Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Baby Squirrel Vid

Something cute today to lift the spirits.

Friday, April 24, 2009

An Awful Afternoon

Friday started off like any other squirrel day.  I worked during the day, but I was planning on blogging about Preggers and her family playing in our Oak tree.  She also beat up Norman the Doorman, aka Fatty, despite the injury to her right front paw.

She had come by the porch midweek, and she was particularly calm.  She walked right up to me, took a peanut and, instead of turning her back to me, she planted herself next to me and looked at me while she ate.  Then there was a high pitched scream.  It was the familiar scream of a baby squirrel.  She became tense and started eating at a furious pace.  

I grabbed my camera and waited for her to react.  She eventually calmed down again, but she left after a few more nuts.  I tried to follow her and found her climbing up our Oak tree with a baby squirrel following close behind.

If sexing squirrels is anything like sexing rats and mice, this baby may be a girl.

Eventually, they made their way over to a branch over the driveway and reunited with another baby, while the baby that was following Preggers tried to snaggle leftover food from Preggers' mouth, at least so it seemed to me.

Preggers is sprawled on the branch.

Anyway, I was pretty excited to have seen Preggers and her family cavorting in our tree.  I planned on looking for the family over the next few days, but it was cold and windy.

Friday afternoon, she came by the window begging for peanuts.

She wasn't as calm.  She wouldn't eat in front of me, which isn't that unusual, but it usually means she's agitated.  It was probably due to the bad weather.

I gave her some nuts and grabbed my camera, coat and shoes.  She ate for a while longer, so I settled in and watched a little TV.  All of a sudden, there was a huge "thud, thud, thud" right over my head.  It was so loud I thought my husband had accidentally dropped something heavy out the window.

I looked for Preggers and saw her standing on the fence looking down into the driveway.  When I came out on the porch, I spooked her, so she headed for the fence bordering our neighbor and then crawled down to the driveway.  She stopped in front of our oak tree and just sat there eating the nut she had carried in her mouth.

She jumped onto the trunk, and I thought maybe I'd get in some shots of her on a tree, but then she started to act very bizzarre.  She was very agitated and nervous, jumping back and forth from the tree to the ground and back again.

That's when I saw it.  There was a squirrel lying in the leaves underneath the oak tree.  I tried to get a better look.  It looked like a little baby.  It wasn't it's size, but something about its face, shape and fur made me think it was a baby and thus, Preggers' baby.  

Preggers was going back and forth between jumping on the tree and approaching the baby squirrel.  I realized that I was making Preggers incredibly nervous, so I backed away and watched through a slit between the fence and the house.

Preggers kept sniffing and touching the baby.  I know we shouldn't anthropomorphize animals, but I thought she was trying to comfort and acknowledge the baby while assessing its condition.  She could have just been curious, but that's not what I thought at the time.

I didn't think Preggers was going to be able to take care of this in the nest.  I called my husband and told him that a baby squirrel fell out of the tree and was hurt and not moving.  He rushed down with a towel and we picked up the baby.  When we came around the corner, Preggers took off and the baby started to twitch.  I originally thought that maybe it was a seizure, but I think it was probably reacting instinctively to run.

We brought him inside.  Now that we had the baby, we weren't sure what to do with it.  We wanted Preggers to see that we were taking care of it, so hubby took him by the closed porch window where Preggers had returned.  She looked at it through the window and then grabbed a nut and started eating.  

We debated letting Preggers handle it, but after examining the squirrel, we knew for certain that it would need professional attention.  It was bleeding from the mouth and nose, and its breathing was really slow and getting slower.  There were some dents in the side of its chest, too.

We decided to call an urban wildlife rescue organization instead of a vet.  Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue & Education Center is about 20 minutes from our home, so we called and Lila was ready to meet with us.

We jumped in the car.  I was holding the baby.  A couple of blocks from our house, it looked like it took a huge yawn, and then it kicked and struggled.  I was really freaked out and had my husband pull over.  It was dead.

That night, I had nightmares about the squirrel's last moments.  It kept replaying over and over again in my head, and I couldn't sleep thinking about how much pain and horror it must have felt.  I thought that maybe if we had done a, b and c differently, it would have survived.

After having the baby's death replayed in my memory, I think it suffocated to death.  I suspect that it was on a branch above the house.  A strong gust of wind blew it off the branch and the wind threw it across the roof, hitting the roof at least 2 times before hitting the ground.  It may have also hit its head on the gutters on the way down.

Its lungs were filling with blood until they were full.  What I thought was a yawn was its attempt to get a last breath of air.  It kicked in its struggle to breathe before it died.

The towel was so soaked in blood that it had to be thrown away.  We left the baby out there to let Preggers get a look at it before we disposed of it.  We couldn't bring ourselves to throw it in the trash.  We wouldn't throw a dog in the trash if it died, so we buried the squirrel underneath the oak tree.

Squirrels mark good and bad tree limbs with different scents to denote danger.  I was worried that Preggers would think that we put the baby back outside after it had expired as a warning and never come back.  Sort of like the squirrel version of putting heads on pikes at London Bridge.

After a morning of fretting, she came by late Saturday, and she seemed normal.  Her right front paw is healing, too.  She has started to put weight on it again.

Since our squirrels aren't marked or tagged, I'm hoping that maybe we were wrong and it wasn't one of Preggers' babies.  It's more logical that it is one of hers, but we're still looking for visual confirmation that she only has one hanger-on.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Preggers' Family

I found Preggers' nest by accident.  I was sitting in the backyard watching the woodpeckers, nuthatches and hummingbirds.  There were a few squirrel chases hubby and I were following when I thought I saw a couple of squirrels on our roof.  It turned out there were 3 squirrels!

My thoughts immediately went to Preggers and her litter.  We have a VERY steep A-Frame approximately 35 ft (10.7 meters) high, and they were at the top.  I saw them crawl around to the buttress.  After a short excursion there, they returned to the top of the roof.  This was close to sundown, so the light was fading, but I recognized Preggers immediately.  2 smaller squirrels were with her.

One immediately jumped from the roof to a high, small hanging branch on the Oak tree, about 40 feet (12.2 meters) off the ground.  This squirrel was slightly larger than the other youngster.  (Not the same Youngster from World Photos.)  The branch didn't hang over the roof, but it hung over the driveway.  It's the far left branch in the photo below.  I can easily see a young squirrel falling while attempting to make that jump.

The other smaller squirrel got onto its hind legs to try to make the jump, but it would lose its balance and then run back to Preggers, who was half-asleep, stretched out on her belly with her legs dangling off both sides of the roof.  The little squirrel would promptly walk all over Preggers' head and nudge Preggers with its nose, until finally Preggers got up and watched the little squirrel jump to the Oak tree, Preggers following behind.

From my reading, most squirrels have a litter of 3.  Last year, Preggers had a litter of 3, so I think the squirrel we thought may have died did in fact perish.  I hope not, but it's very possible.

As I said earlier, we discovered Preggers' nest.  It turns out she's nesting underneath the apex of our roof.  Our roof overhangs the house, so we have these beams that extend from the house to just beyond the roof.  We have found squirrels nesting there in the past, and it looks like Preggers is nesting there now.  She's at the very top, so we can't actually see her nest, but if other squirrels' nest is any indication of her homebuilding design, it's a simple pile of leaves and twigs to sleep on.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Migration Season?

I haven't seen Scamp in a while, so I thought I'd post a picture of him when we first met him.  Here he is taking a break from foraging and playing.

We've gotten a bunch of new male squirrels. Ones we had never seen before. This has happened twice now. It has led us to suspect that the males migrate a couple of times a year while the females maintain a territory that they defend from other females.

The times we have seen Preggers get really aggressive are when she's been hormonal (nursing, pregnant)or when another female has come around. We've only seen three other females. Peach came around for a couple of weeks and then we haven't seen her again. There was the female that was being chased during mating season, and lastly, a very young, small female came to the porch one day, never to be seen again.

By the way, we've changed Norman the Doorman's name to Fatty. He's gained so much weight, he can barely run away from the other squirrels that chase him.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Preggers Is Injured

Preggers has been limping around, favoring her front right paw.  

She doesn't put any weight on it, and we're not sure what happened.  If she's not better by Friday, we're thinking about trapping her and taking her to a vet.  Obviously, there are several problems with this "solution" outside capturing her.

First, we think she may be weening and training her little babies.  Last week, we heard some screaming in our driveway and found a little baby squirrel, about half the size of Preggers, but with all its fur.  It was noticably smaller than most of the young squirrels that we think are just free of the nest that visit, but it looked almost big enough to take care of itself.  It would hide underneath our car and stick it's head out every once in a while and let out a little scream.

We watched it stealthily from our window and saw a small male, about the size of Scamp and Spooky try to approach it, curiously, but the little squirrel would bark and get angry.  Then a short while later, Preggers came along.

The male squirrel left of his own accord, the little baby started nursing and then there was a short little "wrestling" match where Preggers was biting the baby's tail and neck, trying to get a grip on the baby.  It was the cutest thing as they went around and around.  It was difficult for Preggers because the baby was already so big, but eventually she got hold of the inside of its neck, and it curled up underneath her belly being careful to keep its tail from dragging on the ground.

Well, that was a waste of effort because the oak tree is just 5 feet away.  When they got to the base of the tree, Preggers realized that she couldn't carry the little one up the trunk, so she set it down and prodded it with her nose to go up.  Baby hesitated, but eventually started climbing.  Preggers would prod the baby every now and then until they got to the place where the tree starts to branch out.  Then she carried him again along the branch work higher up the tree.

About 5 minutes later, we hear a loud screaming and a thud.  We look in the driveway and the baby squirrel has fallen out of the tree or off our roof.  We're not sure, but hubby said he didn't think it was moving.  Preggers is down there like a flash and carries it off.  Needless to say, we were pretty depressed and sad.  We though for sure it would die.

A couple of days later, I hear the same screaming coming from outside, and it's another little baby squirrel.  This time, it's at the apex of our A-framed roof.  I am so relieved because I'm pretty sure it's the same one we thought was dead!

Anyway, the next several days, we hear screaming and crying on and off, and we find baby squirrels hiding.  We think Preggers takes them out to learn to forage and then tells them whereabouts they can hide while she goes out to get something to eat.  They know to stay perfectly still, like a rock, but they can't help but call out.

We suspect she has a litter of 3, like last year, but that's one of the reasons we're not sure if taking her to a vet is a good idea.  We don't want to keep her away from her babies for too long, but we're also worried that her handicap may get her killed.  Also, there may be no medical solution to helping her.  If it's broken higher up her arm, putting a cast or splint on it isn't going to work since she's a wild animal.

She doesn't seem to have any trouble bending it or using it to eat, but she won't put any weight on it, and when she jumps, she jumps very carefully.  We have noticed that she is learning to run on 3 legs, but I imagine she's not anywhere near as fast as a healthy squirrel.  If another squirrel were to get seriously aggressive with her, I don't think she could get away.