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Thread: determining releasability

  1. #1
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    Default determining releasability

    Greetings all,

    I'm new here and dealing with my first rescue/rehab situation. Earlier this week I picked up a squirrel in the snow by the side of the road that I assume had been thrown by a passing car. He was in shock and easy to scoop up. He was very wobbly for the first couple of days but seems better now (Day 4), though not 100%. He is eating and drinking, but not as active as I would have hoped.

    Of course, my goal is to release him where I found him ASAP -- where he has a nest and food cache. (A concern is not knowing for sure which side of the two-lane road his nest is on.)

    My question is how to determine when to release??

    Being that it's winter (single-digit temps), I want to get him back to his nest and food cache before another squirrel figures out he's gone and raids his cache. (My observations of squirrel behavior is that neighboring squirrels figure out the vacancy very quickly -- not hearing chatters and calls, etc.) Without his food cache, he won't make it through the winter even if he's 100%. BUT...I know I have to weigh that against his capabilities.

    So I'm looking for input on whether it's probable that a squirrel will recognize his home turf after the trauma of a car accident that left him with <100% balance/coordination and who knows what all else.

    Currently, he comes out of his hiding/nest box only to eat and drink, perhaps a minute or two at a time. He doesn't explore or climb the cage or branches. (I'm able to monitor him remotely, so his activity isn't influenced by my presence.) Should he be more active by now (Day 4) if he's not injured/damaged?

    Thanks for your help.

    Squirrel watcher in Alaska.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: determining releasability

    It's not unusual for an adult wild to be very reticent and hiding all the time when taken into rehab. Good system you've got, where you're able to monitor him remotely, because that will enable you to truly see what he's capable of. Try putting branches or even treats up on top of the cage to see if he can climb well. Your biggest concern will be whether he endured head trauma that caused permanent damage, or, hopefully, that initial wobblyness was just temporary. Only time and close observation will tell.

    Note: I'm moving this thread to the Emergency Forum where it will get more attention.
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  5. #3
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    Default Re: determining releasability

    First thank you for picking up this little squirrel and helping him.
    Without your intervention, I'm sure he would not have made it.


    I would imagine that he is sore if he was thrown by a car.
    I agree with island rehabber, about the possible head trauma.
    While watching him, see if he does any "head drifts" meaning he will
    sit there and sort of follow to one side an imaginary object then
    it drifts back. Also watch for him circling.
    I'm sure you are very aware of what a "normal" squirrel behave is, just
    watch for anything that seems out of the ordinary.
    Does he have a water supply? If he's in an out building, make sure it
    doesn't freeze. Give him plenty of material with no loops, we don't want
    their toenails to catch. Flannel shirts or nightgowns is a good choice or
    old blankets. They love to burrow in and they feel safer with plenty "stuff"
    surrounding them.
    Thank you again for helping him, I have a feeling he is in very capable
    hands.

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  7. #4
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    Default Re: determining releasability

    Thank you. I'll continue to monitor him and watch for the symptoms you describe. I do have a small blob of peanut butter about 18" up thick branch, but it's untouched. He has access to fresh water and he has eaten several pieces of apple.

    Yeah, he wouldn't have survived if I had left him on the side of the road. The snowplow came by a little later and would have buried him, or worse.

    I have him in an unused daylight basement room that is 55-60 degrees. The first two days I kept it at 70+ degrees and had a heating pad under part of the crate he was in. Day 3, I moved him into a tall cage with big branches. His nest box is a covered shoebox with a small entrance hole at the end, and is loosely packed with multiple pieces of soft material (old cashmere!). I'm sure it's a very snuggly nest for him, plenty of material to rearrange and burrow into.

    The cold temps are another concern. How long can he be indoors before it's then detrimental to release him back into the bitter cold? Will he need to be re-acclimated?

    I forgot to mention this is a red squirrel.

    Thanks again.

    Squirrel watcher in Alaska.

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  9. #5
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    Default Re: determining releasability

    Aww I love reds! Bless your heart for taking this little soul in. You definitely saved his life-especially since that plow came through. Funny how the "right" people end up in the right places at the right time! Squirrels sleep A LOT more than normal when they have suffered head trauma. You have to remember though, his tiny body took a great blow so he may just be resting up and healing. He may even feel relieved that he doesn't have to worry as much and can just sleep. I know you want to get him back out to the wild, but you need to really give him time to recover fully before you do. That is the goal ultimately, but I think you need to be sure that he doesn't have anything more going on. You may have to over-winter him so that he has plenty of time to recover and get a "fresh" start in the spring. That way, he doesn't have to worry about competing for food, shelter, warmth, territory, AND not being 100% better from the hit. That is the last thing he needs to be worrying about right now. Cars can do significant damage internally as well. He will likely get to be free in the trees again, but lets slow down and make sure he is 100% before that happens.

    Do you have any squirrel nutrition blocks that you are able to offer him? Henry's Healthy Pets has some good ones that you can order online if you don't have any.

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  11. #6
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    Default Re: determining releasability

    Thank you for your words of support, Squirrellove10. I've been racing through scenarios of how this could play out...and now I'm weary from wanting to get him back to his home turf. Obviously, he's not onboard with my timetable. I think you're probably right, he's busy resting and feeling safe. And maybe he's recovering, or maybe he's not going to. I'll give patience a try since anxiety hasn't been working for me...

    Overwintering him until spring sounds daunting -- spring comes late here. Baby squirrel season (weaning) starts in early May. I have a good yard to do a soft release that I've been reading about on this board. However, there's a resident female red squirrel in the yard. She is currently allowing one of her daughters from her last litter to live on the other side of the yard. I've seen that before, where a mother "bequeaths" part of her territory. But it only lasts until the next breeding season, when all bets are off and one aggressively evicts the other if they don't leave on their own.

    Re food. I do have the Henry's blocks on order (again, learned about them through this board, thank you), they should be here in a day or two. The only thing he's eaten is a little bit of "treats," sunflower chips, walnut, hazelnut, apple, but I've also provided natural red squirrel food -- spruce cones, winter buds and wild rosehips. Also, fresh oat grass.

    Thanks again for all the input. It's heartwarming to know there are so many others out there stepping in to help creatures in need. A lot of you are dealing with very sad situations, I know it takes a toll.

    Squirrel watcher in Alaska.

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  13. #7
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    Default Re: determining releasability

    Quote Originally Posted by squirrelwatcher View Post
    Thank you. I'll continue to monitor him and watch for the symptoms you describe. I do have a small blob of peanut butter about 18" up thick branch, but it's untouched. He has access to fresh water and he has eaten several pieces of apple.

    Yeah, he wouldn't have survived if I had left him on the side of the road. The snowplow came by a little later and would have buried him, or worse.

    I have him in an unused daylight basement room that is 55-60 degrees. The first two days I kept it at 70+ degrees and had a heating pad under part of the crate he was in. Day 3, I moved him into a tall cage with big branches. His nest box is a covered shoebox with a small entrance hole at the end, and is loosely packed with multiple pieces of soft material (old cashmere!). I'm sure it's a very snuggly nest for him, plenty of material to rearrange and burrow into.

    The cold temps are another concern. How long can he be indoors before it's then detrimental to release him back into the bitter cold? Will he need to be re-acclimated?

    I forgot to mention this is a red squirrel.

    Thanks again.

    Squirrel watcher in Alaska.
    You are doing a great job! He's a very lucky squirrel.

    On day 4, he is very likely too frightened to come out and climb around his cage if he can see or hear you.

    Yes, if he must stay indoors for more than a week, he should be re-acclimated before releasing him. The amount of time he should be gradually re-acclimated increases according to his length of "hospitalization". If he only has to stay inside for a week, he can be quickly re-acclimated by putting him outside for increasing hours over several days. If he has to stay "hospitalized" longer than a week, he needs more re-acclimation days. In Pennsylvania, the licensed rehabber I assist acclimates discharged wild red squirrels starting with a few hours on day one and then increases the time spent outdoors every day for one week.

    You are wise to worry about another squirrel stealing his cashe while he is "hospitalized". Over wintering him or setting up some type of feeding station where he is released would increase his chance of survival.

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    Default Re: determining releasability

    squirrelwatcher, while you are watching and waiting you may want to visit this thread:

    http://thesquirrelboard.com/forums/s...ghlight=Meemor

    It is about one of the shining stars of our Squirrel Board, a little red squirrel who lived in the Yukon and opened up an entirely new world to all of us here.
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    If you can't afford the vet,
    You can't afford a pet.
    NEGLECT IS ABUSE.

    "Better one day in the trees, than a lifetime in a cage."

    '...and the greatest of these, is Love. '

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  16. #9
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    Default Re: determining releasability

    Quote Originally Posted by island rehabber View Post
    squirrelwatcher, while you are watching and waiting you may want to visit this thread:

    http://thesquirrelboard.com/forums/s...ghlight=Meemor

    It is about one of the shining stars of our Squirrel Board, a little red squirrel who lived in the Yukon and opened up an entirely new world to all of us here.

    Excellent suggestion!
    This shows you the daily life of a little red squirrel Meemor
    in the wild.
    It's his riveting story of survival, his caches () how territorial
    they are, his in home recuperation twice and how he bonded
    with his caretaker during that time and so much more!
    Last edited by Nancy in New York; 12-24-2016 at 08:37 AM.

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  18. #10
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    Default Re: determining releasability

    Thanks for the Meemor link! What an inspiring and delightful tale. I'm so grateful for The Squirrel Board. I love the red squirrels and spend ridiculous amounts of time watching the wild ones in my yard. I feel like I'm pretty well versed on wild squirrel behavior, life cycle, diet, etc., but having this little rehab guy thrust into my life is all new. I'm slowly coming around to the fact that this could be a lengthy saga. I'm so glad I'll have this board to help me through.

    So, today is Day 6 with the little conundrum. He came out of his nest box late morning to find mouse & rat food waiting for him. He spent nearly 20 minutes eating, and then went right back into the nest box. (Mouse & rat food is okay, yes?? I'm waiting for Henry's blocks to arrive.)

    Good news is that yesterday morning he came out of the nest box, climbed the cage wall, went over to the big branch and found/ate the peanut butter, and gingerly came down the big branch -- and then back into nest box. Super encouraging, but he just isn't out enough to be able to assess his full condition. Yesterday he was only out of his box twice, 1-2 min each time.

    FYI, I have two cameras on him so I can view him remotely. One is a live camera with infrared, wired to my TV screen and always on. The other camera is a motion-sensing trail cam that captures video with time stamp. This is how I know exactly what he's doing (not much). The only time we have seen each other in person is when I moved him into the big cage.

    Squirrel watcher in Alaska.

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    Default Re: determining releasability

    Here's the only view I've had of him, when I moved him into the tall cage. The only thing I notice that's "off" is the rims of his eyes are red.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

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  22. #12
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    Default Re: determining releasability

    Does his head look a little misshapen?
    Thank you for helping this little peanut, reds are my favorite!

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    Default Re: determining releasability

    Quick story.
    My little red Jeffrey got a teddy bear for Christmas one year from my friend.

    Jeffrey slept in my hamper (with swinging doors.....his choice of where
    to build his nest )
    He was determined to get the teddy bear up the stairs and into his hamper/nest.

    Just a short clip showing you that reds can do anything.


    CLICK ON PICTURE


    Sorry to threadjack.


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  26. #14
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    Default Re: determining releasability

    Thank you! for saving this lil fellow I wish there were more people like you out there he truly has you for a guardian angel I did post the other day....but after a lengthy post (which I'm know for ) it disappeared....this has actually been happening quite a bit...my iPad's calibration is off and it's going crazy I did want to say I'm a little concerned about is slow movements...I understand the hiding...but..as you yourself know from observation...they are super fast....there is nothing slow about them...even in captivity, if fit and healthy, he should be darting out for his food Nancy from New York and Fireweed are our resident red squirrel experts they would know better if my speculation is correct

    Also, I do agree you did everything right in his emergency that's why he's still here I agree with keeping his temps cool now. As far as acclimating back outside....if you keep his basement home a little nippy...I don't believe you'll have any trouble. From my own observations I've seen squirrels adapt to a 40 degree change they are just made that way...it's one of their physical adaptations that has made them the survivors they are here where I live temps will fluctuate often....and they acclimate very well....as long as he keeps his thicker coat...I don't see a problem. I brought in a wild inside in Dec. she had her winter coat...she stayed in due to tooth issues...and she kept her winter coat all winter...even the sweet lil ear tuffs.
    I would be more worried about loosing his territory and cache

    Thank you, thank you...you are amazing! I look forward to watching this lil guy recoup and go back to the trees
    Make the world a better place...one animal at a time



    The Peace of Wild Things
    BY WENDELL BERRY
    When despair for the world grows in me
    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting with their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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  28. #15
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    Default Re: determining releasability

    Quote Originally Posted by Nancy in New York View Post
    Quick story.
    My little red Jeffrey got a teddy bear for Christmas one year from my friend.

    Jeffrey slept in my hamper (with swinging doors.....his choice of where
    to build his nest )
    He was determined to get the teddy bear up the stairs and into his hamper/nest.

    Just a short clip showing you that reds can do anything.


    CLICK ON PICTURE


    Sorry to threadjack.


    Awww...sweet Jeffrey all he needed was some "Mission Impossible" music playing
    Make the world a better place...one animal at a time



    The Peace of Wild Things
    BY WENDELL BERRY
    When despair for the world grows in me
    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting with their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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  30. #16
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    Default Re: determining releasability

    Quote Originally Posted by Nancy in New York View Post
    Does his head look a little misshapen?
    Thank you for helping this little peanut, reds are my favorite!
    Nancy asked if his head shape was a little misshaped because this is sometimes a sign that he may have been born neurologically impaired or have a health issue (such as hypothyroidism) which affects his motor skills. Is his head more round than elongated? In the photo of him climbing his cage, his head looks more round than most red squirrels.

    You stated that the rims of his eyes were red. With red squirrels, one should not be able to see their sclera (white part of the eyeball). Can you see his sclera?

  31. #17
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    Default Re: determining releasability

    Are his eyelids red or is the sclera of his eyeball red?

  32. #18
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    Default Re: determining releasability

    Great video! I've watched them get excited about gathering nest material in the wild, so this is super cute!

    Yes, I agree his head looks more round than is typical (of an adult). The flatness of his forehead I initially chalked up to his being wet and in shock at time of rescue and spending the first 24 hours huddled on all fours, forehead on the floor. And then I thought perhaps he's not grooming.

    Re red eyes. I guess I'm talking about the sclera.

    And then the plot thickens. I've been comparing the pic of this rescue squirrel to the pic of a squirrel I took two days before the rescue. Circumstances indicate that it could be the same squirrel.

    Here's the story. Two days prior, I happened down a little trail off the "rescue" road. About 50 ft in, I came upon a squirrel eating a spruce cone. It was busy twirling its cone, being adorable. I took pics of it because it seemed smaller and darker than squirrels in my yard. (I live only a mile away.) Skip to day of rescue, I was driving along this section of road and found the squirrel about 10 ft from the juncture of this trail and the roadway. Given the size of red squirrel territories, it seems super likely that it's the same squirrel. This coincidence is why I was so anxious to get him back to his home.

    Two days after rescue, I returned to the site to look for squirrel tracks (and a squirrel). There were old tracks consistent with the rescue day, given the timing of snowfall, and no fresh tracks. That added to my thinking that it was the same squirrel. Two more days went by and I returned again, and this time I found many, many fresh tracks. So maybe not the same squirrel, or maybe a neighboring squirrel checking out the vacancy. Drives me nuts sorting through the coincidence and whether it's real or I'm making stuff up.

    Attached are closeups of the two squirrels. The angles don't match, and the coloring seems different, but I think the flash may have brought out the red fur color. What does seem similar to me is the compact head shape. And back to the issue of red eyes, these are the pics I've been comparing.

    Thanks for all your input.

    Squirrel watcher in Alaska.
    Attached Images Attached Images    

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    Default Re: determining releasability

    His face is a little more round than red squirrels in Pennsylvania, but perhaps Alaskan red squirrels's thicker fur makes their their faces appear more round or his appearance could be completely normal. Yeah, he also may just have messy fur on his head from his recent trauma or not grooming.

    It's interesting that you feel he is smaller than the other red squirrels around your home. Read some of the threads on this forum about dwarf gray squirrels. They have obvious physical differences from non-dwarf gray squirrels.

  34. #20
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    Default Re: determining releasability

    I think the reddish area in the medial corner of his eye is his caruncle, not his sclera. I've seen healthy red squirrels with blackish and dark reddish-black caruncles. Is it swollen or is his eye draining/crusting? If not, then his eye is probably healthy.

    I hope this cutey is becoming more active with your loving care.

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