Friday, July 29, 2011

Columbia Squirrel Update


I haven't seen Bitty in about a month... I think she has abandoned her former turf (given it to her childeren) and may have taken up residence elsewhere.. that is standard procedure for a squirrel matron, so it isn't wholy unexpected.

 Bitty's kids are out on their own now, they have all set up summer nests in the upper branches along the entryway.... the one with the missing tip of the tail I've named "Nibbles' and she is an absolute darling... she has fully mastered 'up' and is working on 'shoulder' and does all manner of interesting tricks for her adoring fans.

Her sister I'm calling 'sissy' or CC for now as she is a little bit of a scardy squirrel but is still Cute and Cuddely (hence CC)... she actually tried to do 'Up' on her own, but i wasn't expecting it so I accidentally moved my arm and she missed and bounced a bit which she didn't like... it will take a while to convince her to do it again...

Bitty's Boy
And Bittys little boy is still a bit of a loner, but he comes over and mooches food regularly...

 Bella it appears, gave birth to a late crop of squigglets, and has been taking care of them up in her nest in the eves, but she dislikes hot weather so she doesn't come out much... she just rummages through the trash in the early morning hours...

Big Sasha
Sasha is still a (loveable) pushy pest, but her kids are becoming significantly more social, that is when they can be convinced to come down from their cool perches in the high branches.

I saw BB (bushy butt) today, in her usual stomping grounds near the east college walk gate, and it looks like she may be just finishing up nursing a brood...

I haven't seen Stripe, and most of the juveniles have been hard to spot, but I chalk that up primarily due to the hot weather, they just don't like to eat, work , or come down from the trees unless it drops below 80.

Marc Rosenthal

Squirrel Camouflage

This beautiful Florida Fox Squirrel is a good illustration of squirrel camouflage. The location is Estero, Florida. Which came first, the squirrel or the tree?

This Douglas Squirrel on Washington's Olympic Peninsula blends right in with the squirrel feeder.
Nanook's Vigil

This Costa Rican Variegated Squirrel blends right
 in with the living room.
Note: Variegated Squirrels (Sciurus variegatoides) are large, arboreal squirrels found in tropical woodlands and scrublands from southern Mexico to Panama. Throughout their range, Variegated Squirrels are amazingly variable in their coloration. (

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spunky's Madness

Has Spunky gone mad? Is it possible that the stress of the horrible heat while nursing her babies has made her mad? Here's what I'm thinking. First of all, she is not as easily recognizable since she gave birth, as she is very small now with no nipples protruding. Of course there is still that cute little face with the popping eyes that gave her the name "Spunky".

So yesterday I wasn't absolutely sure, but thought it was she when a small black squirrel fitting her description came running down the tree where her babies might be. She took a single grape from me, then disappeared back up the tree.

 Later, when all the squirrels were gathering by the flagpole for a food fest,  I was sitting on a bench, and a squirrel that looked like Spunky jumped up on the bench with me. So far so good-- that seemed like Spunky. But then a puzzling thing happened. When I proffered a cherry she was too afraid to take it. I thought that was strange, and decided to put the cherry on the bench with a couple of loose nuts and to sweeten the deal, a peanut. I then witnessed some rather weird squirrel behavior. The squirrel who looked like Spunky would creep up to the food, stick out a paw to almost touch the food, then withdraw in a cringing motion. This theatrical drama went on for quite some time. I was still asking myself if this could really be Spunky, or was it just a squirrel that looked like Spunky? And if so, where was Spunky? I didn't get an answer, and the squirrel never took the food from the bench, although it did keep trying.

Back I went the next day in search of Spunky, as I was worried about her and her babies in this still terrible heat.  I saw a black squirrel sitting on "Spunky's Branch" -- the usual branch that she sits on while guarding her babies, who are presumably tucked safely into the hole at the end of the branch. This had to be Spunky. I kept calling her name and waving, but she would not come down. And that was so unlike Spunky.

Squirrel Feeding Recruits

Meanwhile. I was gathering a small group of recruits who wanted to help feed the squirrels.

Spunky remained up on her branch, watching the show. A while later she finally descended to join in the chaos and commotion of the feeding frenzy. I immediately offered her a cherry. She reached up and plucked the cherry from its stem, but then let it drop to the ground. Could this really be Spunky? The Spunky who would once eat anything that I gave her?  Spunky " the bottomless pit"?

So then I tried offering her a walnut, which she sniffed with disdain. Now I was starting to think she'd gone crazy! Okay, it was time to get out the heavy artillery, pull out all the stops, get out the peanuts!  One of my recruits offered her a peanut and Lo and Behold -- she ignored it! Ran right past it.  Now we know for sure that Spunky is certifiable, right? No red-blooded American squirrel in its right mind has ever refused a peanut to my knowledge, even if just to bury it.

I was wondering if perhaps Spunky had become dehydrated, so I set down a little dish of water nearby, but she did not go near it. Instead she chose to propel herself at a big gray squirrel that had been minding its own business AFAIK. After the mid-air collision with the gray squirrel, Spunky ran back up her tree. End of Spunky for the day. So what's going on with her?  I wish I knew. I was thinking that maybe the gray squirrel had been trying enter the hole where her babies were, but her attack had seemed to come out of the blue.

I also saw a scary sign that her left cheek (the one that had blown up with an infection before) looked like it might be getting bigger. It could be that the stress of the heat and having to nurse the babies has brought her sickness back. I hope not.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

eXtreme Heat

We're in the middle of a brutal heat wave. According to
Friday's Heat Rewrites History
The blasting heat wave smashes records from Boston to New York to Baltimore.

The entire  northeast corridor is under the dome as they call it, a high pressure area sitting over the east coast right now. The dew point - the amount of moisture in the air - raises the heat index. The heat index is what it feels like, rather than the actual temperature. But actual temperatures are high enough. Here in New York City it's been as high as 101. It hit an all-time high of 106 in Newark NJ, and 110 in Washington DC, where it felt like 120 with the heat index . This oppressive heat has been here for over a week.  The heat has so far claimed about two dozen lives. Ozone levels are at unhealthy levels across the entire northeast.  Here in New York City we're experiencing what they call the Urban Heat Island effect - where the concrete and asphalt warm up faster and keep the city hotter.

Today, Saturday, was another scorcher. The wicked heat will continue to stick around for the rest of the weekend. I couldn't bring myself to go out to check on the squirrels, as they've been warning people not to go outside.  I imagine most of PCV's weekend squirrel feeders are enclosed in their air conditioned apartments and not venturing out, so not sure anyone will be feeding the little fuzzies. And would they even want to eat in this heat? Probably not.

Will Spunky's babies survive the heat? I hope the squirrels are getting water. I hope PCV is generously turning their sprinklers on.

A Summertime Dream

Last Wednesdat was the last time I was at PCV, and it was a really lovely day even though it was hot. There was a (slight) breeze blowing to temper the heat, and the sprinklers were going off all over PCV, making it feel semi-cool. The grassy was dewy wet everywhere. Squirrels were romping about. It was a summertime dream.

I ran into a bunch of "the ladies" sitting by the fountain and feeding sqs, who assured me that they had the fountain area covered. So I concentrated on Spunky's area over by the east flagpole, and of course, on Patches.

I had fun with Patches, who came over to play by the benches near the playground.

Today he was so glad to see me that he jumped up on my bench for the first time ever!

We're making progress,  even though a bigger squirrel soon jumped up and chased Patches off the bench! He's still a little guy, and as you can see in this picture of him and a  pigeon.
I don't like the way his scab is looking. It's not even a scab, but still open and raw, and under the skin around the edges you can see more stuff getting ready to erupt.
And he also has those other little spots. I think if we're going to help him it should be soon. As he gets friendlier and less wary, he may become easier to catch. I hope he's surviving the heat.


I finally worked up the nerve to go out in early evening. It was not that bad. I made the rounds, dispensing cool grapes and cherries as well as water. Patches came running out to say hi! Most of the squirrels were not interested in the water, semi-interested in the cherries and grapes, and mainly interested in getting a peanut! Not sure if I saw Spunky. A small black squirrel ran down her tree, took a grape, then ran back up the tree. I think it was she.
Later some other squirrels came around but not Spunky. Hope she and her babies are ok. Do squirrels get dehydrated in the heat? Worried about the babies. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Snatched by a Hawk

Okay, we've had some ducks this summer, so why not a cat?

(Happy ending spoiler: guaranteed this cat won't be taking any more summertime naps on the terrace!)

It was dawn on the upper West Side the other day when a young woman heard a screech usually heard in the countryside: the raspy kreeing of a red-tailed hawk capturing its prey.

It got louder and more horrible as it suddenly mixed with the mews of a terrified cat. Her beloved cat, Eddie.

She ran out to her fifth-floor terrace where Eddie had been stretched out on a bench and saw nothing but "fur, broken nails, and feathers."

Read more... Fat Cat Eddie Gets Snatched Up By Hawk, But Dropped in Neighbor's Garden Due to Weight

Dog meets Squirrel

Both act mesmerized: love at first sight?

Well... something. I've noticed a great deal of curiosity on both sides at PCV. Dogs like to watch squirrels. Squirrels in turn often seem fascinated by dogs on their leashes, and will run away only if the dog barks or lunges. On the other hand, Riley the Cat drives all squirrels bananas immediately (as do hawks).

Here's a cute video of a baby squirrel befriending a dog:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What has Patches been up to?

July 1

First the good news.
We found Patches! We hadn't seen him in about two weeks and I was fearing the worst. Then Benie found him living in a new tree! He had moved from the orange tree to a new spot just past the cherry trees. There is a very nice nest in the tree which seems to belong to him.

He seems like a loner as there are not many other squirrels around. I was so happy to see him. And he seemed glad to see me too. Came running over and ate right out of my hand.

I saw him for several days in a row after that. All I needed to do was walk over by his tree and call out his name and he'd come running down to say hello!

And there was more good news: Now that Patches had grown into a big boy it seemed that his patch had finally healed up for good. I was so happy for him!

July 4
Now the bad news.

But it was not to last. A few days later his patch fell off again, leaving a large area of exposed, raw flesh. In this picture you can see the flap of skin above the raw flesh where the patch had been.

July 7
Patches comes for a treat. Three days later his patch has begun to heal.

July 10
But now it looks like another smaller patch is growing beneath the large one.
Patches doesn't seem to have much appetite, which could be the heat, but compared to the bottomless pits over in Spunky's area, I'm concerned that it may be due to his illness.  I wish I knew what ails Patches and if anything can be done to cure it. It's almost like leprosy where a patch of skin keeps healing and then falling off. If anybody has any ideas about what this could be, please contact me.

I love this little squirrel. He has the sweetest disposition in the world, even now, as a big boy.

July 14

Patches is constantly changing. His patch is now smaller but bloody red.

July 17

Patches comes by to say hello.

Patches has two new lesions now:

There's a small lesion below and to the left of the big lesion (near tail):

A new lesion has appeared on his left leg:

Monday, July 11, 2011

What has Spunky been up to?

Well believe it or not, we think Spunky has  had more babies!  Squirrels never cease to amaze and confound! It wasn't all that long ago that I blogged about Spunky having babies.

I kept waiting for Spunky to get back in shape, but actually she never did. She continued to look like she was nursing, and recently seemed to be getting even larger and pinker. Here's how she looked on July 2: very pink in the belly, with strange discolorations and hair loss starting to appear on her backside:

After that I actually didn't see Spunky for a while but wasn't particularly concerned since I hadn't been around much myself this week, for various reasons such as rainy days and a busy appointment schedule. But when she was not around last Sunday I began to worry about her whereabouts .

Bernie, who was there earlier, said that he had not seen her, but had seen a small squirrel with
Spunky's coloring,  that he thought it might be one of her babies. He mentioned that it had strange discolorations on its behind, which sounded like the way Spunky was looking the last time I saw her. Could the baby have developed the same discolorations as its mother due to something in their nest? Bernie said that it took exactly one nut then disappeared back into the hole in the tree and would not come down again. Hmmm...

Later, as we were getting ready to depart, we decided to go back one last time to look for Spunky. This time the little squirrel that Bernie had been describing came down and was very hungry. Then it finally dawned on us that this little squirrel was not a  baby at all, but actually Spunky herself! She had been so much bigger the last time we'd seen her.

Yes, it was definitely her face, and her behavior. No doubt about it.

Helloooooo! It's meeeee!! Spunky!!!

But it was a new, sleeker and svelter Spunky!

So we  decided that Spunky must have given birth. Now I'm trying to do the math, and figure out how she pulled this one off. Squirrels are amazing and way too difficult for us poor humans to fully figure out. :)

July 17

Spunky is looking beautiful again.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mira's Story

This is the story of a little squirrel named Mira that I found on a discussion board one  day.  Unfortunately I found the thread too late -- Mira had already passed. I wish I had been there sooner because  I had a few ideas. It's too late to help little Mira, but I still feel the need to voice my opinion, as it might help another baby squirrel some day.

Reading the entire thread from end to end the other day provided a certain perspective that may not have otherwise been obvious. It was the "do or die" approach to using the Fox Valley formula that caught my attention as I was reading along, not yet knowing the outcome, because I chose not to skip to the last page.

Why was Mira so resistant to the Fox Valley Formula that she let it dribble down out of her mouth? It occurred to me that she may have had an allergy to FV. I'm wondering if we should trust a squirrel's instinctive likes and dislikes more, and not try to force whatever we think is best on them when they are clearly resisting? Her rescuers had found her on the ground after she had fallen about 40 feet. They were doing their best to help her recover, not really knowing the extent of any internal injuries she might have.  I can't blame them for anything, as they were doing a heroic job on the front lines, and were relying on directions being given by various squirrel experts on the thread.

The problem was that all the experts, in their hearfelt desire to help Mira,  were being very  nearsighted in their approach. They were hung up on an "orthodox" approach that dictated that Fox Valley formula should be fed to all baby squirrels in every instance, thus were unable to seek a better solution for this particular instance. That's my opinion at any rate.

Actually we don't even know if Mira was truly a baby, as her fur and tail were quite well developed. She may have been a dwarf squirrel, which is not an uncommon occurrence. When she was first found, she had apparently fallen 40 feet to the ground from her nest, and may have sustained some neurological damage, although she seemed to be healthy.

However, in time it became apparent that Mira clearly was not getting enough nutrition from the sugar water, fruit and forced FV feedings that she was continually regurgitating. Her body seemed to be reacting violently to the FV. Yet over and over, almost to the end, people kept  trying to push more FV into her in any way possible. No matter if she was fighting it, they came up with all sorts of circumventions to try and "sneak" it into her. That was Mira's battle.

Eventually, but only near the end did they finally give up on the FV and suggested trying Ensure, which she took willingly. Unfortunately it was too late to save Mira, who by then was close to death. Whether she would have survived under different conditions is impossible to determine, but it's something to think about at least.

What would I have suggested had I been around earlier? Mira obviously needed more protein, but I'm suggesting that the needed protein could have been obtained from natural whole foods, rather than from a formula that she was resisting. For example, Bernie Goetz has come up with an interesting formula for baby squirrels. which is described in another blog.  He had a problem a few years back when two of his baby squirrels almost died from taking the Esbilac formula. Popular opinion at the time was vigorously endorsing Esbilac for baby squirrels. After that experience he shied away from all infant formulas including FV, and has been using a natural food formula that he created himself. Baby squirrels lap it up. He has encountered no resistance to it, and his squirrels have been thriving on it. You can read all about it here.

The following quotes taken from the thread show how everyone was stuck on FV as the primary, if not only solution for what ailed Mira, and her ongoing resistance.

Maybe a little heavier on the FV and lighter on the almond butter and nuts.

Mira hates FV

MIRA really is a WEE THING..... but Soooo STRONG when she doesn't want her FV

Her five or six feedings take at least an HOUR each... ( Every combo of FV has been rejected... bubbles it out and down on her chin... )

Here is a photo of
MIRAduring feeding---She has two positions....
1- fighting and squirming like crazy
2- zoned out--refusing to swallow--FV dripping from her lips

Clamps mouth SHUT ! Spits out all she can.

Have you tried covering her eyes with her fleece during formula feedings?

I will try that... Lately, she doesn't try to wiggle free much, she just holds the FV in her mouth and lets a good part of it dribble out. I've tried tickling under her chin,and lightly pushing on her jaw, etc...Is there a MAGIC BUTTON ?? ( squirrel PRESSURE POINT ) that will make them SWALLOW ?? When I switch to BABY FOOD, I clearly can observe the gulping/swallowing

I have been covering her eyes more, in recent feedings........... but she just doesn't want to swallow. She clenches her jaw and I can feel her tense up all over as soon as I put the tip of the syringe near her mouth.

What happens if you mix the baby food and the FV 50/50?

Tried baby food, capuline berry juice ( she loves to eat these local berries), and even sugar water--she is not a fan of FV...I don't care-- I will continue to "help" her consume it at each feeding.

I will try a piece of avocado plain, and than add it to the FV if she enjoys it. She does enjoy holding and eating her food. I think she had been on solid food before we found her and started forcing liquid FV on her. Stubborn Little Princess....

Although she still spit out a good portion of the FV it wasn't as bad as other
times. Can only hope she continues to accept it more and more.

The FV may just be so completely different that HER mama that she just HATES it. Like somebody force feeding me liver!

Maybe Mira is filling up on the apple slice, so not hungry for formula. Have you tried formula first and then apple?

If she likes the goats milk, it could be the vehicle to very slowly start sneaking the FV back in.

Now for me and IMO, I would like to see Mira stay on some combo of GMF and FV formula. Even if just 3 parts GMF to 1 part FV formula.

Hope MIRA leans to accept the FV feedings

Is it possible for a baby squirrel to take in nourishment, but their body
be unable to assimilate the food?

We 'force' her to take the Formula as she absolutely REFUSES
to take it at all. Hates it. Even with the Goats Milk Formula added
in. No change in her acceptance, or lack there of.

Our experience, she won't willingly accept the FV.Should we Try to MAKE her take at least a little FV so she will have something on her stomach prior to the Sulfatrim ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
OR..... just offer the sugar water ? ? ? ? ? ?

Grabbing the syringe and drinking! Fantastic! (after switching from FV to Ensure)

But at one of these upcoming feedings, offer her the FV or FV/GM

yes, forget the dreaded FV. We're not worried about MBD right now.

Too Late Ha....I already offered that YUCKY Fox Valley --and as predicted--none taken !!!

At the next "feeding" give her 2 or 3 syringes full of the sugar water that she likes, then give her a syringe loaded with the 32/40 Fox Valley

At 9 am, Mira was offered and ate happily a couple pcs of apple, took 2 1/2 cc of the 32/40 FV, was given her meds, and 1cc of fluid. Only the apple was accepted in a willing manner. All other items were gently but fimly applied against her desire.

We are hoping in a short time Mira will begin to like and willingly accept the 32/40 FV.

QUESTION: can I start "making sure" That MIRA takes her Fox valley ??I will look feed-back on the feedings....before I proceed. At 1 pm I will offer more FV . tomorrow I will once again begin to add FV to some of Mira's juice, just a tiny smidg at a time, as she hates it so. don't want her to turn away from hydration because of the FV, but she will need nourishment too.

Here is something else to try: we know she likes apple. Take a small piece of apple and mince it very fine. Add just a small amount of FV powder and stick it back together into a little ball or cube and see if she will accept it. If not, try heating it for a few seconds in the microwave. If she will eat that, you can start INCHING up the amount of FV powder you use. can offer FV now. Do you have maple syrup? You can water some down, dip the nipple/syringe tip in it after loaded with FV. Mira may taste that and just keep slurping.

I would rather see her drink FV than eat apples or get too full on Pedi.

If she drank alot of Pedi, she won't be hungry for FV.

I offered after she took 2cc of pedi, she acted as though the FV was devils
poison, just as she always has.

The few kids that I have had that refused FV did take right to the Pedisure or Ensure, like ...and I slowy snuck in FV.

I think you should start giving Mira FV mixed with whatever it takes to get her to take it willingly and without stressing her by force feeding. I would try the sugar water mix first.

I need to be convinced I am not starving MIRA...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


 I haven't seen Pinky in over a week now. Sometimes squirrels disappear and then reappear, but Pinky was usually always there, somewhere around his little corner of the park over by the east flagpole. I've been seeing the other black babies almost daily, and have been on the lookout for him. Then yesterday I ran into Grace, and it kind of reminded me of one of those RPG's where you wander around the village speaking to various villagers to get clues needed to go on with the game. Grace told me that she saw a cat chasing a squirrel over by the playground, which is not that far away from Pinky's playground. Based on her description, sounds like the big black and white cat that used to hang out by the water fawcet near the west flagpole last winter. Grace thinks it's a stray, and as she said, "a cat needs to eat".

I pray that this is not what happened to Pinky! While he already had an exceptional personality, he may not have been big enough or strong enough or fast enough yet to contend with a cat (that can also climb trees).

 Pinky was not shy like most baby squirrels. One time when he hadn't seen me for a while he came running over and jumped up on my bag, clinging to it for dear life! He'd also jump up on the bench to be fed, which was unusual behavior for a baby squirrel. He might have learned that from Spunky. Marc, our squirrel trainer friend,  says babies learn by mimicking what they observe their mothers doing. And Spunky loves sitting on the bench with me. I'm pretty sure he's one of her  babies. Like mother, like squirrel. 

I think Pinky and Black Patch came from the same nest environment. Here is
Black Patch a month ago.

June 3 - Black Patch

July 4 - Black Patch
Today he is almost totally healed, with a small barely visible patch on his back which you can't even see in these pictures.

June 14 - Pinky
But you can see that his sibling Pinky got hit worse with the malady that displays as hair  loss. It is most likely mange, which is caused by a tiny mite that inhabits the nest.  We often see this in the babies around here, and their immune systems are usually quickly able to overcome it. That's one of the reasons  why we pay special attention to their nutritional needs, making sure that they get fed, in spite of ever-present interference from competitive larger squirrels around them. 

Pinky Eating a Cherry

June 19 - Pinky

He may not have been the "prettiest" squirrel but he certainly was the cutest. And he had a great personality, just like his mother. I hope I see Pinky again.

August 2 - I saw Pinky today!
I'd swear this is Pinky's face. What do you think?
Pinky then
And now
minus the pink
And he has Pinky's personality. Not too shy, gets up close and personal, doesn't scare away. That was Pinky's behavior. I remember once he was so excited to see me that he jumped up and hitched a ride on the bottom of my bag! But why did he disappear for such a long time? I wish I had the answer. Squirrels are such mysterious creatures.