Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Great Debate

This morning I was having a delightful photo-op with Black Patch, who seemed to enjoy posing for me (while keeping the patch out of sight).

When we were rather rudely interrupted by a woman who appeared out of nowhere, asking. "Do you feed the squirrels often?" Now I saw this as a leading question, like when a potential mugger asks, "Do you have a light?"

So I tried to ignore her but she persisted, and soon we were engaged in one of those knock-down drag-out affairs that sometimes draw crowds. She was going on about much the squirrels annoyed her, and I in turn was going on about how much the dogs annoyed me! I mentioned how every time I looked to the left or to the right, I saw someone's dog taking a poop!

She pointed over to where she and her companion were reading the Sunday Times, which was spread out all over a bench. Apparently a brazen squirrel had approached them, begging for a peanut, and apparently she begrudged the little squirrel his lunch! Soon, I imagined, she and her friend would be going out for a nice Sunday brunch. Since I was nowhere near their bench, what did this have to do with me? Well, I was encouraging their annoying  behavior by feeding the squirrels, you see.

 At the moment  I wasn't even feeding them, simply taking pictures of  the lovely Black Patch, who was getting into some  adorable poses. But this woman's attitude got me going and it soon became a rather heated exchange. As her companion called out to say that Security was on their way over,  a tall man suddenly appeared and stepped into the fray. He started lecturing the couple, sounding very authoritative with his British accent, telling them that the squirrels had been there long before they were. I was speechless!

I thought I'd better cut out, as I was supposed to be meeting my friend Bernie by the fountain soon, so could not afford to get thrown out of the park by Security. The altercation continued as I slipped away, kind of regretting that I couldn't stay. Later the good samaritan and his companion caught up with me by the fountain and I thanked them for their support. They  told me how much they loved the squirrels, thought they were charming, and the best thing about Peter Cooper Village. I heartily agreed!

But I can see the two sides more clearly now. This little brouhaha illustrates the strong feelings that run pro and  con feeding squirrels at PCV.  We cannot ignore the whole thing as we'd like to do, because it is an issue that is not going away.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Day in the Park

It was a gloriously sunny Memorial Day weekend, but also  hot and oppressive and I had a migraine that I was sure was weather-related.

A good beach day and a good park day. So I went to the park to hang out, tune in, turn on and cool off.

This vet had the right idea.

Some of the chic trend-setter squirrels were showing off their latest summer wear

Two-toned Tubby

Two-toned Foxy

Spunky was starting to getting her groove back.
Hmm... I've always liked cashews. 

Then Riley the Cat made his appearance

Spunky forthwith removed herself to a comfortable spot in the tree right above me. There she is in the vee of the tree, where she can relax and watch everything.

Training Black Patch

And I spent the rest of the time trying to teach ticks to my new little friend Black Patch

So named because of that nasty patch on his back.

Most of the other squirrels were up in the trees chattering away at Riley, but Black Patch was
right down there learning how to compete with the pigeons.

Surrounded by rivals

Studying the scene.

He didn't do too well. Lost quite a few brazil nuts, cashews and other small shelled nuts. But he was focused and attentive, and had impressive staying power.

 I think that squirrel is going places!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Play Mating

We watched two baby squirrel playmates practicing the mating game - so cute!

Stalking Spunky

Stalking a squirrel is a tricky operation. One wants to have as many favorable indicators as possible. We had decided to take Spunky to the vet to get antibiotics. The vet has a new 6-day time-released shot which would be perfect for her. Even though Bernie got all that gunk out of her which brought the swelling down (and probably saved her life) there could be some residue left. She looked much better but seemed somewhat listless. So we hatched a plan to catch Spunky again.

Day 1
Day 1 turned out to be a bust. We'd planned to meet at 1pm but were both a little late, and thus lost our small window of opportunity. By the time I arrived I found a woman feeding a bunch of squirrels and there was Spunky, right
in the middle!  By the time Bernie arrived, three monster lawnmowers were
making their rounds and making a helluva racket.

Have Traps will Travel

By then Spunky was up in the tree.

No amount of cajoling would bring Spunky down.

Between the noise and the full stomach, that squirrel wasn't interested in coming down. Perhaps
she knew she was being stalked. Squirrels are hypersensitive to being stalked.

Day 2   
The next day we worked smarter. We got there by noon this time, in an attempt to beat the crowds. It worked. I even got there a bit early, so that by the time Bernie arrived, I was already feeding a relaxed Spunky on the bench, and she seemed like her usual unafraid self.  But it still didn't look good for a catch. She ate a little and then
deposited herself up in a tree where it looked like she wouldn't be coming back down. Usually she is a voracious eater and can go on and on, but not today it seemed.

We were seriously considering leaving and coming back the next day, when lo and behold,  Spunky came down! A passer-by threw a bunch of peanuts down and the challenge had been thrown.
 Spunky is not one to resist a challenge, so down she came. And there was Bernie, waiting for her with the net!

Now  Spunky is a very relaxed squirrel, who acts more like a pet than a wild squirrel most of the time, so her guard
was not up and Bernie fairly easily netted her. I wish I had pictures to show of Spunky squirming around in the big black net, but once again, my camera had malfunctioned. This time, in all the excitement I had dropped it on the concrete, which dislodged the memory card. I discovered later that this was easily fixed, but there was no time to look into it in the excitement of the moment.

Bernie quickly transferred Spunky from the net into the carrier and they were soon off to the vet's!
The visit to the vet took a bit longer than planned. We had hoped to do it in an hour, so as not to keep Spunky away
from her babies for long. But she got bumped by another squirrel, and then by a pigeon
emergency (the bird needed oxygen). While they were waiting Bernie drained her again.
The wound where she had been slit open initially was still open and there was some pus coming out, so the infection was still there (although nothing like before).

When the vet was finally ready for her, Spunky was put under with a mask and  got her Big Bad Shot.

She was a well-behaved squirrel the entire time, and did poke her head out of the box inside the cage, on the cab ride home. I guess she knew she had survived.

Back in Peter Cooper Village, Spunky's cage was placed close to her tree, and she was left alone to come out.

When nothing happened, it was decided that she needed a little help.

OUT of the BOX!
And INTO the TREE!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Spunky has Surgery

I was at PCV the other day when a neighbor  pointed out a squirrel whose left cheek was badly swollen. It wanted to eat, so I began feeding it along with the other squirrels, all the while keeping an eye out for my friend  Spunky, whom I hadn't seen yet that day. I was a bit concerned because while many squirrels tend not to make a daily appearance, Spunky was always out and about.

I walked around the bowling green calling her name, but no Spunky appeared. When I finally decided to sit down to rest, the squirrel with the blown up cheek followed me over to the bench, and - just like Spunky would do - hopped up beside me on the bench - just like Spunky would do - and that was when it hit me -- this was Spunky!

Of course, how could I have missed it? Spunky was nursing babies. I should have noticed.

How stupid of me not to have recognized her, yet that terrible swelling changed her face so much that I did not. It blew up out of the blue: one day she was fine and two days later she looked like this:

Bernie was nervous because  it had blown up so rapidly, so he came over the next day and performed surgery on her, in order to drain it. What he did was amazing, although I must admit that I couldn't watch much, as it made me feel faint. Unfortunately, my camera had just run out of gas, so there was no imperative to take pictures.

Bernie let Spunky approach him on the bench, as I knew she would, since she is  so at ease with people. He fed her for a while - some avocado and various nuts - and then suddenly he was holding her. As I said, no camera, no pictures of what ensued, only a description. He slit her cheek with a razor blade in such a way to ensure that it did not touch an artery, which would bring the poison back into her body, but rather a vein, which would bring it out.

And out it did come! I looked over once and saw a long stream of  liquid pouring out of the squirrel. I went back next day to take a picture of the unbelievable amount of gunk that came out of that squirrel: large balls of a hard, waxy substance that had to be pus, mixed with red blood.

                                Bad Gunky from Spunky

Spunky was being quiet and cooperative. Bernie held her in such a way that she had no choice. When he finally released her she tore for the nearest tree like a bat out of hell!  She disappeared up the tree, and that was the last to be seen of Spunky that day.

An option would have been to take her to the vet's for a dose of antibiotics, but it was already late in the day, and we didn't want to take her away from her babies for long, as they could be killed without a watchful mother around. 
I went back the next day, not knowing what to expect. Would Spunky now be afraid of us? I sat on the bench and waited for almost an hour for her to appear. I was starting to get worried when the same neighbor from the other day approached, and told me that he'd seen Spunky that morning, and had noticed that her swelling had gone down significantly. I was relieved to hear that. I told him about Spunky's surgery and he said he'd keep a special eye on her. 
A short while later Spunky made her appearance. She hopped right up on the bench next to me. Nothing had changed!  
She was still friendly and had no fear of me. I think she knows that we helped her. Spunky is smarter than the average bear.

Her cheek was still a little bit swollen, but looked so much better, and she must have felt better. I think Bernie saved her life with his amazing surgical skills and knowledge. He said that squirrels are prone to getting this infection, and that he has helped them get over it many times.

I am so grateful that Spunky is better and can continue to tend to her babies. She may need another drain, and maybe some antibiotics, so we'll be watching her carefully for the next couple of days.