Yesterday I'd heard an unusual shriek from the forest and, not finding its source, had dismissed it. But today I heard it again, repeated over and over insistantly as if by a baby animal. I looked towards the sound and saw a small squirrel clinging to the trunk of the hemlock tree just east of the woodshed. At first I thought that because of its unusual size and unusual sound that perhaps it was an unusual species, perhaps a flying squirrel. But I've seen flying squirrels before and their eyes are larger. Furthermore, this squirrel didn't seem to have much of a flap with which to glide. As I drew closer, I realized there were several squirrels. They were all about eight or nine inches long (including the tail) and moving about somewhat awkwardly and without much fear of my proximity. By this point it was clear that they were baby Grey Squirrels wondering what had become of their mother. It didn't take me long to find her; she was a corpse at the base of that same tree. At least one of her eyes was missing and she was attracting flies. It was obvious that these baby squirrels were going to have to be rescued.
It bears mentioning that Grey Squirrels are an extremely common species, one that can often be a nuisance. But I'm just not the kind of person who can go back to his computer and ignore the screeching of starving baby animals. Gretchen did some internet research and gave me some numbers to call. Ultimately I reached a woman named Ellen who runs Ravensbeard Wildlife Center, a Saugerties-based wildlife rehabilitator. She told me she would take the squirrels if I could capture them, and when I said that the mother looked like she'd been dead for awhile, she gave me a recipe for mixing up electrolytes.
I put on gloves before attempting to catch the squirrels, but these proved unnecessary. By the time I went to catch them, one of them had found his way down to the ground where a dog could have just snapped him up. I caught two without difficulty, but the third disappeared down a hole into the hemlock tree, and that hole was too small for me to reach into. It was clear that this was the den where the squirrels had been living.
I'd drilled some holes into an old five gallon bucket, which I used as a cage for the little squirrels. They quickly bedded down into some soft fabric I'd put in there. But when I reached down to grab one, it proved surprisingly gentle despite its long sharp claws and teeth. Using a large suction bulb, I fed each of the two captured squirrels in turn. They sucked at the electrolyte greedily, holding its stem with their little quasi-primate hands. At least one of them had a few fleas scurrying through its fur.
Periodically I'd go back to the tree and try to get that third squirrel out of the hole. I tried poking at him with a wire and then throwing little pieces of wood in, hoping that by gradually filling it I would drive him to the top. But after awhile it seemed he'd either vanished into a side-chamber or burrowed beneath the pile.
Just as I was about to give up and take the other two baby squirrels to the rendezvous with the wildlife rehabilitator, I decided to try expanding the opening into the hollow tree with a hammer and a chisel. This worked remarkably well, and within a few minutes I'd made the hole big enough for Gretchen to get her hand into. She couldn't find the little guy at first, but after removing all my little bits of wood and the remnants of the nest, she pulled him out. Once he'd had his electrolytes, it was off to the rendezvous (which occurred at the park and ride near the Kingston traffic circle).
Gretchen's remote cousin Rebecca and her husband Sten randomly turned out to be heading up this way. Their initial plan was to camp out somewhere in the Catskills, but Gretchen told them to stay with us. So they arrived this evening shortly before we were to head out to attend another BRAWL event, this one down on the Rondout at a place called the Steel House Restaurant, a steakhouse situated in a beautiful old brick factory across the street, more or less, from a sewage treatment plant.
I don't really know for sure what happened, but I drank way too many Hurricane Kitties and then found my way back to the Steel House's second bar, where I had a Jack Daniels on the rocks. I missed most of the arm wrestling and mostly just made a drunken ass of myself. BRAWL features a lot of dancing after the main event, and I could be found out there on that dance floor causing precisely the sort of trouble I should know enough at this point to avoid. I just barely remember the drive home. Somehow, though, I managed to avoid losing my glasses, which stayed on my face then entire evening. Yes, this was the first time I went into drunken delirium while wearing glasses.
I'm usually better at avoiding such spectacles, but I suspect that I was trying to unwind from an afternoon spent saving baby squirrels and from a week fretting about too fucking much web development work.
Me feeding a baby squirrel electrolytes.
There is a chance Sally killed the squirrels' mother. If so, bad girl!
A little squirrel in my hand. You'd think they'd be terrified and bite but no.