National Squirrel Appreciation Day 2016

squirrel_baby
Orphaned Western Gray Squirrel being cared for at the Chintimini Wildlife Center.

It’s National Squirrel Appreciation Day (NSAD) and baby squirrels are one of the best creatures on this planet. They are tiny, cute, and don’t have the upper teeth needed to bite (unlike their adult counterparts). To celebrate all the squirrels in the world, I’m going to tell you a story about just one; one tiny squirrel that stole my heart.

It was summer and in the 90’s. I received a call from our clinic regarding a possible orphaned Western Gray Squirrel which had been seen earlier that morning in downtown Corvallis. Given a general location, I got in my car and went to check it out. It had already been several hours since the last sighting, so I didn’t have high hopes. Wild animals have a habit of wandering off and not staying in the same place for very long.

When I got to the location, I began looking around. Over the phone I had been told the person who called had left bread on their porch for the squirrel before they went to work. When I found it, some nibbles had been taken but there was no squirrel in sight. I checked the area; looking in every crack and crevice I could find. Noticing the neighbors were home, I began to walk that direction. Maybe I could ask them if they’ve seen any baby squirrels. Then I saw her and my heart sunk.

“Orphaned baby squirrels are surprisingly trusting. Bobcat kittens, fox kits, or any other baby wild animal would rather take a bite of you than let you help them. But not baby squirrels.”

She was about 10 feet down the driveway. At first she looked like a clump of fur or a funny shaped rock lying there is in the sun. As I drew closer, however, I saw the shape of her frail body stretched out. Flies hovered around and crawled on her side. She was gone, I was sure of it.

Thankfully, I was wrong. As I approached, she lifted her tiny head slowly to look at me. At first it seemed like she wanted to run, but couldn’t. I got onto my knees next to her and talked in a soothing voice. Orphaned baby squirrels are surprisingly trusting. Bobcat kittens, fox kits, or any other baby wild animal would rather take a bite of you than let you help them. But not baby squirrels. I’ve heard stories of them following people to their cars, desperate in their attempts to find someone to take care of them. This kiddo was no different. I wrapped her in a towel and carried her to the box that I had stuffed with soft fleeces and a plush toy just for her. She was very weak, but thankful to be out of the hot sun.

WGS

When we arrived at the clinic, I performed her initial exam. There was nothing to her; just bones and fur. Fly eggs were embedded in her soft gray fur. She was about 5 weeks old and showed the typical signs of being orphaned; dehydration and emaciation. Luckily, those are easy to fix. She was given warm fluids to re-hydrate her, squirrel milk formula to fill her empty belly, and a flea combing to remove the eggs. However, she showed signs of another ailment that was much more severe. Mange.

It shows on their ears first. Little bumps that are very itchy.

WGS_mite
A mange mite found on a Western Gray Squirrel at our clinic.

Then it moves down the face and eventually over the rest of their body; hardening the skin and causing hair loss. It is caused by mites which burrow underneath the skin and drink the bodily fluids. Mange is often fatal if not treated. The number of Western Gray Squirrels we’ve seen from the Corvallis area showing signs of mange has greatly increased in the past few years.

Luckily, for this squirrel, she was treated just in time. I got to watch her transform from the small, weak, starved infant I found that 90-degree day to a healthy, willful juvenile. After she was cleared of mange, she was moved to our outside squirrel cage with two other Western Grays her age. For the next few weeks they’d bond together, learn how to forage, and finally become the squirrels they were meant to be. Thanks to the individual who reported her to us, the dedication from our staff and volunteers, and support from the community, we were able to return her and her knew adopted siblings back to the wild.

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To help ensure we can continue to help baby animals just like this squirrel, please consider donating to our center. Last year alone, we treated 1,500 patients. Squirrels, owls, foxes, eagles, and so many others that, without the support of the community, would have never gotten their second chance. Donate today and the next time you see a Western Gray Squirrel busily foraging in the trees, who knows, that squirrel may be one you helped to save.

To donate, go to http://chintiminiwildlife.org/giving-opportunities.htm

If you find an injured or orphaned wild animal, please call us right away at 541-745-5324.

Written by Katherine Hick / Animal Care Staff

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