Everyone was busy that day. At least no one was answering their phones.
Darth found a baby squirrel on the driveway. It appeared to be having seizures and the flies were settling in. He brought it water – which it reached for and knocked over. Darth herded the boys away and told me he thought the squirrel had been poisoned. He’d found a dead adult, possibly the mother, days earlier. I speculated that it was pesticide poisoning – and told him about the Mocking Birds I used to find having seizures in the road back when I lived in Florida. They’d eaten bugs spayed with “cricket bait.”
“Not everyone understands pesticide is poison,” I said.
“Some people really hate squirrels,” he replied.
Son 1 and I started the rescue process. We shooed the flies away, I pulled on the gardening gloves, found a box with a lid and punched holes in it. Then we got the squirrel into the box. Son 1 talked to the squirrel and peeked in on it. A lot. Darth began calling around to get help tending to the little critter. No one who answered the phone that day was able to take a baby squirrel. They gave us numbers for folks who could. But when we called those numbers, the phones rang and rang – and rang. Finally, one number answered, and for a moment, we were flushed with – success! But it was just a message saying they were full and could not take any more animals.
Animal Control referred us to our local animal shelter. They didn’t answer their phones either, but I knew they were open. So Son 1, the squirrel in the box and I drove over. They told us, unless it was our pet squirrel, they could only take it to euthanize it*. They gave us another number to call. I called and called, and no one answered. By then, Son 1 and I were in for whatever it took – we’d look after the critter ourselves if necessary. So we drove to the drug store and I bought a syringe and some water. Son 1 waited – with the squirrel in the box – in the van. He was talking to it when I went inside the store. I don’t know what they talked about though. Neither one ever said.
The squirrel drank a little water from the syringe and started to get perky. And so…we drove home – Son 1, the squirrel in the box, and I – making sure the lid on the box was secure. I looked up baby squirrel care on the Internet, grateful that my profession had taught me how to weed out the useless and the absurd. We determined it was about 5 weeks old and that we needed to keep it warm. I held it and we fed it warm goat milk from a syringe. The boys helped.
We learned it would be 10 to 13 weeks of care – with efforts to keep it wild – until the squirrel could care for itself outdoors. With all the cuddling available at my house, it was unlikely it would be wild after 2 weeks, let alone 10. But there was nowhere to go. I tried a few more places – where I was told to put it back outside and “let nature take its course.” We understand that animals eat other animals. We do. Even my four-year-old gets that. But we were invested (at the very least) in making the little guy comfortable by then. We were not going to put it back outside to watch it suffer and die. Not once we’d come this far. And a few hours later, some friends of Son 1 came by on their bikes and said…there’s a baby squirrel on your sidewalk, shaking and covered with flies. They gave me a strange look when I exclaimed “Another one?!”
We repeated the process. And after dinner, we went to Wal-Mart (the only place open by then), and bought the world’s ugliest cat carrier (an electric pink zebra print), a heating pad, and some puppy formula. We fed the squirrels, warmed them, and I washed them and tried to help them pee (yep, that’s really a thing). They didn’t want the puppy formula though – goat milk was the thing.
Monday I sent out a plea on Facebook for animal rescue centers…and was referred back to places we’d already tried. Then my friend Andrea recommended Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Greenwood – that’s the name of the town my folks grew up in – many many states away. It was a long drive, but the synchronicity felt right. The folks at Greenwood urged me to stop feeding the babies. They said they could easily get the liquid into their lungs. We stopped, and found it felt like loss – feeding baby animals is gratifying. But we stopped. We did. Then we hurried them to Greenwood, where they welcomed the two little guys – who by then we’d named.
I called on Tuesday to check in and Buddy and Snugly were doing fine. That’s Buddy on the right – he’s the first one we found. Snugly on the left was worse for wear, the same age, but smaller. And yes, I’ll be calling to check on them again soon.
It was good to know they were in a safe place with knowledgeable care, but it was tough to let them go.
Son 1 wants to work with wildlife now. Darth said we should keep the cat carrier handy “in case it happens again.” Son 3 insists on looking for baby animals every night now. Son 2 did the same for a few nights – and decided that this rescue was complete.
Have you ever found an orphaned or injured animal? What happened? How was the experience for you?
*If it had been our pet squirrel, they could have tried to rehome it. Son 1 and I joked about how awkward it would have been to have said “Oh yes, it’s our pet” then try to go back hours later with a second squirrel! (We would not really have lied, but it was an interesting scene to play out)