she was quite neurologic. She is a first-year squirrel, very spastic, often vocalizing and clearly terrified. She can't eat or drink on her own and though she has use of her limbs she cannot coordinate her use of them. She appears to be having some kind of petit mal seizure (perhaps) or is simply reacting to me out of fear (I am after all a predator) so I intervene with her carefully, trying to cloak myself from her sight when possible.

I don't know how much luck - and it will be mostly luck - I will have in bringing her around. I may have to face a difficult decision in a few days.

At least she is warm and comfortable. Fate may intervene in a way that means her life will not go forward but at least she is, for now, out of harm's way.

18 October 2007

Senseless killing

I don't want to understand the human race anymore. Especially after reading a story like this, which appeared in the Green Bay, Wisc. Press-Gazette today:

Albino squirrel, mascot for Green Bay's Tank school, found dead

A white squirrel that became the mascot for Tank Elementary School on Green Bay's near west side is dead.
George Bolssen, who lives near the school, said the squirrel was found in Tank Park Tuesday and appeared to have been shot.
"I think it's terrible," Bolssen said. "You shouldn't be shooting in the city."
Bolssen said the squirrel was taken to the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary by the Department of Natural Resources, but he hopes it can eventually be returned to the school.
"I want to try to get it back and have it stuffed and given to the school," Bolssen said.
Teachers at Tank school formed a White Squirrel Club and named the squirrel Al Bino.
The squirrel was seen frequently in the park, which is located next to the school.
— Press-Gazette

What was someone's point in taking the life of this small creature? He was harming no one, and his only crime was that he was deeply treasured for his uniqueness. He was loved (and even named) by children at a nearby school. He served as their inspiration. Imagine that, if you will.

And so, a lot died with this little fellow when that fatal bullet struck him. A lot died for the children who loved him, and a lot died for those of us who read the news report about the death of a single white squirrel who lived in a park in Wisconsin.

My only hope is that the squirrel is eventually buried and can return to nature, rather than endure further indignity at the hands of humans.

15 October 2007

Where the rodent meets the road

Normally the intersection of motor vehicle and squirrel doesn't spell anything pleasant for either.

Well, here's an exception. http://www.jeep.com/en/sessions/

That's the link to the new web site for the Jeep Liberty, and it features some clever and affectionate animated footage of a squirrel in the woods giving the SUV a bit of a test drive.

The squirrel also deems the model quite acornworthy, and proven in its ability to toting a true cargo load of this precious woodland commodity.

Now, there aren't many testimonials for cars offered up by squirrels (for obvious reasons) and the last such vehicle-vermin interaction for strictly commercial purposes was a televised spot on behalf of the insurance company, GEICO, featuring two squirrels joyfully high-fiving one another in the middle of a curvy road after having caused a rather conscientious motorist to crash his car in order to avoid one of the critters. (Not surprisingly, this wasn't one of my all-time favorites to hear about since its broadcast caused a lot of resentment, even a touch of vengenfulness, among other conscientious drivers. Squirrels do not experience glee in causing accidents, driver perceptions to the contrary)

Please give this web site a test drive, however, and download the MP4s and MP3s featuring the squirrel. It's all in good fun.

And by the way, the Jeep Liberty is not a bad looking car, either. Betcha this one model looks particularly good in squirrel gray.

12 October 2007

Go west, young squirrel

Finally, some good news. Sciurus griseus, the rare and threatened western gray squirrel, is on the comeback trail in the woods of Washington State.
Thanks to a program of reintroduction that released less than a dozen youngsters back into their natural habitat, where their numbers have been thinning, there's a chance these guys will proliferate in the oak woodlands they've called home for so long. The map here shows, in the highlighted areas, parts of Washington State where their numbers were once so much stronger. But their shrinking numbers lately have earned them the label of "threatened" in their home state, and on the federal list they are a "species of concern."
No, not everyone shares this concern. When the local Pacific Coast newspapers ran photos of the long-awaited release of these animals, and shared the news that nature might be heading back to its natural balance, some readers posted angry, resentful remarks about the thousands of dollars used for this reintroduction program as being better spent on the local schools, and other public works programs that directly benefit human beings.
C'mon, folks. Let's not be short-sighted about this, particularly when we claim our species has supremacy over others. Unless we don't consider ourselves part of the world at large (and the world IS pretty large) we all directly benefit from a natural world system balanced as it had been before humans' machinery, greed and ambition cut down trees and displaced animal families to begin with.
When we help save the smallest of the small, we're helping ourselves too.

07 October 2007

Squirrel Appreciation Week - Day 1

So the weeklong holy festival kicks off today and what did I do to mark the sacred occasion?

I went to CostCo and bought $80 worth of nuts. Pecans. Walnuts. Almonds.

When it comes to Squirrel Appreciation Week, never let it be said that I wasn't devout.

Praise the squirrels and pass the nuts, please!

04 October 2007

Squirrel Appreciation Week (Eve)

And now, let us appreciate squirrels.

What a concept. And just in case we needed a little nudge in that direction, Squirrel Appreciation Week gets going Oct. 7 and continues through Oct. 13. Have you sent your holiday squirrel cards to friends? Completed your Squirrel Appreciation Week last-minute shopping? Are you saving your singing voice for all that Squirrel Appreciation Week caroling? ("Deck the trees with corn and walnuts, fa-la-la-la-la.....") Will you go trick or treating in your squirrel suit? (The squirrels do that, of course, every day of the year at our back door - and probably yours too).

For those of us who don't need a holiday to remind us - but appreciate that such an occasion exists - let's look at a few folks who appreciate squirrels in their own way, for better or worse.

There's the Idaho businesswoman who launched a dog cookie product, "Nutty Squirrels," tasting like nuts but shaped like you-know-whats. She's apparently doing well and, who knows, maybe the baked version will keep dogged pursuits away from the furred version.

We appreciate her well-intentioned effort, anyway.

There's the state of Pennsylvania, which just this week added the northern flying squirrel to its list of endangered species. The little northern flyer is outnumbered by the southern flyer in that huge state, and the state has grown concerned about this rare creature growing even rarer as forests continue to come down in the name of "progress."

We appreciate the thoughtfulness of the action.

There are the Texas A&M students who are making use of fox squirrels in the school's Wildlife Department Aggie Squirrel project, using GPS collars to track and study them - in a deliberately humane fashion.

We appreciate their "do no harm" approach.

There's Robin Page, a columnist for the Daily Mail in the UK, who recently blasted the government's suggestion that the invasive, non-native eastern grey population be controlled via contraceptive distribution, suggesting instead a massive nationwide squirrel shootout - turning the fruits of that campaign into "squirrel burgers." He adds that he could appreciate a supper that included a casserole with some nice squirrel burger.

And we would appreciate Mr. Page's silence on this matter. Besides, it's not polite to talk with a mouth full of ground rodent.

And finally, there's a new DVD out, "The Best of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Vol. 2" replaying the adventures of almost every boomer's favorite squirrel and moose from childhood.

We'll appreciate some time, eventually, to kick back and watch some of those vintage, classic shows. Perhaps when the busy social whirl of "Squirrel Appreciation Week" is done with.

01 October 2007

Rocky the Flying Squirrel - or Rocky Balboa?

OK, title to the contrary, I'm not really writing here about flying squirrels. But I'm not writing about fighting squirrels, either. Indeed, do squirrels go into attack mode at all?

Well, yes: They've been known to scrap with one another pretty ferociously in fact, over food, territory and, during breeding season, most definitely over a fertile female. And ask any wildlife rehabilitator who has foolishly put an ungloved hand in the cage of a recovering adult or perhaps a juvenile who's just discovered his or her "inner wild rodent," and you know there's no arguing successfully with those well-aimed, potent incisors. And yes, a frightened, trapped squirrel will also vigorously defend itself - wouldn't you?

But recent reports in the news seem to insist that squirrels, which as a prey species are at the bottom of the food chain, are actually out to get us, and have the potential to do us unexplainable harm as they lurk, conspiratorially, in every tree branch, every shrub and, God help us, even watching us from our attics, after having used their criminal minds to break and enter.

Case in point: A story about a month ago relating the tale of squirrel's presumed assault, unprovoked, on a toddler who was innocently enjoying the play equipment in an Orlando, Florida park.

Sorry folks, I don't buy it.

I especially don't buy it when local authorities then, as they did in this case, insist the "killer squirrel" be found and tested for rabies. This shows ignorance on the part of the authorities - ignorance on the part of the members of the media who report such stories, and stupidity on the part of everyday who swallow stories like this whole.

To believe such stories is to assume that, in almost every city around the country, senior citizens are placing their very lives at risk just for the joy of tossing peanuts to this murderous vicious species.

Squirrels are not just potential weapons of mass destruction but, worse than that, beneath the fur of every eastern gray squirrel beats the heart of a potential Granny Killer.

Better to have Grandma and Grandpa toss their leftover goodies to some furry, cuddly and innocuous forest friend instead: I hear there are plenty of starving black bears in them thar woods who'd be ever so grateful for a snackie.