Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Squirrel That Tested the Theory of Gravity

The night before Labor Day we had a bad storm with heavy winds and strong downpours. During the storm, I heard what I first thought was a squeaky toy noise. Seemed strange during a storm. After awhile I was convinced it was some sort of animal in distress. I was worried because we had seen a very young possum recently and I thought it might be that the possum was stuck somewhere or hurt. I was home alone, which is when all weird things tend to happen. I got out my umbrella and flashlight and went out into the storm in search of an animal in distress. I never found anything.

The next morning, while I was home alone again, I still kept hearing the squeaky noise off and on and started to think it must be some sort of bird. I was doing yard work and had walked through the garden gate by the shed several times when I spotted my neighbor’s cat, BJ (aka Stubby), sitting there staring at something. (See my recent post about Stubby and the rest of his cat family.) What was he staring at? This tiny baby squirrel. So young, it couldn’t even open its eyes yet.

The baby squirrel had flies buzzing all around him and he kept moving around as if he was trying to get comfortable or trying to find a way to get warm. I realized this must have been what I had heard during the storm. I looked up and saw the squirrel nest high up in the tree. Poor little guy was either testing the theory of gravity or was knocked from the nest by the heavy winds and/or rain. I’m guessing it was probably the latter, but I decided to name him Newt after Isaac Newton anyway. It was 9pm the night before that I had heard that call of distress and here it was about 2pm the next day. He had been out there all that time.

I got nervous because Stubby was still hanging around. He had made a move towards the squirrel and I told him no and snapped my fingers at him. He looked at me and then laid down. I told him he had to leave, that I had to take care of this baby squirrel. I sure hope the neighbors didn’t hear me talking to the cat and to the squirrel, who I was trying to reassure that he would be safe now. Much to my surprise, Stubby listened to me and walked away. It was as if he understood. It made me like and respect Stubby even more.

From my reading I found that it is best to try to reunite a fallen baby squirrel with its mother. That can take time, though. You can put it in a box with a towel or t-shirt and tie the box to the tree and when the mother squirrel thinks it is safe she should reclaim it, unless it is dead, injured, sick...or cold. If it is cold, she will leave it thinking it is dead or sick. It was pretty obvious this squirrel baby was cold. I didn’t think I had time, his little life could be in danger.

I called Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge and Hospital, the same place I had taken an injured bird in July of last year (See my post about Tippy, the bird). They said the first thing to do is try to reunite him with his mom, but when I said I thought he had been out there since 9pm the night before, they said to bring him in. I put on my garden gloves and it took me about 20 minutes to get up the courage to pick him up and put him in a box. I could almost hear him breathe a sigh of relief to have a warmer spot to rest his weary little head.

When I put him in the car he made one last squeaky call to his mom, who obviously had abandoned him, thinking him injured or dead. It was definitely the same sound I had heard the night before.

When I got him to Cedar Run, they said he was cold and frightened and put him under a heat lamp. They said they would examine him as soon as he calmed down and warmed up. I sure hope he survived and that he didn’t have brain damage or internal injuries or anything like that. I wish I could call to check on his progress, but they ask you not to do that.

Newt was such a cute little thing. Of course he will grow up to be an adult squirrel, like the ones that dig up my flower pots and dig holes in my garden. But that’s ok, because as I have mentioned several times recently, our gardens should be living landscapes. Our yards and gardens aren’t just for us, they are for all the living creatures, from the worms to the birds...and to the squirrels.

As much as I hated to take Newt away from his home, he is in the care of experts now and I know the folks at Cedar Run will do the best they can for him. Oh and I must add, thank you, Cedar Run, for being open on Labor Day! Dear little Newt, I hope you survived and I hope you live a long, happy life.

To learn more about Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge and Hospital, or to make a donation, check out their website.

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