Summer went by so quickly, and kept me so busy. This poor blog has sat here neglected and unloved, so it's time to post a little something.
May marked the appearance of more baby round-tails than I ever expected. Four litters in close proximity to one another. There were two litters of four, and two of nine. A litter of nine is rare, but not uncommon following the heavy rains we had during the winter. More vegetation/food supply results in more babies. Sadly, large litters have much higher mortality rates. The babies are smaller, and it's much harder for mom to keep track of so many little ones scurrying about. One mom, in particular, lost three in the first few days. The first was seen with a broken back, probably attacked a rival adult female guarding her territory (and her own young). The little one crawled into the family burrow and never came back out. A second baby simply disappeared, probably taken by a predator.
A few days later, I saw a third baby with a broken back, but this one was determined to survive. He dragged himself by his two front legs, and struggled to get in and out of his burrow. It was heartbreaking to watch. So, rather than leaving him to die a miserable death, I made the decision to bring him inside. He wasn't likely to survive either way, but I couldn't bear to see him pecked to death by birds, rats, ants . . . all the things that prey on an injured baby rodent.
I named my new friend Scooter, and he stayed with me for two months. At first I fed him formula, then weaned him on a mix of native vegetation and squirrel food sent to me by a friendly rehabber. He loved to snuggle in the fur pelts and torn T-shirts that that I gave him, and play in the dirt "digging box" that I made. He seemed unaware of his disability, climbing and playing like any other squirrel.
Scooter grew to his full adult size before he passed away. One morning he was weak and lethargic, and I knew he was ready to go. He died that night, slipping away peacefully in his sleep, on his fur bed, on my lap. A little piece of my heart went with him that night. Squirrels have a way of wrapping themselves around your heart and never letting go. I'll always treasure the time we had together.
My vet believes that Scooter died from a blood clot, probably caused by his initial injury, that dislodged and went to his lungs. It was inevitable. He didn’t suffer, but I cried for weeks, and cry still, whenever I think of him.
Rest in peace little Scooter. I hope you are running and playing with your two brothers on the other side of the bridge.
2 months ago