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Thread: Helen has been Released

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    Default Helen has been Released

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    Helen was released last Tuesday.

    A good weather window had presented itself and she was approximately 80+% recovered from a bad left arm injury three weeks prior. The good weather continues, daytime temps are in the 50's and 60's with much sun forecast.

    [Helen was released earlier in the season than is ideal because she was self releasing in a neighborhood that is very dangerous for squirrels.]

    It was a very stressful day, for her especially, and for me.

    Helen has never lived in a cage. The only way that I could be certain to get her to location where her house that I had built for her had been mounted, miles away from people, was to catch her in a Have-a-Heart trap. She was freaked out, bewildered and very scared. I feel absolutely terrible about this, but I was never able to think up a better alternative, all things considered.

    I placed about 30 lbs. of nuts on the ground at the base of the tree where her house had been attached 30 ft. above. When I finally opened the trap, she had already spent more than 2 hours cowering there, occasionally chewing briefly at the bars. She stayed inside, did not come darting out as expected.

    When she was finally coaxed out, she climbed up and sat on my shoulder for a minute or two, looking dazed as she looked around at a completely unfamiliar environment. She paid no mind to the hundreds of nuts on the ground.

    Her fear and instinct of self-preservation overwhelmed her curiosity and she pushed her way under my outermost layer, a fleece pullover. I hoped she just needed to warm up a little and relax and reset. However, she had decided that she wanted no part of this strange new world, one that included traps that had lurked in plain sight for months. If this was freedom, she didn't want it.

    My stomach sank as I realized that things were not going at all as planned or hoped. I was stunned and was kicking myself, feeling foolish for all the time that I had invested in her house and its placement. (The latter took five days to complete.)

    No matter how carefully you plan, you can't control other people's decisions and reactions.

    We napped together in the sun as I tried to think through my options, all of the time hoping that she would poke her head out to look at the world, to give this place a second chance.

    Ultimately, I decided that I would need to climb the rope that I had set up in the tree and close up her house, to prevent some other creature from occupying it while I pondered in the coming weeks my next options to obtain freedom for both of us.

    When I got up to her house, I carefully took off my fleece where she had hidden away for hours. However, she continued to hide within as I carefully turned it inside out.

    I think it was the new perspective, from 30 ft up in the tree that is natural to a squirrel, that began to lift her instinct to hide and open the possibility of curious exploration.

    She began to eat oak tree buds, which I had started feeding her in past couple of weeks, moving cautiously about the limbs to find more.

    She went into the porches, where I had put some nuts, but did not enter the house.

    Soon her normal bedtime began approaching, 4 pm, and she became sleepy. She tried to climb back under my layers, being very much content to go back home with me, but I zipped up the fleece to the top and pulled my collar tight and kept tapping the porch entrance and extending my arm to it as a bridge. (Tapping is the way I have always called attention to new objects or food in her environment.)

    Eventually, she went into the main chamber. I heard her shuffle things about for 30 seconds and then everything became quiet. I kept expecting her to come back out.

    I began to calmly dismantle my rigging and ready myself for rappel, not saying a word. She did not reappear. I guiltily, sadly wondered if she expected me to be right there next to the house in the morning, as I am when she sleeps in my room.

    I buried more than half of the nuts and then hiked out as the sun began to set, not quite sure what to feel.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    OMG! That sounds like a horrible experience. I’m not sure how you were able to leave her...I’d have been in tears and not known what to do. Bless you for having the courage to set her free and walk away. I know that took a lot of strength and caring for her and her best interest. I don’t think I could have done it. I’m a worrier.

    Have you been back to check on her? Are there any kind of leaves on the trees for cover?

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    Quote Originally Posted by Mel1959 View Post
    OMG! That sounds like a horrible experience. I’m not sure how you were able to leave her...I’d have been in tears and not known what to do. Bless you for having the courage to set her free and walk away. I know that took a lot of strength and caring for her and her best interest. I don’t think I could have done it. I’m a worrier.

    Have you been back to check on her? Are there any kind of leaves on the trees for cover?
    I too am a worrier. There are no easy, feel-good choices here. There never have been where her release was concerned. I have been contemplating these choices for some time.

    I intend to go back and check on her, but I don't want to go back too soon. I don't want her to decide that she is going home with me, because all of the hazards where I live scare the crap out of me. Then I am in an even worse mess than I was before.

    At least out there it is her squirrel instincts versus the wild. A squirrel's instincts aren't geared to deal with so many different people-made hazards.

    I left her with a lot of food and there are a great many acorns on the ground. Furthermore, her house is really over the top. It is a house in miniature.

    The deciduous trees are some time away from leafing out, probably a month for anything of substance. The forest her house is in was clear cut at some time. Most of the trees are growing quite close to each other. There are few substantial branches down low, but there is a dense canopy of branches above as the tree compete for sunlight. This should help with respect to aerial predators trying to bomb in. There are some pine trees, but on balance she will have very good sight lines, her house is on a ridge, given a squirrel's 270 degree field of vision.

    There are lots of Mountain Laurel bushes. These are pretty dense. She will likely bury the remaining nuts in the leaf litter under those bushes. There is a 40' by 40' clearing nearby, which is the exception.

    There may be some tree hollows around, but there aren't too many old trees around. I figure the lack of alternatives should help bond her to the house. There is a fleece inside which she spent most of her life sleeping under. I put two antlers inside as well.

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    I am trying to decide how long to wait before going back. I would be curious to know what other people think.

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    Readers need to be aware that the longer I waited to release her, the greater the chance that she would self-release in a very dangerous environment. Furthermore, as the weather warmed and improved her instinct to get outside would get stronger and stronger. Looking over my house, which is in the process of a complete gut remodel, it is clear that she continued to pursue several other ways out after I had sealed off her previous obscure means of egress, despite the fact that 95% of the time she was confined to my room. Her improving health would also make her bolder in pursuit of freedom.

    Sometimes life doesn't give you any good, happy choices.

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    OMG OMG I am ugly crying!!!!! 😭😭😭😭

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    I have a lump in my gut reading this, on your and Helen's behalf. I don't think I could wait to see how she's doing, but would get there asap, maybe within an hour of her normal bedtime, and if she's alive hang with her and love on her until she (hopefully) goes to bed. Maybe bring the climbing equipment in case she wants you to "tuck her in"? Then I could leave in the peace of knowing she'd survived at least that far and with hope that she'll survive to the next time you can come and see her.

    And if she's already wilding up by the time you can get there to check on her, at least you'll know you did your job as a squirrel parent and it's up to her now.
    "I hope everyone got or gets their Baby Love today"~Shewhosweptforest

    https://www.henryspets.com/1-baby-squirrel-care-guide/

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    Oh, Sweet Little Helen!

    I think and I hope she will be okay with all the preparation, food, home, good intentions and care.

    I would definitely go check on her as frequently as possible though. It might help her and calm her down to see a familiar face while she is getting used to the new environment. So she doesn't feel completely alone...

    Wishing Helen a very long, happy, healthy life!
    Animals are magical....Thank you everyone who tries to help them, save them tirelessly...

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

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    She has plenty of food. (She also has pecans and black walnuts.) The mountain laurel is thick. Her House is a fortress. (That is a whole another post.)

    I cleared the leaves from the base of her tree and buried all of her pecans there. It should serve to distinctively mark that critical location. If she will stay with the house, her chances are very good.

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    As I see it, the sooner I return to check on her, the greater the chance that she decides that she wants to return home with me, particularly given the way she clung to me during release. If she will make that new place home, the odds of her life trajectory improve substantially. Going back too soon would place my interests above hers.

    I am pretty sure her plan was to create another way out of my house and, at least initially, use my house as home base, returning to sleep, get food and some loving. The problem is I have no way of explaining to Helen all of the various man-made hazards.

    A remote camera mounted by her house would be wonderful, but that is just wishful thinking.

    I figure there isn't much that I can do to help her in this initial adjustment period, barring some sort of injury. Helen has never been a wuss. She is feisty.

    I do intend to go back. I intend to plant some fruit seeds and seedlings and pick up fallen limbs. Yes, I definitely want to know if she is okay.

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    I had decided in advance to remain calm and matter-of-fact through out the release day. She is very sensitively tuned to my emotions and I didn't want to make her even more scared.

    I talked to Helen non-stop during the car ride and then during the hike. Nonetheless, she was absolutely bewildered. I have always been her protector, the one who helps her if she gets into trouble and can fix things and move big objects. She must have wondered why wasn't I getting her out of the trap.

    When I got back home I realized that I no longer had to follow the various house rules I had created to make her environment as safe as possible, that I could leave all sorts of things wherever I wanted to. It was then that I started to cry.

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    Awww.....

    It's definitely hard. It's like letting someone you dearly love (like your child) go...

    I am both looking forward and also not at all to Buddy's release day. Hopefully he'll do great in the neighborhood; but even the non-existing possibility of moving away is freaking me out. Like I would have abandoned him.
    Animals are magical....Thank you everyone who tries to help them, save them tirelessly...

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    I talked to Helen non-stop during the car ride and then during the hike. Nonetheless, she was absolutely bewildered. I have always been her protector, the one who helps her if she gets into trouble and can fix things and move big objects. She must have wondered why wasn't I getting her out of the trap.

    The paragraph above about sums it up. You did a hard release in an unfamiliar area. Everything Helen ever knew in her life was instantly different. Iím sure she was thoroughly confused and scared. I know your intentions were good, but it doesnít change that her world was turned upside down. If itís been a week since release I think it is safe to check on her and see how sheís doing.

    I assume this location has a water source? Iím donít remember you mentioning that.

    You know, ...I have had folks tell me that my location, which is residential with very few oak trees and surrounded by water, is not a good place for squirrels. At one time I began to believe that and took my first two rehabbed squirrels to a friends property that backed up to a wildlife habitat. Then I looked around in neighborhoods just like mine and noticed squirrels were thriving. There may not be a ton of oak trees, but thereís plenty of palm seeds and coconuts to eat, as well as other native foods. The major difference is that my area does not have a lot of hawk, raccoon, snake or owl activity. Squirrels have been surviving in neighborhoods like mine for decades.

    Needless to say, I went and retrieved my two rehabbed guys and released them on my property. They hung around for a couple of years. In that time I had to tend to one boys many fight injuries and I was thankful he knew to come home for help.

    My point is that sometimes we look at all the human aspects of why an area isnít good and fail to recognize the natural predators that make an area more risky.

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    Hope she stays in her home and utilizes all the nuts etc.

    Hope you update us soon again with great news!
    Animals are magical....Thank you everyone who tries to help them, save them tirelessly...

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    Those are great points, Mel! Thanks!
    Animals are magical....Thank you everyone who tries to help them, save them tirelessly...

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    So I ugly cried myself to sleep last night and now of course to add insult to injury Iím back here reading again.. ugly crying sitting in the parking lot at work. I pray for her safety and your comfort. You are doing what is best for her. Praying she will be just fine...❤️ To you both...

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    Iím so sorry. The pain of separation is loud and vicious. Iíll be praying for you both and hope you take solace in your decisions which were ultimately made out of the precious love you have for her.

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    Quote Originally Posted by Mel1959 View Post
    If itís been a week since release I think it is safe to check on her and see how sheís doing.
    Helen's escapades have indicated what she needs and I commend you for being strong enough to make that very hard decision before she could get into trouble at home, especially with the poison nearby. When she went in her house and did not come out, I feel like that was a Really big sign that you'd done the right thing, her way of saying, "I'm good Mom".

    I would think a week or two would be long enough. Could you use binoculars from afar to get a sense of how she's doing and make your decision to interact from there? Do you think other squirrels lived nearby? I would just worry she'd have gone from lots of interaction to none which I know is what is encouraged with soft release but if she just knows you're still alive at least, seems like it would be assuring to her.

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    Quote Originally Posted by Mel1959 View Post
    I talked to Helen non-stop during the car ride and then during the hike. Nonetheless, she was absolutely bewildered. I have always been her protector, the one who helps her if she gets into trouble and can fix things and move big objects. She must have wondered why wasn't I getting her out of the trap.

    The paragraph above about sums it up. You did a hard release in an unfamiliar area. Everything Helen ever knew in her life was instantly different. Iím sure she was thoroughly confused and scared. I know your intentions were good, but it doesnít change that her world was turned upside down. If itís been a week since release I think it is safe to check on her and see how sheís doing.

    I assume this location has a water source? Iím donít remember you mentioning that.

    You know, ...I have had folks tell me that my location, which is residential with very few oak trees and surrounded by water, is not a good place for squirrels. At one time I began to believe that and took my first two rehabbed squirrels to a friends property that backed up to a wildlife habitat. Then I looked around in neighborhoods just like mine and noticed squirrels were thriving. There may not be a ton of oak trees, but thereís plenty of palm seeds and coconuts to eat, as well as other native foods. The major difference is that my area does not have a lot of hawk, raccoon, snake or owl activity. Squirrels have been surviving in neighborhoods like mine for decades.

    Needless to say, I went and retrieved my two rehabbed guys and released them on my property. They hung around for a couple of years. In that time I had to tend to one boys many fight injuries and I was thankful he knew to come home for help.

    My point is that sometimes we look at all the human aspects of why an area isnít good and fail to recognize the natural predators that make an area more risky.
    You are right, how many squirrels are in the area is a good measure of how hospitable it is to squirrels. One of the reasons I chose the location I did is the presence of birds.

    I shovel animals off the road near my house on a regular basis: squirrels, rabbits, possums, raccoons, skunks, snakes, cats. The road in front of my house is a two-lane highway. A truck company is headquartered in town, they moved in after I bought the house, and at least one hundred semis and trailers pass my house every day. People drive up and down the road just to have something to do.

    Gaggles of raptors cruise by on a regular basis. Past couple of days a buzzard had set up shop atop the grain silos. Hundreds of pounds of loose grain breeds rodents which in turn attract a wide assortment of predators. It is not unusual to see a bird of prey flying away with some struggling animal. In the past two weeks I have buried four birds, probably the victim of cats.

    There is a busy restaurant convenience store nearby where she would likely be drawn to dumpster dive or climb on patrons seeking food, some of whom wouldn't think anything of stomping her to death, fearing she had rabies. There is a car repair shop who I am sure does not wipe up bit of coolant when servicing radiators. I have a neighbor that shoots at any squirrel that he sees in his pecan trees. I could go on.

    I would never be comfortable releasing her in my back yard. I would always be worried to death for her.

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    Default Re: Helen has been Released

    Quote Originally Posted by sundoesshine View Post
    I would think a week or two would be long enough. Could you use binoculars from afar to get a sense of how she's doing and make your decision to interact from there? Do you think other squirrels lived nearby? I would just worry she'd have gone from lots of interaction to none which I know is what is encouraged with soft release but if she just knows you're still alive at least, seems like it would be assuring to her.
    Yes, I thought about bringing my binoculars because it is difficult and somewhat dangerous and time consuming to climb her tree, since I pulled the rope down.

    Yes, there are other squirrels nearby. I saw one as I was scouting out locations during the summer.

    That's about the time frame that I was thinking of, one to two weeks.

    I laid out the remaining hickory nuts out in groups of five at the base of her tree. So that I would be able to judge her activity level.

    I still ask myself "What would I do if she decides that she wants to come back with me?" "How would I try to change her mind?"

    I would love to live in a suburban location where I could initiate her release. The reality is that I do not.

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