Just before we left for our conference last week, a school parent and a few children appeared at the kitchen door with a baby squirrel in hand. She had appeared on the playground, and I think the dad was a little concerned about the safety of a friendly squirrel.
About an hour later, three more children showed up, this time with a small white poodle. Everyone seems sure we know what to do with strays. Either that, or they’ve paid close attention to the fact that we’ve taken strays into our lives before. Never hurts to ask.
Fortunately, the poodle’s mom and family were in the school; the pup had just gone exploring for herself and managed to be picked up by the kids before mom knew she was out wandering. No harm done.
But squirrels are very aware of humans around them, and little squirrel-babies don’t have enough experience to be afraid of them. Generally, animal children should be left near where they are found, assuming parents are lurking nearby. There were no nests apparent, though, so we (of course) took “Fiona” in.
One of our sisters is adept at bird rescue, but none of us knew anything about nourishing a baby squirrel. She was quite small, so our bird sister suggested we warm a little milk and see if she would take it from an infant bulb syringe.
The squirlette appeared healthy, but at her tender age she needed fluids to prevent dehydration, and this little one didn’t seem mature enough to tackle nuts by herself. Our plan was to pull the same trick on the vet that the kids pulled on us — drop it off the next day and hope for the best.
The plan worked well until the vet told us she was large enough to find her parents and to go hunting for her nest and family. We brought her home again so we could drop her off at her own house. With a little further investigation we located a series of nests in an abandoned bathhouse near the playground. Fiona disappeared into the insulation where the nests were located. Home at last.
Fortunately, a sister checked out the bathhouse the following day, where she found Fiona on the floor, suffering from dehydration. Uh-oh. Apparently something (why would I be suspecting raccoons?) had managed to kill the others, leaving Fiona an orphan.
Back to our house she came, this time to a more permanent (and very large) cage. A little puppy milk (we learned that cow’s milk isn’t good for them) and some shelled nuts later, and Fiona was having a ball. She scampered in and out of her shoebox house, nestled in strips of newspaper, raced up and down the cage walls, and made quick work of cheerios and nuts. Next we tried peanuts in the shell, and she quickly learned to tear them open for the treat inside.
Last night she graduated to the rabbit hutch outside, currently uninhabited. Fiona made it happily through the night, and in a few more days we’ll open the door to let her begin exploring outside on her own again.
Thankfully, baby squirrels mature quickly, so we’ll be able to wean her from us. Attaching (“imprinting”) on humans is a pretty bad survival plan for anything other than a human baby. Fiona needs to be wary of many other creatures, too, not the least of which are raccoons and raptors. Even Simon has shown a genetically-spawned and unhealthy interest in our little guest.
We’ll miss her, of course, but we all hope she doesn’t decide to hang around. Surely she has aunts and uncles and cousins galore, and I’m sure they’re wondering what’s happened to her.