29 September 2008

Trying to save them all

I am upset by a New York Times article about the struggle Texas rehabbers are having, trying to salvage what's left of the baby squirrels down there since Hurricane Ike swept through. It is daunting and it is heart-breaking, and the photo accompanying the article makes me wish they could all be kept safe forever.

To add to that grief, tonight I visited an animal hospital to assess two seemingly healthy baby squirrels being kept there. True, they are safe from harm, but they are warehoused for the most part and on a substandard, inappropriate diet, largely because there is no one available in the local rehab community, during this peak baby season, to take them. So the animal hospital staff is doing the best it can for these non-paying clients. Right now, everyone, including me, is swamped. And so when I had to leave the hospital empty-handed, it bothered me. It troubles me now. It will haunt me further tomorrow.

I am doing some networking to see if we can't somehow get them placed, even temporarily, until something a little more long-term opens up for them. They need to be with someone who can care for squirrels appropriately.

I wish we could save them all. From hurricanes. And from the blizzard known as baby season. I know we can't. But that doesn't stop me from wishing.

16 September 2008

Speaking of (and speaking to) squirrels

From North Carolina, the state that seems to have cornered the market on Eastern Gray Squirrels, comes this report, "Squirrel speak: it's more than just noise."

The state, which takes credit for the species' origin or at least the earliest records of its existence, is proud to have the eastern gray as its official animal. Better still, this North Carolina student newspaper, the Technician, in which the article appears, is going a long way toward fostering interspecies communication. It may yet give rise to a whole new career field: squirrel linguistic interpreter.

Squirrel speak: it's more than just noise - Features

15 September 2008

Paying it forward

Wildlife rehabilitators often wonder about the impact their efforts make. In a world full of so-called "anonymous" wildlife, one squirrel is the same as the next to the uninitiated. You lose one, you save one, and the cycle goes forward, season after season.

Unless you are a part of it and hold these squirming little lives in your hands, you may not think anyone stops to grieve when one doesn't make it. But there are plenty of us who do.

And we struggle with them all. I have so far gotten 8 youngsters into care since the start of "fall baby season." In a litter of three who were nearly 5 weeks old, there was one little fellow, the victim of some kind of head trauma and only able to breathe with difficulty. He succumbed after only a few days. His eyes had just opened a day or so earlier. I am glad he got to see the world first before he left it, but I wish I had been able to do more to keep him in this world. I felt that, despite my efforts, I had not made a difference.

And then a friend in Pennsylvania wrote about a baby chipmunk he had just come across, quite by accident. The little one had no use of its back legs. He knew it was important to rescue the baby safely and get it into the care of a rehabilitator he knew.

I will never meet this chipmunk. But of course this little soul is now on my mind as if I had held him with my own hands - like that baby squirrel. As my friend wrote in his e-mail to me today, if it had not been for all those sagas, the happy and sad ones, that I shared with him, he might never have even noticed the little baby, or even made the effort to save him.

I hope he does not mind my borrowing from his e-mail, but here is what he wrote:
The next time you're weighing the amount of good that you're doing please consider your inspirational effect on other people. It was as if I had you looking over my shoulder and telling me what should be done, and I mean that in the best possible sense.

These words bring sustenance. I have to believe that the little boy squirrel, whose life passed too soon just a few days ago, has been part of that inspirational force. He - and all the others - the saved squirrels and the ones who could not be helped - are now part of paying it forward for all the little lives ahead.

And yes, there will be more. Many more.

14 September 2008

From the treetops to the toilet?

This very odd story, which I have cut and pasted below, appeared in a recent article in the St. Catharines Standard, an Ontario newspaper. It is the story of a flying squirrel who went flying in a most unconventional manner - out of someone's toilet and into his face.

I must say, a toilet is not the most comfortable nesting spot for a squirrel, let alone any creature (even a sewer rat) and how he actually got into the toilet is a subject for conjecture. But at least there was a happy ending that was (thankfully) not initiated by the sound of a flush. The squirrel got his freedom back and hopefully is living a life devoid of indoor plumbing.

Boy gets surprise when squirrel jumps out of toilet
Posted 18 hours ago
A young boy received quite a surprise this week when a flying squirrel jumped out of the toilet at him.
Keith Schuk went into the family bathroom earlier this week and lifted the toilet seat; a furry critter leaped out of the bowl at him and landed on the floor.
"It turned out to be a flying squirrel," said his 16-year-old sister, Marlaina. "It was wet from the water and at first we thought it was a rat. Our parents, who were both working, could not believe our story."
The 12-year-old boy arranged for a friend to come and capture it, but the brownish-black squirrel with webbing connecting its front and rear legs didn't exactly run away.
"It's a nocturnal creature, so it just curled up in a can in the bathroom and went to sleep," said Keith's mother, Audrey.
"We were able to capture and remove it while it was sleeping," she said, adding the family released the squirrel into a bush area.
The consensus is that the squirrel came down the sewer breather pipe from the roof, and found an escape through the toilet.
The nocturnal, arboreal rodents have a furry membrane extending between the front and rear legs that allows the animal to glide through the air.
Northern flying squirrels' gliding distances tend to be between five and 25 metres, with average glides being about five metres less for females.