22 February 2008

Goodbye, little one

I never got to see the squirrel but, by two accounts, she was about a week old.

A rescuer phoned today reporting that he'd found a baby squirrel a couple of days ago and was seeking placement and proper care. He was hopeful I'd be the one to take the baby: He'd been given my name by a wildlife group which, unfortunately, didn't tell him that because of my full-time job and the newborns' high maintenance, I can't take any in.

Or perhaps that was fortunate: Because I at least had the name of a rehabber he could call - someone who not only rehabs newborn squirrels well but has an incubator and a full service nursery for them. He immediately called her and took the squirrel there.

The squirrel, which turned out to be a little female, died within an hour of his handing her over. Perhaps she had grown too chilled at one point earlier and never recovered fully from that dangerous loss of body heat. Perhaps it was the delayed aftereffects of prolonged exposure after she was orphaned but before she was brought indoors.

We will never know. I do know the instant I heard he had found someone to take her - and drove the baby there - I felt hope. An hour and a half later, I crashed when I heard the news. I thought that maybe, just maybe, today I could help save the life of one of the first newborn squirrels of the 2008 "spring baby" season.

I've been down this road before on the rare occasion I have had any newborns in my care for any period of time. They are fragile beings. They are born with everything they need to grow into perfect squirrels within a matter of weeks, but an interruption in their life - a fall from a tree, or being orphaned - challenges their realization of that destiny.

The photo on this page is not a photo of her - but it might as well be. I took this photo about 8 or 9 years ago after another rehabber stopped off at my house to show me the newborn she had just picked up. We did a very quick photo shoot (I had never seen a newborn squirrel before) and then she headed home.

This photo stands as one of many reminders that life is precious and fragile. In this photo he is pink and still breathing, the image of a viable newborn etched forever. But the baby in this photo didn't make it either. He died only hours later.


Poetikat said...

That's so sad. I love the picture -- so fragile and helpless. You do all you can, but sometimes it's out of our hands. I've never held a baby squirrel - only picked up a few birds who have flown into my kitchen window despite the plastic bird and butterfly decals I have pasted up. It ruins my day if anything in the natural world gets taken. I know how you must feel.

Poetikat said...

Don't mean to be heartless (it's been a few days). Are you up for meme? I'm tagging you.

squirrelmama said...

Sure, hit me momma, hit me!

Damama T said...

It always tears me up to hear that any animal I've taken to a rehabber didn't make it. Thank goodness I've never had to deal with a newborn. Just looking at that picture and reading your story made me cry. I'm so glad there are people like you out there who have the time and expertise to help the little ones who stray into harm's way.

my backyard said...

Sad. But at least there are people who try to help.