Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Dead Tree

I call it the Dead Tree because when I go over there now there are no squirrels coming out of it. While I have visions of dead squirrel bodies inside the tree, I recall how alive it was last summer, when Gray Momma's babies first came down, and when Gray Momma would be out there digging in her garden and defending it from ever-present intruders. Here's how it looked back then, with new plantings that included a little evergreen was shaped like a Christmas Tree.
Now it looks bleak and deserted. No pics as my camera's on the blink :(

It's just as well that I can't post pics of Big Badfoot and Little Badfoot.  My previous post introduced these two squirrels who each had an infected leg and foot, and had trouble standing upright in the snow drifts, but would come out every day to eat. Why would they do that when they could barely stand up? They were eating to stay alive.

But I suspected it was more than just sustenance. I believe they were also helped by the mere presence of a feeder -- somebody who regularly showed up to feed them, a force in the big cold universe that cared about their well-being. Does that sound crazy? All I can say is that in my experience,  squirrels that I have personally interacted with and often given names to, have survived longer and fared better than others. They are wild animals, not pets, but they do benefit by being treated well.

One day I didn't see either of them, and assumed the worst. I did not go the next  day, and then when I went the following day amd found both of them dead in the snow, not far from each other, under the "Christmas Tree". I was devastated. I felt that I'd failed them by not feeding them the previous day. I keep telling myself that they probably would not have survived their terrible infections, and at least they are no longer suffering. But to me it was one more lesson about the psychological impact feeders have on squirrels.

Around that time we were also notified by a rehabber that a PCV resident had seen a squirrel fall from a tree, and that it might have broken its leg. Unfortunately, we fifn't hear about it until the next day, and the squirrel was dead, probably because it had been unable to climb back up the tree and had spent the night out on the ground  in the freezing cold. Squirrels often get in tussles for real estate when the weather is bad, and there are usually a few unfortunate victims turned away due to  "no room in the inn".

These are the tales of suffering that go on throughout winter. Squirrels rank low on the totem pole in the New York City animal kingdom, and they suffer accordingly. I watch people walking dogs with little booties on to protect their pads from the snow, and vests to keep them warm until they can get back into their warm homes, and it just seems so unfair. But this is the place of squirrels in the scheme of things.

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