How Not to Catch a (Wild) Squirrel

Karin’s friend Kayla found an injured baby squirrel and brought it to Karin for healing. Karin called the wildlife service people and they told her how care for it and how to release the squirrel into its habitat when it was ready. Yesterday it was ready. Karin had constructed a tall cage for Ricky Ricardo, a busy gray squirrel that loved to eat almonds, carrots, green beans, peanuts and rat food pellets. He hid the tastiest nuts under his newspaper at the bottom of his cage (he shredded his own newspaper himself) and played with the bells and assorted bright objects in his pen throughout his day. He slept in a nesting basket attached near the top of his cage and wrapped his nose with his tail to keep warm. Ricky was a cute little squirrel.

Karin let Ricky out of his cage every night after first putting both the cat and dog outside to keep Ricky safe. He would snuggle with Karin and romp around the living room looking into nooks and crannies for food and toys. He especially liked the hanging baskets and curtains; he could navigate around the whole first floor without touching the floor. Even though his little furloughs were short he always came back to Karin to be put back into his nest for the night.

Last week Karin let Ricky out during the day for exercise and we had a terrible time getting him back into his cage – there was too much to see and climb and taste. No way were the two of us going to put him into his cage and the only way was through trickery. And after Karin received a couple bites and scratches, Ricky was put back in his cage and he wasn’t very happy about it at all. We were all a bit traumatized; Karin declared that she didn’t want to go through that again. That night Ricky was very, very apologetic and nuzzled Karin under her chin, licked her and stayed close to her side like a contrite (but untamed) squirrel.

On Sunday Karin let Ricky out in the morning and sure enough, he had no intention of going back in the cage again – at least not on Karin’s orders. Certainly not when cajoled by two middle-aged ladies with butterfly nets and sheets looking rather desperate; he was simply not interested! This was about the time that I noticed that Ricky was chewing on Karin’s rubber stamp and decided to knock the stamp from his grasp with a ruler –well, squirrels don’t take to sharing or losing their new found favorite item and he attacked me by chattering loudly and jumping onto my head and doing a mad dance of squirrel fury on both my head and shoulders. Once I got him loose he ran for the curtains, chattering all the way.

Gia, Karin’s friend, knocked on the door and was pressed into solving the squirrel problem, she had been in Karin’s shoes on several occasions with one rescue animal or another and had a couple of tricks up her sleeves. I muttered that perhaps, since the squirrel was wild and NOT A PET he should be allowed to rejoin his squirrel friends outside. Gia agreed and announced that this was a perfect idea, that Ricky was ready and that we should herd him towards the farmer’s porch and out through the screen door. The only person not happy to see Ricky go back to the wild was Mama Karin who was experiencing withdrawal symptoms and feeling pretty sad about the whole leave taking – not having the chance to say good-bye and all. She decreed that the cat couldn’t go out for three days so that Ricky would be safe from her mousing and other small animal hunting.

Day 2: Ricky hasn’t been back and Karin is still grieving, she says that this wasn’t the way to handle returning Ricky to the wild. The wildlife service cautioned that a squirrel should be released in steps to ensure its survival – first, a run should be utilized to reacquaint the animal to the sights and sounds of its old habitat, and then a nest was supposed to be crafted … that if released improperly, a tamed squirrel had less than a 20% survival rate in the wild. Karin said that she didn’t want to go into it anymore, she was just too upset. I think that Ricky will be just fine.

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