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Rescuing Baby Squirrels - All in a Day's Work
Sunday, Aug. 31, 2003, 9:01 p.m.

QUESTION: Vermin with fuzzy tails or just darned cute?

WHAT I LEARNED: When something squeaks, give it some attention.

When I got home from work a few nights ago I noticed a bunch of my neighbors standing around in the street looking up into a large Bradford Pear tree. There was a loud screeching coming from that direction that sounded like an extremely noisy bird. I had never heard anything like it – not very harmonious and particularly loud.

A few minutes later my son came home and told me that I had better come outside. He led me over to the same spot where everyone had been standing and there in the gutter was a little baby squirrel and it was making a real racket. In the grass under the tree was another baby squirrel. These little babies had clearly fallen from a nest in the huge pear tree. One had been lucky enough to hit the grass but the other one had hit the pavement and I am sure it had broken something. Its noisy calls for mom – which I am sure is what all the screeching was designed to do – got my son’s attention and then mine. But what about Squirrel Mom – where was she?

I don’t know the first thing about baby squirrels. But a few squirrel thoughts did come to mind. These are the kind of thoughts you have in emergencies when you brain runs through its internal database of knowledge. Where does all this stuff come from? As far as I can tell, it’s gleaned from everyday living, things you picked up as a kid from who knows where, stuff your parents told you over the years, folk wisdom and sayings spouted by just about everyone, television programs of poor to excellent quality, and random reading you’ve done in books, magazines, and web surfing over the years. Here’s what occurred to me at the falling squirrel site:

  • If we touch them then maybe their mom will reject them – folk wisdom,
  • If we don’t move the squirrel out of the gutter then someone is going to park a car on top of it – basic reality 101,
  • Maybe we could figure out a way to help the baby squirrels – do-gooder impulse,
  • Taking care of baby squirrels is going to be a real pain in the butt – innate maternal wisdom,
  • What would squirrelx do? – idle curiosity.

So we got one of those little local newspapers that are constantly getting pitched onto our driveway from slow-moving vehicles and lifted the one baby out of the curb and set it next to its sibling. As I headed for my computer to do a web search on orphaned baby squirrels, I traumatized my husband by yelling over my shoulder that we were going to help a bunch of baby squirrels we just found. This gave him immediate license to create dire pictures in his mind of 24/7 baby squirrel care disrupting the entire fabric of the household. I ignored his naysaying, as it was fruitless anyway. Sorry honey but we must ignore your recitation of roadblocks. Baby squirrels need help. Therefore, we must help the baby squirrels come what may. Yes, sometimes life is good and sometimes life suddenly becomes hell. One minute you're sitting comfortably on your sofa watching TV and minding your own business. The next minute people are talking about bringing a passel of little squirrels into your home as if they were telling you they were bringing in the mail. What can you do except get with the program?

I did find some good information on baby squirrels on the web and amazing, I find that in my state there are people who take care of orphaned baby squirrels. I called up one of these stalwart individuals - they are called rehabilitators - who lives about 15 minutes from our house. I am even more amazed when she tells me that she can take the little babies. Imagine my husband’s relief!

picture from www.stfranciswildlife.org

We got a shoebox – yes, he found one right away. I laid one of our freshly washed blue kitchen towels in the bottom of it and then took another nice soft towel from the kitchen drawer and used it to pick those little tykes up and deposit them in the box. As soon as I laid that first baby squirrel in the box, I felt super virtuous and all warm and fuzzy inside. You could see it relax – like the weight of the world had been lifted off its little gray squirrel shoulders. Once we got them both nestled close to each other in the box, we laid the smaller cloth over them both like a little quilt made especially for them. It could have been an illustration of a Beatrix Potter book. Yes, they were that darling nestled under that little blue-checkered towel. A few minutes later they were both fast asleep.

We got them to the lady that takes care of baby squirrels. She assured us that if Mom Squirrel could have helped them she would have already and those babies really were orphaned. Whew – glad we found them before something else did.

We had to fill out some paperwork for the baby squirrel auditors – evidently there are auditors for baby squirrels or at least those who care for them. We left the little squirrel sisters –as it turns out they were both girls, in a warm kitchen full of little containers of all sizes and shapes which were housing orphaned squirrels, rabbits, and even some possums. In a few weeks these two little squirrels should be ready to be released back into the wild - if they survive any injuries from their drop from the great Bradford Pear tree. It seems very hopeful though. And it the end, it sounds like we will get to bring them back here in a nesting box and give them a fresh start in the old neighborhood.

When I first saw these little squirrels, I was thinking about eyedroppers and milk but it turned out that I just needed my trusty web surfing skills and a shoebox. It seems that there are people doing all kinds of good that had never even occurred to me. Like nursing orphaned squirrels that fall from the top of trees. I am impressed. I am proud of my son too for caring about the fate of two small gray squirrels in the midst of his busy teenage life. If it wasn’t for him, they wouldn’t have had a chance to steal my birdseed someday and generally get into the kind of trouble that squirrels are prone too. Good job, kid!

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