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.

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