View Full Version : Tooth care - Officially NR - and how I finally knew

02-20-2021, 03:28 PM
Hi all - I finally landed on the decision that Tinkerbelle should be considered Non-Releasable, and I wanted to share how I got to this point, because I am relieved in having decided, and because my musings may be helpful to others.

Tinker is a California Ground Squirrel, now 10 months. One of a litter of 7 I raised from a few days old when their nest was destroyed on my property. She spontaneously lost one top incisor before she was weaned. It never grew back and the remaining one was, of course, getting too worn down by the bottom incisors. We started trimming the bottom teeth to keep them from digging into the roof of her mouth. Doing so about every 3 to 4 weeks seemed to be the right routine. Of course, as she got bigger and stronger this got to be a more difficult task, something I have whined about in previous posts here.

Four weeks after her November trim it seemed her teeth still looked okay, so we held off trimming them. She is an aggressive chewer and I began to consider that maybe with reaching maturity her teeth had gotten strong enough to be okay. The advice I got was to keep an eye on them, and that if we could go into the early Summer and still not need to trim her teeth, we could look at planning for release. December ended and January came and went. Everything was fine.

Two weeks into February I could really see her top tooth was being worn down. It was usually short, but it was becoming just a nub and I think that if it were to become worn down to below the gum line then irritation and infection would certainly become a problem.

I also began to notice how Tinkerbelle ate differently than other squirrels - thanks to watching videos from 'californiasquirrels' and so many other great posters on Instagram!! I can see how she only uses her lower teeth to chew into something, bracing the food against the top one. I notice she spends more time manipulating the tidbit with her paws and mouth trying get at it with the right angle, and that she sometimes gives up, even when it's a favorite snack. I can also see her having to open her mouth much wider to get at chewing, and even see that her side-profile has changed a bit, looking like she is holding her lower jaw back and down, with lips parted. The last straw was noticing her becoming selective, choosing softer foods from her daily buffet.

Interestingly, amid these things that finally came into focus as 'release deal-breakers', she never stopped chewing stuff, did not lose weight, and I never saw her lower incisors touching the roof of her mouth. I think we can safely predict, however, that if left any longer, these more serious consequences would emerge.

So, for this obvious physiological reason it seems clear now that she will need regular human intervention for the rest of her life. Aside from that, I suspect that, being a singleton (the litter was released elsewhere), it would be a challenge for her to find a place in the existing local colony and she has had no practice staying safe from predators. In my home, on the other hand, she has everything. Her private burrow in her enclosure; a community burrow in my bed; her territory ... the entire house, from window sills to dresser drawers and everything in between. I've determined to stop thinking I'm somehow depriving her of her rights by keeping her in captivity. She's not a pet though (as if a squirrel would allow themselves to be 'owned'.... HA!). She's more like a ward, and I'm her guardian.

I am now planning and intend to construct a 52 cubit-foot permanent enclosure in my living room, and getting her back on a schedule of regular tooth trimming. I will try to post pictures and progress reports. In the meantime, thanks for listening and being my Squirrel-Peeps.

02-20-2021, 04:40 PM
Thank you for being so observant to discover all of this about Tinkerbelle. :hug

It doesn’t sound like she’s wanting for anything in your set up for her. Considering her teeth issues, please be on the lookout for any indicators of odontomas developing, which would include sinus issues, watery eyes, white tears in the eyes, pain with eating or more difficulty eating and teeth no longer growing outward, as they may be growing inward. An X-ray would be required to make a definitive diagnosis.

02-20-2021, 09:20 PM
Yes, thank you so much, I will.

Snicker Bar
02-21-2021, 08:54 AM
Thanks for sharing your observations and in some ways I can relate with my little grey Elliot. He has a slight overbite , and it just worries me. I have been watching him closely and he has everything (hard Nuts in shell, large branches) he would have in the wild so I can hopefully observe , as you have , what would likely happen when he’s out on his own. I hope like you, I will have that ‘removed all doubt’ one way or another moment. It is a relief when that happens, isn’t it ?! :) So glad this baby landed in caring hands :)