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Thread: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

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    Default What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    What are the symptoms of a female in heat?

    Yesterday Helen was acting strangely. She gets up before I do then naps until I she hears me puttering around in the kitchen. After a couple of minutes she will be heard moving about then appears, first doing some stretching, then she will come down and investigate as I prepare breakfast for the both of us. Eventually she will hop on my shoulder and I will take both breakfasts to my room. Sometimes she will hop off and it takes sometimes a couple of attempts to get her to stay on me.

    Yesterday, after checking things out she went back and into her nest, which she has never done at this point in the proceedings. I became worried and got a nut out of the refrigerator and she was down like a shot before the refrigerator door was even closed. Normally, at this time, I crack any nut I give her so she will eat it and I donít have to deal with her being territorial in the vicinity where she has cached it.

    Yesterday she cached the nut in her old bed, which she hasnít slept in a couple of months. She started chattering her teeth as I sat down at the desk. Her old nest is on top of an old printer.

    I decided to fix my mistake of giving her an uncracked nut. I got on a pair of safety glasses and thick gloves and took the bedding apart until I found the nut. She lunged at my hands a few times, but not with real angry intent. I went out of the room and broke the nut with a hammer and returned and set the nut on the dresser, which she ate. I rearranged the components of her old bed and she settled down.

    Then comes the next strange thing. Her normal routine is that she runs all over the room, pooping and peeing and eventually settles down to eat some and then goes back to running around or playing with me. Yesterday however she sat began to groom herself at length, which she pretty much never has done when I am around. Next she pancaked herself on her pink fleece of her old bed and just looked at me, occasionally getting up to groom herself some more. This too is strange.

    (Normally, in my presence, in my room, she only pancakes briefly after she has tired herself running about. She almost always gets up again after 30 seconds to one minute.)

    I was worried about this series of strange behaviors. She still wasnít eating. I hand fed her a few pieces of food. Eventually, she resumed her usual activities, pooping, peeing, playing, and cuddling, interspersed with some mischief making. By the time afternoon came around she had eaten most of her food and I was relieved that she seemed back to her usual self.

    I didnít see her again yesterday after I went to get myself lunch. That isnít unusual. She is more independent in the afternoon and if I try to keep her with me she becomes more and more of a pest.

    Last night as I was getting ready to go to bed I set a cracked hickory nut in the usual place. [This normally is the only nut she gets all day.]

    This morning when I went to the kitchen the nut was still there, which is unusual, but has happened three or four times. After puttering about in the kitchen I failed to hear her and became worried. I thought I heard her stir, but didnít see her. (I wondered if I had imagined it.) I am currently in the process of tearing the house apart. So far I have seen no sign of her.

    My hope is that, maybe being in heat, [She is approx. 10+ months old and this is the season for that activity to start to begin.] and she managed to sell release. This morning I found 1 1/2Ē hole for a pipe tucked in a clutter corner in the old addition of the house which I intend to tear off because it is of very poor quality and in bad shape. She might have squeezed out somewhere else that I am not aware of. The hole had been stuffed with a plastic bag, but that was not in place when I found it this morning.

    I live on a busy road, in the middle of town and the there is a nearby granary that puts out poison. Not a good place for a squirrel, thus I was intending to release her elsewhere.

    I have set some food on the porch. Even if she does attempt to return, she may be gone for days if she is coming into heat.

    What are the signs when a captive squirrel goes into heat?

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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    As I was sitting writing this I heard a sound of claws scurrying in the porch attic or the ceiling for a second or two. (I wondered if I was imagining what I wanted to hear.) I went outside and started hoisting my self into the porch attic and calling her name like crazy. I found sign that something had burrowed into the rigid insulation in the porch attic. Could have been a mouse. (Found some black rat snake skin. Great!) Then I heard a scurry of claws in between floors, something squirrel size. I scrambled back into the house, calling her name, left and right, but no more sounds between the floors.

    I found some pens and paint brushes on the floor scattered in the tool room which I normally keep sealed off, off-limits, but had left open so I could get tools to take things apart. This I took as sign that she had been there. Next I hear scurrying in the dining room. (Still I was wondering if my mind was playing tricks on me.) Then I see her in the shadows. I am undecided what to do next, but decide to cover some holes to spaces I was investigating so she canít get out. I went back and she was still there, next I scrambled into the kitchen to grab some food for her while trying to keep my eye on her.

    She was starving. She has eaten a ton and drank a bunch of water, then dipped her paws in the bucket, which I have never seen her do willingly, then proceeded to wipe herself off on my collar and sweater. I didnít complain one bit. She never eats at this time of day, in the hour before sunset, not for the last couple of months. She definitely gave the impression that she had eaten nothing at all today. She has gone to sleep, on the first time. Normally, in my room she goes in to bed down, then sneaks out stealthily and this usually occurs four to five times. Sometimes she will even paw at the door. This is one of the reasons she no longer sleeps in my room, because I figure she really doesnít want to anymore.

    I have no idea where she went. I think she went outside of the house. The question is: By what way? It is possible she was in the house the whole time, but that is very unlike her. She has never done that. She could remain unfound if she wanted to, but terror would be the only thing that would make her do that. Maybe she found her way in between the floors and was lost in a maze, in near pitch black. She might have wandered in yesterday afternoon. Occasionally as I was searching, I thought I heard faint noises, when I wasnít using the vacuum or tools, but I think (?) my mind was playing tricks on me. She might have been inclined to stay hidden on account of all of the machine noises and my occasional frantic calls. Doubtful she would remain hiding all day. She pops up somewhere when I call her. This has never happened before.

    I think this incident is going to give me a bunch of grey hairs.

    It is one big mystery, one which I hope never repeats. I still want to know, was she or is she still in heat?

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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    The Universe is cruel.

    Helen is missing again.

    Once I got her to bed in my room yesterday I went about the house trying to put back together the things that I had torn apart and to finish cleaning up my mess. I figured everything being tossed about would not go over well with her. Squirrels seem to prefer for things to be in their usual places. I had torn apart her primary nest using power tools. That was the only way that I was going to be able see if she was in there deathly ill. I patched several holes that might be means of egress, but they seemed to push the limits of possibility.

    Shortly after midnight I had an idea of where the exit might be, given the locations that the sounds seemed to come from earlier that sounded like a squirrel. However, by this point the rechargeable batteries in my headlamp were completely discharged. I located my back up batteries, right where they were supposed to be. They were corroded. The location that I needed to investigate was in the porch attic. I would need to craw 25 feet in the space, then belly crawl around the corner and then crawl another 20 ft. The only portable light I could find was a flashlight that you squeeze repeatedly, making an obnoxious sound. I figured I had better think about going to sleep, as I still needed to put things away, a discipline that having a squirrel has made absolutely clear.

    Some context, my house is 150-year-old Victorian. It was badly neglected for at least five decades, before a complete incompetent bought it and went hog wild for six months, screwing up every project he undertook, then stopped and the house was repossessed. Also, when the house was originally built they applied the wooden siding directly to the studs; there is no sheathing. The studs are rough cut and are of irregular dimension and cut to length with hand saws. So, there are places where things donít fit precisely. There are all sorts of in between spaces which interconnect.

    After hanging out with her for a couple of hours, I washed some dishes and watched to see what interest she paid to those places where I had cleaned and rearranged and patched. Upstairs I looked more closely at a location where she was near. She was standing on hind legs looking out the window toward the busy road. She seemed to look sad. That was a gut punch. I tried to casually place some loose blocks of wood where I saw possible openings. However, my motto has always been not to undertake remediations while she was around least my activity draw her attention to something she hadnít noticed yet.

    I got her to come with me and took the remains of her food with us and we hung out for another hour or so. However, she started repeatedly doing those things that she knows she is not supposed to. I donít know if she does it for the attention or because she realizes that I will put her out of the room.

    I contemplated immediately going to check my hunch about a possible exit into the porch attic. However, I would do so via my tool room, which is off limits to her, but she loves to dart in. There are way too many hazards there. I figured I would wait for her attention to wander to other things. In hindsight this was a terrible mistake, though I am not sure that it would ultimately have changed the outcome.

    Twenty minutes later, I step out the tool room window onto the porch and I crawl into the far regions of the porch attic and find a small hole. Oh, damn!

    Now, once back in the house, I start looking for her. I shake her container of nuts from the fridge and call her name and I hear no sound at all. After fives minutes of this I realize that she is not in the house, with near certainty.

    So I went to investigate the other side of the hole to the porch attic. There was an assortment of 20 pieces of plywood stacked in the corner. I remove them all. The incompetent, the prior owner, strikes again. The opening was covered with a poorly fitting sheet of 1/4Ē OSB. Furthermore, it had suffered water damage prior to my siding repair on the outside. Completely concealed from view, she had made easy work of it. She shredded a 14Ē by 3Ē section, creating the access to a small triangular opening. Damn.

    She did not return at sunset this evening. [I stopped using power tools one hour before sunset. I thought I had heard a squirrel distress call earlier though.] To make matter worse, today was a windy day, creating all sorts of noises to mess with my head.

    I donít know what to think or feel. I am second guessing so many things. I donít know if she knows her way back. I donít know if this is her first time outside of the house. I will leave the opening open. I put out a step ladder to make it easier to get back into the porch attic. I have called her name, but who knows where she is, particularly if she is coming into heat. I dread the busy road and the granaryís rat poison and the hawks and all of the people.

    I am exhausted in every sense of the word.

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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    Wow...exhausting to read this!
    Helen has certainly put you through the wringer. Honestly, at this point it seems she has made her choice very clear: she wants OUT. I don't see how a free-ranging 'house squirrel' can actually be contained in a big, old, quirky house.

    Pray for her safe return because she's hungry, because she feels safer with you than out there, or because she misses you. Unless you grab her next time you see her and keep her in a cage, this is going to be your future . Sorry.
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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    Physical signs of a female in heat (captive or not) are an enlarged, swollen vulva. It may have a more pronounced red appearance. Behavioral signs of a captive female are aggression, restlessness and pacing at windows in an effort to get out.

    Iím sorry this happened. I think it was inevitable given the condition of your house and her ability to free roam. At 10+ months sheís definitely old enough for release but I understand the timing isnít great. It might be a good idea to get a nest box up in a tree near the house with some of her bedding in it. Also provide some food at a feeding station near a tree or your house. At least sheíll have somewhere to go thatís safe if she doesnít come home.

    Keeping her well fed will help keep her away from any poison.

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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    Quote Originally Posted by island rehabber View Post
    Wow...exhausting to read this!
    Helen has certainly put you through the wringer. Honestly, at this point it seems she has made her choice very clear: she wants OUT. I don't see how a free-ranging 'house squirrel' can actually be contained in a big, old, quirky house.

    Pray for her safe return because she's hungry, because she feels safer with you than out there, or because she misses you. Unless you grab her next time you see her and keep her in a cage, this is going to be your future . Sorry.
    Yes, from the beginning I realized that my situation wasn't ideal in many different ways, but you work with what you've got. I wasn't going to ignore her siblings and not try to help. They had just opened their eyes when I heard them in April.

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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mel1959 View Post
    Physical signs of a female in heat (captive or not) are an enlarged, swollen vulva. It may have a more pronounced red appearance. Behavioral signs of a captive female are aggression, restlessness and pacing at windows in an effort to get out.

    I’m sorry this happened. I think it was inevitable given the condition of your house and her ability to free roam. At 10+ months she’s definitely old enough for release but I understand the timing isn’t great. It might be a good idea to get a nest box up in a tree near the house with some of her bedding in it. Also provide some food at a feeding station near a tree or your house. At least she’ll have somewhere to go that’s safe if she doesn’t come home.

    Keeping her well fed will help keep her away from any poison.
    Yes, from the beginning when I found her I realized that there were many potential problems given circumstances. I have completed her house, which is ambitious. I struggled to find the time to work on it.

    I have always dreaded the release process because it seemed less than ideal no matter how I tried to deal with the various problems. I had hoped for inspiration. None has come. I think I have to release sooner rather than later while I still have some control. I think her urges will just continue to grow stronger.

    I have an endowment of 30+ lbs of hickory nuts, and a few pounds of black walnuts and pecans.

    Sorry for the long version, I was just trying to get ahead of the situation, to make the best of a less than ideal situation.

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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    Did you find Helen?

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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    OMG!! So sorry to hear about all these challenges! It must be very exhausting and worrisome for you!

    Hope it's just a very short period of unusual behavior on Helen's end. These are wild animals and we cannot always analyze what they might be going through...
    Animals are magical....Thank you everyone who tries to help them, save them tirelessly...

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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mel1959 View Post
    Did you find Helen?
    She returned on her own accord for a second day in a row. She was here this morning. Where she was last night, who knows.

    I have started another thread in the emergency section because after eating this morning she slept all day in my room. As an adult she has never slept in my presence, not for one minute during the daylight hours.

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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Buddy View Post
    These are wild animals and we cannot always analyze what they might be going through...
    Whether I like it or not, my brain won't stop trying to figure out the puzzle.

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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rock Monkey View Post

    I have started another thread in the emergency section because after eating this morning she slept all day in my room. As an adult she has never slept in my presence, not for one minute during the daylight hours.
    Hopefully, it's just because of her excitement and exhaustion from the secret adventures!
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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Buddy View Post
    Hopefully, it's just because of her excitement and exhaustion from the secret adventures!
    Problem is now that she has been out there, she will want to keep going out there. She will keep looking for a way out, who knows what she will destroy in the process.

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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    That might not be the case. Buddy's inside cage has many little doors that can open. So once he was bigger, I tied all the doors with a hemp rope, so they cannot be opened. One morning, my husband said that Buddy was outside of his cage in the morning (that he didn't release him). Usually whoever wakes up early, takes Buddy out of his cage, if he is already awake.

    I checked all the doors and they all seemed to be secure. Next morning, he was out again. I was really puzzled about it. Then, with further investigation, I noticed that there was another mini door that I missed at the top corner. I tied that door, again with the rope, like the others. But he chewed through the rope and got out from the same door. So now we have secured that door with something he cannot chew through.

    He sleeps through the night, but I don't want him to go out in the morning and get into trouble by chewing something or getting in somewhere he is not supposed to. So...

    Anyways, since then, he is in his cage. Note that there are many other doors with hemp rope, but he doesn't chew them and looks like he doesn't try to find other ways to get out.

    So, hopefully, Helen also gives up on trying to find other ways (since you secured the areas) and stays inside until you fully execute your plans on releasing her. Provided Buddy's motivation to get out from his inside cage to roam around in the house and Helen's motivation to be out and about and totally free might be different; but I'm hoping that she decides to hang around until it's time!

    I would also maybe speed up my release plans, if possible. Not sure what kind of climate do you have over there during this time of the year.
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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rock Monkey View Post
    She returned on her own accord for a second day in a row. She was here this morning. Where she was last night, who knows.

    I have started another thread in the emergency section because after eating this morning she slept all day in my room. As an adult she has never slept in my presence, not for one minute during the daylight hours.
    The fact that she slept in your presence is not cause for alarm, IMO. If she was out all night with no drey or box to sleep in she was probably awake all night on a tree branch or huddled somewhere safe. In which case sheíd be exhausted and need sleep.

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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rock Monkey View Post
    Problem is now that she has been out there, she will want to keep going out there. She will keep looking for a way out, who knows what she will destroy in the process.
    Do you have an outside release cage? It seems to me that building one should be your next step. Make it as big as you can. Since itís still cold, provide a heat source like Buddyís mom did. Even if you arenít going to release her there, I think sheíd be far safer in a release cage till spring, then self releasing.

    We built our release cage in a modular fashion. We built rectangular frames that were 4í wide by 6í tall then covered the wood with hardware cloth. Then you can screw each framed panel together to make the size cage you want. Do the same for the floor and roof. This way the whole contraption can be dismantled when not needed or be moved to another location, if necessary.

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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    That's a good idea and good point, Mel! I agree, I think even if you don't release her in that neighborhood/area, she will get used to outside sounds, possibly observing other squirrels etc. in a release cage and get familiar with being outside.
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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mel1959 View Post
    The fact that she slept in your presence is not cause for alarm, IMO. If she was out all night with no drey or box to sleep in she was probably awake all night on a tree branch or huddled somewhere safe. In which case sheíd be exhausted and need sleep.
    I was worried that it might mean that she had gotten into something poisonous. I also considered your explanation, but I didn't want to assume that in case she had eaten something poisonous. I want to know what signs I should be on the look out for.

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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    Is Helen acting normal today?

    Something toxic usually causes vomiting (squirrels donít typically do this), diarrhea, bleeding, excessive thirst. If you suspect she could have gotten into something then try to flush her system with water and administer charcoal.

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    Default Re: What are the Signs of Captive Female in Heat?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mel1959 View Post
    Do you have an outside release cage? It seems to me that building one should be your next step. Make it as big as you can. Since it’s still cold, provide a heat source like Buddy’s mom did. Even if you aren’t going to release her there, I think she’d be far safer in a release cage till spring, then self releasing.

    We built our release cage in a modular fashion. We built rectangular frames that were 4’ wide by 6’ tall then covered the wood with hardware cloth. Then you can screw each framed panel together to make the size cage you want. Do the same for the floor and roof. This way the whole contraption can be dismantled when not needed or be moved to another location, if necessary.
    I don't have a release cage. There are so many hazards where I live that I long ago decided that I would release her at a distance as far from people as possible. I have the exact location already picked. This is why I made such a complicated design for her house, because I figured this was the one way that I could be there protecting her all of the time. It is a fortress, it is insulated, it has a real roof with a 25 degree pitch, with shingles, two covered double level porches with a switch back to exclude predators.

    I realize that a distant release has its own serious hazards. I have seen some statistics. I just would not be able to live with myself if I find her flattened on the road. I believe if I release her here every time I would see a squirrel in the road, I would freak out, maybe to the point of darting into traffic.

    In addition to putting out poison, the local granary shoots ground hogs and rats on sight. He was grinning as he relayed this to me. I don't know how they treat squirrels, but the poison does not discriminate. All of the grain draws/breeds birds, mice and rats, these in turn draw lots of predators: black rat snakes, raccoons, birds of prey, foxes, cats, feral and otherwise. Lots of food but also lots of ways for a squirrel to die.

    I have 30-40 lbs. of nuts that I would give her as an endowment at the new location which I plan to help her bury. This is a way to tie her to her new location, in addition to her house, which she pees and poops on and explores a couple of times a day. I see that as her claiming it. She hasn't slept in it yet.

    I spend most of my time on the first floor and she spends her time on the second floor. From there she can hear all of the sounds all around us since my 150 year old house is not well sealed yet. Where she has chosen to make her nest is not in the conditioned space. So, I am not worried about her dealing with the cold if she stays in the house I built her. It is insulated and stuffed with bedding. She is not acclimated to the cold. She has the option to stay in the heat part of the house but most days in the afternoon she spends in the upstairs. When it is cold I am pretty sure that she just naps lightly in her nest.

    She has been sleeping in the outdoor ambient temps for at least a couple of months. Once released outside at my chosen location she will be able to sun herself on sunny days.

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