Out With the Old, In With the New

Welcome to Life in Squirreldom!

I began chronicling my experiences fostering orphaned squirrels for the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley on my other blog, Embrace Adventure, but have decided that these little guys are interesting enough to warrant their own blog. 🙂 If you’d like to see how it all started, check out this page that tells the story of the first set I raised, right from the beginning.

Now to what’s new… Last week, I released the set I fostered this spring into my backyard. It was bittersweet, because one of the squirrels had passed away while it was in the outdoor enclosure, where we put them for a few weeks between home care and release. We don’t know what happened. I also don’t know which specific one it was, but that’s probably just as well. They’re all special and the loss of any one is definitely a sad occurrence after we’ve put so much time into getting them to that point. But unfortunately, sometimes they have internal injuries or some other condition that doesn’t show up until they’re older.

But the other five were more than healthy, as our squirrel coordinator, June, could attest to when she tried to catch them to put them in carriers so I could bring them home. They gave her a real run for her money, which is the best possible sign that they’re truly wild, and that we’ve done our jobs correctly!

One story I hadn’t mentioned in my earlier post was about a squirrel who had come in with talon marks on his chest and stomach, which meant he had probably been caught by a hawk. We referred to him as Bat Boy, because he had these giant ears that pointed straight up. (We wondered how a hawk could have even got near him, with ears THAT big!)

My friend Carla stabilized him as his wounds healed—one of them needed to be stapled. Then I got him. I already had a few in my set, and he was a bit bigger than them, but he fit right in. Because of the size difference, I did know which one he was when I got them back.

The five were spread out over a few carriers, and as I opened them, a couple of the squirrels ran straight out and disappeared, and a couple needed a little urging from me. Despite being the largest, Bat Boy was the most unsure of himself (perhaps understandably, considering his earlier experience!). I finally got him out of the carrier, and he immediately burrowed under one of the t-shirts that I had pulled onto the grass to encourage him to come out.

He took a few tentative steps, then found another t-shirt to hide in.

I was starting to feel a little bad for him, but then he popped his head up and noticed that all the other squirrels had moved on. So he took a few more steps, scooped up an almond in the shell, and took off!

I didn’t see them again for a while—their first priority would have been to find a good spot to build a nest. But by the next day, they were showing themselves—especially when I put out some fresh food and nuts! 🙂

I don’t actually know if these are from this newest set or from one of last year’s, but I would definitely say they’re all doing pretty well around here…

So that’s the “out with the old.” As for the “in with the new,” I’ve got two more squirrels at home!

About a week and a half ago, a woman brought them in to the Center. One of them had been caught by her cat and the other she found lying cold on the ground. She actually had some wildlife rehab experience, so she’d done everything right—warmed them up then gave them some Pedialyte to hydrate them.

It was good that she brought them in, because a cat’s saliva has a particular enzyme that can be fatal to squirrels if they’re not treated with antibiotics. However, the Animal Care Supervisor on staff that morning looked them over and it didn’t look like the scratches had punctured the skin, so she told the woman that the best thing to do would be to take the two babies home and place them back near where they’d be found. That way, if the mother was still around, she could come back and reclaim them, which would be the best care they could get. (One of the biggest problems we have at the Center is “over-rescuing.”)

So the woman took them home and watched them all day, but no mama squirrel ever came back to get them. 🙁 So the woman, bless her soul, brought them BACK to the Center for the second time that day so we could give them the care they’ll need until they can be released again.

They’re a boy and a girl and they came in with their eyes still closed, which is very unusual for this late in the season. One theory is that their mother had miscarried earlier and then got pregnant again.

Carla took them home the first night and took care of them until their eyes opened and then brought them to me. I’ll be their foster mom for the next four or five weeks until they’re weaned and big enough to go to an outside enclosure.

They’re doing very well so far, and both of them have healthy appetites, which is a good sign. Here are a few first pics. (Expect plenty more to come!)

Wish us luck!

5 thoughts on “Out With the Old, In With the New

  1. C.E. Murray

    A kindred spirit! So pleased to find this blog tonight, Elizabeth, on the occasion of having just done a successful release this morning of three youngsters we had to overwinter. They were a little tentative about going but once their feet hit the floor of the woods, they were joyful. My heart broke reading of the one fellow who died in your pre-release pen but….I’ve been there myself (I’m rehabbing about 10 years now) and know at some level that some of these losses are, sadly, pre-ordained. You do wonderful work and I can’t wait to come back and read more about your rescues.

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