Squirrels Gone Wild

Based on the date of my last post—July 14th—you would probably think that I didn’t have any more squirrels since then… Um, no.

Quite the opposite in fact. We had a major onslaught of squirrels at the Center during this year’s summer season, and I was kept quite busy with my little charges—so busy, in fact, I wasn’t able to post anything about them at the time. And even though I’ve been squirrel-free since the end of September, this is the first time I’ve had a chance to write about them. It seems especially fitting to do so today, since I’m very thankful I’ve had the opportunity to work with these brave little animals over the last two years.

The last week of July, after just a few weeks’ break from my second spring set, I brought home two brothers. They were 44g and 47g— much smaller than any I had had previously. Here’s a pic of these two “shadows,” as we call them, because their hair is just starting to grow in like a 5 o’clock shadow.

I beat that record a couple of days later when I brought home a 34-grammer to join the family. He’s the one on the bottom of this pile.You can see his eyelids are still really translucent.

That still wasn’t the end, though. A few more days later, I added a little black male, who was only 34 grams. He and the other single turned out to be real runts who didn’t develop as quickly as the others. You can see in the next pic, for example, how the brown one’s skin grew faster than he did, causing me to refer to him as my Shar-Pei squirrel. 🙂

I brought home the last one for this set about a week later. When she was brought in to the Center, she weighed only 67 grams, but that was much less than she should have weighed for her size. She was quite dehydrated and very thin. When I looked in the shoebox, she was just lying there, totally limp, and I have to admit I feared the worst for her. But she was a real fighter! Within a week she was in much better condition and had fit in well with her four new brothers, even though she was quite a bit larger than them.

I had a lot of problems with this set, especially the first few weeks when the runts had the worst diarrhea I had ever seen—it was just like liquid pouring out of them. I tried all the usual treatments, which either didn’t work at all or helped for about a day. I was really worried about them through this period, but I guess they just finally grew out of it. However, I think this partly contributed to their slower development, since they weren’t keeping in many nutrients during this time.

That wasn’t the last of the health problems with this group, though. The brothers went through a period where most of their skin peeled off, and one of them had his penis sucked on so badly that the sheath got pulled back, exposing the tip of his urethra. (Don’t worry—I won’t be showing you a pic of that!) I just counted my blessings that nobody got pneumonia—I think that would have sent me totally around the bend.

Despite these problems, the squirrels continued to thrive, and I was able to take the biggest three to another volunteer’s outdoor enclosure by the middle of September; they were successfully released a few weeks later.

The runts were going to need another couple of weeks before they were ready to go to an enclosure. During this time, the Center had literally been overrun with squirrels—about 75 more than most years. There were so many cages set up that it was a real challenge for the Center volunteers to keep them all on a consistent feeding and cleaning schedule, so I decided to bring a group of four females home to add to my two. I was worried that the two groups wouldn’t accept each other, since they were all already 7-8 weeks old, but fortunately they took to each other really well. Within a couple of hours of me putting them in the same cage, they were all sleeping in the hammock together.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good pics of this new group, so I’m going to close out this post with a brief video of the two runts. It starts with them about halfway through their stay with me, and it ends with a scene when they were just about ready to move on. By then, they weren’t very runty anymore!

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