Sunday, February 27, 2011

Walking Wounded

Everywhere you walk you see a wounded squirrel these days. Many have died. Most of the ones that had frostbite have disappeared. We found two dead squirrels the other day. One was an orange baby, one of "the twins" as I called the two littlest oranges. The other twin is  looking pretty bad, but has energy and eats well. He started out with one of those raw, angry red welts on his backside, but after a couple days of good eating, it has scabbed over and it looks like  he's recovering.  It's so cute the way he runs over over to me, stands on his hind legs and waves! I'll try to get a picture next time.

Another survivor is the gray one with the frostbitten foot. We'd given her up for gone after not seeing her for many days. Then the other day as we were leaving the park, Bernie took one last look over at Brownie's tree to see if she was up on her branch, and spotted the little gray one coming down the tree. To think we'd almost missed her! She hopped over to us, and we checked her out. Her foot looked awful - like it wasn't even there anymore (whereas before it had been big and swollen). I was wondering where the foot went.

Big and Swollen Foot

She was very hungry. As she took her first bites she was trembling, and of course it was hard to stand with what amounted to a missing foot. Ever since then, Bernie has gone every day to feed her, bringing her all sorts of fruits and nuts and veggies and even cookies (she loves the peanut butter cookies). And how about oatnut bread with ground hazlenuts in it? Spread with a bit of honey, of course. She is doing so much better in just a few days. You can see her foot again -- it's still there! She has a  sweet disposition. We'll call her Grayling.

Brownie was a delight yesterday, playing in the hedges, jumping and twirling and doing all sorts of acrobatics. She seemed to be glad that we were around, but that we were focusing on Grayling rather than on her. Reminds me so much of her namesake, the original Brownie (pictured at the top of this page), who was such an acrobat. Brownie, who lives in the same tree as Greyling - they actually grew up together last summer - has been spoiled silly by a bunch of us this winter, and has grown really big, much bigger than Grayling. She is an example of a happy squirrel.  But I'm sorry to say that most of the time most squirrels are living in  states of depression, with so much of their environment constantly being stacked against them. People who rightly love and coddle their domesticated pets just do not think of squirrels in the same terms. As "wild" animals, they are supposed to be able to fend off what's dealt to them by  Mother Nature.

I just heard about a book called: The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy -and Why They Matter. The Amazon review says the following: If the onus on Emotional Lives of Animals author Marc Bekoff was simply to prove that nonhuman creatures exhibit Charles Darwin's six universal emotions (anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, and surprise), then his book would be very brief. As anyone who has ever had a pet dog, cat, rabbit, or even bird can attest, animals not only possess such emotions but broadcast them clearly and often. Bekoff's goal, however, is much grander: To show that wild and domestic species have a kaleidoscopic range of feelings, from embarrassment to awe, and that we dismiss them not only at their peril but our own.  Read More

But Brownie is doing wonderfully, as is Foxy, who has made it through another harsh winter. Here is a picture of Foxy from a year ago last February:

You can see why we called her Foxy! She's much bigger and darker now, but still has her wonderful red tail, which you can see in the sun from a distance, and which she loves to show off by turning it in your direction, as if posing for a photo shoot. I call it Foxy's Bustle.

And so we end on the high note of our successes. And we thank those benefactors who helped us feed the squirrels this winter, either on the ground or through our Feed the Squirrels Project, because in the main the only thing we do to help them through the cold spells  is to provide them with enough nutrition to kick their own incredible recuperative powers into gear.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hawk Sighting in PCV

A hawk was seen in the field today by our friend and colleague Bernie Goetz, as he was making the rounds ministering to injured squirrels (we like to call him Saint Bernard).

Just as the squirrels have finally  been getting some relief from the cold weather, the hawks are showing up. Does it ever end?  The good thing about the cold is it keeps the birds of prey away. But now they're back... and they're hungry. The squirrels that are crippled from frostbite are especially fair game, although of course there is nothing fair about it at all.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jack Frost

Yes, Jack Frost has finally taken his toll: we now have at least five squirrels with either open wounds on their legs or swollen, floppy feet, which we believe was caused by frostbite.  Frostbite is literally frozen body tissue. I was feeding them today and it near broke my heart to see their legs and feet like that. These brave little creatures almost made it through the long, cold winter, but that last blast really did some of them in. They are shell-shocked now, and can't take any more. There was much crying going on in trees. How they have suffered!

On top of that, the injured ones are vulnerable to being bullied. I was feeding a little gray one whose foot seemed to be almost hanging off,  and was having trouble eating a peanut and standing up at the same time. All the while there was this big gray squirrel hovering around, who was taking nuts and burying them. He was annoying me, but I kept throwing him nuts just to keep him out of the way as I fed the injured one.

Then this beautiful black squirrel appeared with a very bad leg and what looked like frostbite on his face. He approached tentatively as if he was afraid of something. I threw him a couple of peanuts and a walnut. He chose a peanut and disappeared up the tree to eat. A little while later he came back down for the rest of his meal, and  the big gray squirrel bounded over and began to quite viciously pounce on  him! I could hardly believe my eyes. He ran off with the bully in hot pursuit,  chasing him up a tree like a dog would! The petrified black squirrel never came down again and surely went to bed hungry. I tried to go after the gray squirrel to give him a good scare and get him away from the tree. Unfortunately, he was not the least bit afraid of me, and I ended up all tangled up in rose bush thorns! Then to add insult to injury, the bully squirrel went back and found the black squirrel's nuts, and I stood there helplessly watching as he ate them with relish. Yes, boys and girls, squirrels can be evil.

While I tried to get the black squirrel to come down, a woman came by and asked me, "Are the squirrels bothered by the cold?" I looked at her like she was nuts, saying "Are they ever!" I started a rant about frostbite and the bully squirrel,  trying to tell her what had happened. But the woman said: "I'd better be on my way." And I said: "Sorry, I didn't mean to bore you with squirrel politics!" She laughed and said: "Oh it's not that.  It's just that I'm recovering from three operations - a knee replacement, a hip replacement and a spinal fusion. So I'd better keep walking."  I had to laugh. I almost neglected to say that the kind lady was carrying a fistful of peanuts.

Little squirrels, count your blessings!

Click on a picture for a close-up

Young squirrel with a swollen foot

closeup of the foot

            frostbitten leg

                                                   frostbitten face

The Bully

                        Enjoying another squirrel's meal

Friday, February 4, 2011

Dead Squirrel -- RIP

We've been lucky this year, but sadly there were a few casualties of the cold weather. Bernie picked up this poor little guy, brought him home and got him warmed up and hydrated, but unfortunately he didn't make it, and died the next day.

Dead Squirrel - RIP

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Squirrels on Ice

After The Ice Storm

 icy wasteland

The first time we were able to get out to feed them, it was so funny to see squirrels skittering across the ice to get their peanuts. Squirrels always seem to skitter, but the icy terrain adds an aerodynamic dimension. Wheeeee!

      squirrels a slippin' and a slidin'

Color Me Orange
We were glad to see the orange babies out, although poor little Ginger did look quite bedraggled.

I know I look a bit tatty today...

But my tail's still hot!

New Kid on the Block

Thanks, but I don't really like avocado (yet).

But I do like peanut butter crackers.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Baby, it's Cold Outside!

These beautiful squirrel pictures were taken by Peter Cooper Village resident Sheila O'Connor. Thanks for sharing, Sheila!

Brrrr...think I'll just stay up here today.

         Now where did I bury that nut?