22 August 2008

Detours for two squirrels

We went into the woods this week to release a group of three young squirrels back to the wild: Massa, Angel and Little Fellow.
Only two, ultimately, went to freedom: Angel and Little Fellow
Our intention was to release Massa too, and my anxiety over her suitability for release since last spring has been chronicled here in this blog - the misshapen rear leg, the seven toes and the slight neurologic movement. Still, it is my job as a rehabilitator - and my intention - to see that every animal gets a chance when appropriate.
As soon as Little Fellow and Angel sailed out of the release hatch, Massa followed as if shot from a cannon. It was joyful for her, at least for the moment.
Suddenly the gift of freedom betrayed her, caused undue stress and she began to spin. Unlike her cagemates, she did not ascend to the trees. She remained grounded. I knew then she had to be caught and brought back home.
We got lucky. I placed the holding cage over her during a spinning episode and recaptured her.
My intention was to release her but Massa must be given more time now.

A day or so later, a colleague at work informed me she had rushed a squirrel to the vet on her way to the office. The animal was off the side of the road, writhing from an apparent run-in with a car. My coworker bravely scooped the adult up, found a vet she knew accepted wildlife, and left the squirrel there. She asked me to please call the vet, check on the squirrel's status and, of course, offer to provide continued care in rehabilitation after the squirrel's triage.
Yes, of course I called. But I learned less than an hour later, the squirrel had to be euthanized; the damage from the car was too great for any chance of survival.
My friend had hoped to save this squirrel and, of course, that never happened. She did spare the squirrel further suffering and I told her that what she did was a brave and caring thing.

Still, her intentions with that squirrel, like mine with Massa, had no influence whatsoever over the outcome.

So do our intentions still matter? I believe so. Without intentions we don't act at all. And without taking action, we do no good on this planet for humans or for animals.

Yes, we must keep trying.

18 August 2008

The 2008 Squirrelympic Games

Competitive nut-cacheing.
Forward roll and other gymnastics.
Bird-feeder dismantling.
Wrestling. (Lots of wrestling).
The 100-yard vertical dash.
The 10-meter branch leap.
Marathon chattering.

Welcome to the Squirrelympic Games, playing not just in 2008 but every week of every year in just about every yard where you'll find trees, nests and a hospitable environment for these natural athletes.

Ok, so they're not Michael Phelps (it would be hard to fit that bushy tail into a Speedo anyhow, and I'm not sure I'd want to see the, uh, end result) - but let's be brutally honest. No one can swim a 200-meter butterfly and 200-meter freestyle like him but, can this guy crack nuts between his teeth?

Aha, I thought not.

Why do we humans have to wait every few years for an Olympic extravaganza when the guys in our yards and parks and woodlands get to do this every day of every year? They've got game, all right. (In fact the fellow pictured here with the fabulous upper body strength is from the Daily Mail, in the UK. My Connecticut friend, upon seeing his photos, decided to nickname him Squir-hurcules!!!!!)

So let's take our cue from them, for a change. Forget the gold, the silver and the bronze. Let's go for the Gray!

10 August 2008

Because they all count

I want to write this before I forget. Because tomorrow morning, I am taking a trip to the pet crematory only a few miles south of here, with the body of a young female squirrel who came into my life late Friday and was gone from it by early Saturday.

I got the call on Friday afternoon from a woman in an apartment complex about 7 miles away. No one, not even the SPCA, had responded to her pleas to help what she thought was a wounded squirrel in the apartment courtyard. Could I help?

Catching her was easy enough. She was twitching and rolling on the ground. I held the small cage over her and she rolled in. Her twitching was tough to watch. I'm not sure if she was having seizures, or had been poisoned, or what, but I got her home, gave her some warm bedding, and after a bit, got some fluid into her slowly. She drank from the syringe, even tried to hold it - unusually submissive for an adult, even a young one - and I got the sense she wasn't completely cognizant of her surroundings.

She calmed. She slept. She ate. She even tried to nibble on a small bit of soft corncob I put in for her. When I got back from work after midnight, she took a second feeding later - some more fluids, mainly - and was voracious.

In the morning I found her stiff and lifeless. There was not a mark on her, though I know she could have fallen, or been struck by something that did not leave a readily visible mark.

I will probably never know. I do know she died warm and she was not on the cold ground that night dying her slow death under the watchful eyes of raccoons or other predators.

I did what I could for her, which was not much, in the long run.

But because they all count - at least to me -I am writing about her here because her life mattered and it was worth trying to save. Even though saving her was, in the end, beyond me.

07 August 2008

Good "neighbours" to the North

My friends Rich and Luis have left the States for a new life in Canada - specificially Vancouver in British Columbia. I have been reading their blog and, with each new post, have been falling in love with many things Canadian, from the verdant wilderness they camped in, to the elegant newly built luxury highrise in which they've rented an apartment with glorious views of mountains, parks and the coast.

But nothing can top the squirrels. The squirrels of Canada, the ones they met and photographed, have prompted me to consider dual citizenship. This post in particular won my heart. Who can resist the little red squirrel, and the golden mantled ground squirrel?

Perhaps we need to consider a Squirrel Exchange program between our two nations. Something called NASTA - North American Squirrel Trade Agreement.

It's something to think about, anyway.

01 August 2008

One statuesque squirrel

Members of the Richland County Rotary Club in Olney, Illinois - a city blessed with an infamously abundant white squirrel population - have come up with an idea of monumental proportions: The idea is, itself, a monument of big proportions and even bigger ambition.

Rotarians hope to commission a white squirrel statue as a tourist attraction in that southeastern Illinois community. The Olney Daily Mail, that community's newspaper, broke the story on July 31, quoting one Rotarian, a member of the local convention and visitors bureau, as drawing his inspiration from another statue - this one in Minnesota - of two figures from American folklore: the mythical giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe.

Now, a blue ox is no white squirrel, to be sure. And while Bunyan remains the stuff of folklore, white squirrels are an everyday reality in Olney. But like the towering Bunyan and Babe, they are indeed oversized attractions, if only by virtue of their reputation.

I had the pleasure, years ago, of posing beside an oversized wooden statue carved of Punxsutawney Phil, the prognosticating woodchuck/groundhog, while visiting that town in rural Pennsylvania. And I learned from that experience that, when it comes to tourism, Humongous Statues of Rodents are Humongous Tourist Magnets.

I encourage the people of Olney to embrace a white squirrel statue as they embrace their squirrels. They should throw it some nuts - and then throw it their support.