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.


Anonymous said...

I disagree with your statement: "still, her intentions with that squirrel, like mine with Massa, had no influence whatsoever over the outcome."

I mean, it might be true in the lesser sense of the incidents, but there was the possibility that Massa might have had an outdoor life (then and there) or the unknown squirrel might have been saved.

I feel it is that "possibility" that drives one onward, to try to do that much more. Yes, life is fragile and often lost, but how much richer is everyone and everything for the two of you having tried.

The skills you've learned and practiced will enable some other squirrel to have better chances for a better life.

squirrelmama said...

Chet, thanks for that reminder. Of course you are right. We do our best, as rehabbers, to "pay it forward," and I guess the opportunity will present itself soon enough, the world is full of so many squirrels.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I, for one, am so glad that someone like you is looking out for Massa.

merinz said...

What will happen to Massa if ultimately she cannot be released in the wild? Do you have a facility where squirrels that for some reason cannot be rehabilitated can live out their lives?

squirrelmama said...

Massa, fortunately, will be able to live out her days if she cannot be re-released. She will be re-evaluated for release again in the future, and perhaps given another chance, but if she is still not releasable and captivity does not stress her, a place will be found for her where she can be guaranteed a good quality of life for as long as she lives.

merinz said...

Just out of interest - what is the estimated life span of a squirrel? (that is without accidents, predators etc)

squirrelmama said...

In theory, under "ideal" (non-predatory, non-disease, accident-tree) living conditions, they are biologically capable of reaching their late teens, if not the age of 20. I know of only one educational-use squirrel who lived to be 20 - he had long since lost his sight, however.

merinz said...

Wow that is some age! Similar to a cat's lifespan.