Friday, August 31, 2007

Baby Squirrels

We were having a fairly calm day yesterday, resting between all the parties and before today, when Matt's childhood best friend (also Matt) arrived from Seattle for the long weekend. The kids were playing in the yard and I was having coffee on the back patio, looking over some materials for Julia's history lessons--I am still trying to deny that summer vacation is about to be over, but these lessons still had to be planned. All of a sudden, I realized that Sophie was barking, and so were Rosie and Riley, our neighbor dogs. Additionally, there was a very loud chirping sound, like a bird call, but I didn't recognize what kind of bird. I called to the kids to see if they were by the fence, since sometimes Rosie barks at them and then Sophie races to their defense, but they were nowhere close by. Upon investigation, we found two tiny squirrels at the bottom of the maple tree (luckily in the side yard, where they were protected from the dogs by being outside of the fences...) curled and crying that piercing chirp.

They weren't newborn, because they had sleek fur all over, looking like miniature versions of squirrels except for their tails, which were smooth rather than bushy. However, their eyes were still closed. (We later found out via Internet that they were around one month old, since they open their eyes at 5 weeks. Since the dogs were distressing them so, we decided to bring them inside, so I carefully picked them up with a cloth diaper (not wanting to get a human smell on them) and put them into an unused 5 gallon aquarium we had in the basement with some hay and the diaper. One was noticeably stronger, and he moved around and burrowed comfortably into the hole in the top layer of the diaper. The other poor little thing sort of rolled into a ball and lay still.

We Googled "rescuing baby squirrels," and made a recipe for squirrel Pedialyte, after ascertaining that they weren't dehydrated yet. However, they had no food since the website said NOT to give milk of any kind...when my brother rescued a nest of baby squirrels when I was a kid, I remember feeding them bread soaked in milk. I had no clue what to do. Here are the people I contacted for help:

--Kent Animal Shelter, who told me to call Animal Control.
--Animal Control, where I got an answering machine.
--Petco, who told me to put them back under the tree for the mother to find, and if she didn't get them to call either Quogue Wildlife Refuge or another rescue place in Westhampton (but if I called them I had to say I FOUND them in Westhampton...) So we put them back out, hoping they wouldn't die in the night. They didn't, but the mama didn't come find them, either.
--Quogue Wildlife Refuge, where I also got an answering machine.
--my neighbor Suzy, who told me to call a vet because they usually sold formula for baby wildlife. Since they hadn't eaten in at least 24 hours, I was committed to getting them to eat. They'd eagerly taken a bit of the Pedialyte today--but as soon as they realized it wasn't their preferred food, clammed up and didn't want more.
--Riverhead Animal Hospital, who told me I could buy formula for puppies and mix it with heavy cream--and would have to feed them EVERY 2-3 hours, around the clock! She also kindly gave me the number of Michelle, who rescues baby wildlife and who, in fact, took a squirrel from the vet yesterday....
--Michelle, the angel of squirrels, who told me I could bring them right over! We hopped in the car with them and had them at her office right after that, and she said she'd call us after the weekend and give back the tank.

So the story has a happy ending, thank goodness. I was picturing a sad little funeral for baby squirrels, and frankly wondering if a cat made off with them if I could get away with pretending it had been their mama!

Strangely enough, Matt said that if we nursed them back to health, they'd be tame in our yard and wouldn't it be cool to be able to hand feed squirrels....yes, that would be adorable, but since we sic Sophie on squirrels at the bird feeder every single day, I don't see how it would work. Besides, I think you all know that we don't need any more animals to be responsible for!!!!!


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