Printed with permission
After almost three days of convincing, the woman that had the fox
squirrel decided to give him up. It was a three-hour drive round trip,
but the pick-up was made and he was here. He had not had much to eat
over the last 3 to 4 days, Pedialyte and evaporated milk, Pedialyte and
KMR, Pedialyte and Just Born…Oh boy.
At this time I am the proud owner of a brand new digital postal
scale…accuracy! Now the weigh-in: Holy Cow! 144g and his eyes are still
closed, his back feet are almost as long as my thumb and his bones are
huge. At some point my brain goes into park and I draw up a nice .7cc
of LRS for hydration, which he takes and goes crazy wanting more. After
a bit of head scratching I realize it should have been 7cc. I must
rethink my plan here; this guy is big! On March 25th his eyes opened and
his true personality began to emerge: he was a pig, plain and simple,
with the pig noises included. When I told Jennifer I had a baby fox
squirrel she asked me if I had any 20cc syringes??? Huh! "Just get um'
you'll need them soon". I had no idea how soon.
One day while feeding I didn't get my puny syringes changed in time so
Crackers came roaring up my shirt making the pig noises, grabbed my
shirt collar and almost sucked my shirt off. I am praying for the
delivery of the big syringes soon. Weight gains were remarkable and I
had to question the fancy new scales that I had bought. He did not gain
in the nice 2 to 5 grams of the greys, but at 10 to 15 a day! Yep,
scales are off, must take them back. However, by this time I had greys
in and their weight gain was normal. What is this eating machine?
Crackers became known as the Food Monster, then Tank Baby.
Things just got even stranger. One morning I was greeted by a bunch of
pig noises, even the greys were making them. My other half, Don,
standing at the door, pointed to the fox and said "Him, yep him. He's
the one." Thankfully, the greys decided they were much too dignified to
make such noises and quit after a while.
By this time I had gotten in another eyes closed fox baby I called "the
little dude" which soon become "Dude." As soon as his eyes opened the
pig noises became a crescendo!
Crackers is now about 8 weeks old and I thought of introducing him to
water. I started using a water bottle instead of a shallow dish as I
usually would. Floor space is a premium with something that big. Two
tablespoons of distilled water were added and the bottle was attached to
the cage; it is supposed to take a bit for them to catch on so I went to
fix dinner for the crowd. I could only have been gone 5 minutes and
when I came back in there was that horrible rodent upside down under the
bottle, with a death grip on the spout and blown up like a balloon!
Looked like a wino under a keg! I grabbed the water bottle to look and
saw that one tablespoon was gone. Crackers looked dejected that his
fluid spout was missing. By this time Don had heard me telling him "
LOOK, I TRY SO HARD TO SAVE YOU AND YOU DO THIS!" I stimulated, he peed
buckets, and Don is laughing so hard he is doubled over. After Crackers
was done peeing he waddles over to the cage bars and burps at me; this
sends Don into more fits of laughter as Crackers, with as much dignity
as a squirrel with a dragging belly can muster, turns and waddles into
his nest box. Ok, fox squirrels don't need water.
Food was also a source of concern. They could go through tons of it;
formula became one of the things that came in 5-lb. bags and when half
empty you reordered. Even though eating blocks, biscuits and other
things, that syringe with the formula was the big treat. I found out
too late that fox squirrels can be hard to wean. Gee, now you tell me.
As the greys were progressing on a normal note I was soon to find Dude,
although smaller, had just as many wacky traits as Crackers. One thing
that never changed was feeding time. Both squirrels would come pounding
to the cage door, pig noises included. When the door was opened they
would not wait to be lifted out but would grab onto my shirt, climb
right up grab the syringe, inhale the food, pad back down my shirt and
back into the cage. Gee, talk about feeling used. Anything in a
syringe was loved and cherished: you were what brought the syringe.
I really have to say here that both were growing (rapidly) into
beautiful animals, although Dude would never have the size of the big
guy he was much more agile, while Crackers was very laid back. Dude
liked to do what we called his moray eel impersonation. He would slowly
come out of his nest box (they were cardboard and the opening was even
with the perch) slowly, and not all the way, grab whatever struck his
fancy and slowly, back himself into the box. Whatever went in was never
seen again. The only problem with this was when my finger became the
prize. I was cleaning the perch when he slithered out gently, grabbed
my finger and went back in. "Ah, hey Dude I'm still attached." Not to
worry, he was just checking things out to see if it was a keeper. After
sucking on it a bit, and with no formula appearing, I guess he decided
it wasn't worthy. The other amazing thing about these guys was their
extreme gentleness; it was like they had no teeth or nails; finger
sucking or swallowing was a favorite past time. I now know how a mouse
feels when found by a snake.
Their other great passion was their piece of fake fur, the greys would
spat and play, the fox squirrels went to war. You could hear the thump,
thump of them and the shaking of the cages. Dude kept his fights to the
daylight hours while Crackers, being the brave squirrel, would wage war
at night. While sitting at the computer at 9:00 one night, I heard the
worst noise coming from the squirrel room. Yep, Crackers in full
fighting form, also sweet grey faces eyes wide wondering at the
commotion. So, for the sake of quiet I brought him to the computer room
and plopped him on the back of the chair where he proceeded to tell me
about his life, my decorating and various other things until at 10pm
when he finally got tired.
The boys also had their own funny movements. When they would run as
youngsters they moved like defensive linemen running down the football
field. Don called them "little linebackers." The "Fox Squirrel Stomp"
is another favorite: heads down, bouncing from their front to their back
feet--thump, thump, thump. Then if they got real excited with this they
would add spinning to it; and when really pumped they would go sidewise,
never losing that rocking horse or bucking bronco look.
Ok it is time; I held Crackers up so Dude, who is younger, can be in the
release pen at the same time. Crackers still wants that 20 cc's of
formula every night. I know by his size that the formula he is getting
is not sustaining him one bit; so one night we had a talk. I put my
fingers through the hardware cloth of his pen, and explained that there
are no syringes in the wild and that he is not, I MEAN NOT, getting any
more; this is it. He looked at me with those huge brown eyes that
almost look through you and with a flip of his tail came charging over,
pig noise going, and ever so gently tried to swallow one of my fingers.
Oh what a squirrel.
After spending some time in the release pens on July 3rd Crackers and
Dude hit the trees as free squirrels. Both are doing well; their larger
than life movements, the funny noises, and their quiet dignity will
stick with me forever. We laughed at them, loved them and watched them
grow and return to where they were meant to be. It was an honor.
WildLife Rehabilitator: Nonda
Site maintained by Loraine Wauer