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Thread: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

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    Default Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    Hello all,
    First I want to say thanks to all of the senior members / vets that put info here Ė we would have never made it this far without you!

    A little background: I have a female eastern gray non-release named Lucy. She is a month shy of being two years old. Her cage is 7x4x3 and it is in our indoor sunroom (which is now her room). Her nest is an upside down ďbomberĒ hat with several microfiber towels for bedding. She has a deer antler, a cuttlebone and a limestone rock for her teeth but rarely if ever touches them. All platforms and perches are leftover red oak hardwood flooring. She has a glass/metal water bottle. We trim her nails and give a quick lukewarm rinse in the utility sink at the same time. An extreme sport but our routine since she was 3 months old. None of this has changed in the time weíve had her.

    Her diet: morning 2 Henryís wild blocks, afternoon a teklad 2018 block, evening quarter size broccoli and cauliflower with 2 medium blueberries 2 raspberries or the small half of a strawberry and a small piece of carrot. I have been giving her Nestle bottled water. This has been her diet pretty much since she weaned and we dialed in what would work for her.

    Considerations: About two weeks ago I thought her hat was ripped in half and needed to be replaced. I got it out and turns out it wasnít bad, so I put it back. I didnít realize how upset this would make her. Iíve since noticed her rearranging it more than usual, and she seems overly protective of it. She is not stashing anything I check often. Her water consumption has dropped to about half a bottle a week instead of the whole bottle a week. The amount of urine is proportionally lower when I clean cage. I have seen this pattern before and Iíd say itís been 6 weeks since the change. Iíve considered UTI but everything looks normal (best I can tell). I have ordered soil based probiotics and bilberry drops this morning (found recommended in a thread here) in case it is UTI.

    My concerns: Lately she has been ďcranky and combativeĒ when I go to feed her in the morning and again when I come home in the afternoon. Usually she is out and happy to see me at these times, but now makes her ďangry chirps and growlsĒ and stays in her hat. Once I coax her out sheís a bit agitated but eventually settles down. Yesterday afternoon she broke my skin with an angry bite when I was reaching in for her. I was wearing a black rain coat that I normally donít wear. Lately every night when I go for our hang out and veggies time she is a bit reluctant to come out of the nest, but eventually she does. She is her usual sweet self, hanging out in my arms for as long as I can stand there. Iíve also noticed she has tiny areas on her face where she has scratched excessively. Iím concerned with her behavior change that something may be happening? Is she still angry about messing up her nest? Is it UTI? In heat? (I feel like weíve made it way past this before at 2yrs old). Is it the time of year? I understand all creaturesí moods that come and go, but Iím concerned with the changes.

    Please let me know what you think about the changes, let me know if Iím doing anything wrong, let me know what to change. I canít believe how attached I am and will do just about anything I can for her. Thanks in advance!

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    Yes, they really don't like it when you mess with their primary nest, even it was just shaken out and returned to order the same day. I washed a piece of bedding with bleach and then washed it again but she never slept in that location again even though that is where she had always slept since graduating from her box.

    This is the time of year when they go into heat. Spring births are the most typical. So, she may be mad about not being outside. Hormones are hormones. Heat only last eight hours for a female. She may be aware of other mating activity and chases going on outside.

    Another angle you might consider is new scents. This could be a new laundry detergent, soap, shampoo or perfume or may even a piece of clothing that has a different odor. The residuals of house hold cleaning products can also aggravation, bleach in particular.

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    Thanks for responding. I know messing with her nest made her upset, but it was about 2 weeks ago. Could she still remember that I did it and not be over it from that long ago? I haven't changed any soaps or shampoos - I'm aware of the sensitivity and make it a point to take odors out of the equation best I can. The only thing out of the ordinary was the black rain coat, but it was still me wearing it and obviously I have worn different clothes over the last two years. I've noticed the behavior change really after the nest incident and seems ongoing. She seems to get upset if I reach for anything on the top half of the cage (nest and hammock are up at the top). Normally I can reach right in the nest and she will even rest her head on my hand while in the nest. Now in the evenings (6-9pm) she is hesitant to come out of the nest, but when she finally does she assumes the cuddle position. This morning I got her out - it really seems like she is confused between being upset and being sweet. Cranky one minute then sweet the next. Cranky mode was growling a bit and posturing and biting, the biting was aggressive but not hard at all and not breaking skin. I thought about hormones from outside squirrels. Pretty sure she was born last week of March to first week of April 2019. I don't think she was mature this time last year so this may be our first year experiencing maturity along with mating season? Assuming all of this will pass? Could major behavior changes happen after this much time?

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sweet Lucy View Post
    Thanks for responding. I know messing with her nest made her upset, but it was about 2 weeks ago. Could she still remember that I did it and not be over it from that long ago? I haven't changed any soaps or shampoos - I'm aware of the sensitivity and make it a point to take odors out of the equation best I can. The only thing out of the ordinary was the black rain coat, but it was still me wearing it and obviously I have worn different clothes over the last two years. I've noticed the behavior change really after the nest incident and seems ongoing. She seems to get upset if I reach for anything on the top half of the cage (nest and hammock are up at the top). Normally I can reach right in the nest and she will even rest her head on my hand while in the nest. Now in the evenings (6-9pm) she is hesitant to come out of the nest, but when she finally does she assumes the cuddle position. This morning I got her out - it really seems like she is confused between being upset and being sweet. Cranky one minute then sweet the next. Cranky mode was growling a bit and posturing and biting, the biting was aggressive but not hard at all and not breaking skin. I thought about hormones from outside squirrels. Pretty sure she was born last week of March to first week of April 2019. I don't think she was mature this time last year so this may be our first year experiencing maturity along with mating season? Assuming all of this will pass? Could major behavior changes happen after this much time?
    They have very long memories. There emotions rise as quickly as their reaction times, which are extraordinarily quick. Both are wired into the primitive part of the brain and can preempt your close relationship bond, at least temporarily.

    I found that talking in advance, mimicking the sound or describing what I was going to before taking any action that can trigger a primal, defensive response to be helpful to preventing that reaction. For example the window shade made a quick, squeaky sound when rolled up which startled her so before I would roll it up, I would say "Squeaky, squeaky." So she learned that the scary sound was coming and was soothed because she remembered that that sound would pass without incident. When I entered the room when she was asleep I always announced myself as I entered the room "Clumsy, noisy, stinky, human coming through." Yes I was being silly, but it helped a lot. I never reached into or approached her bed without talking before coming closer.

    Furthermore, talking to your squirrel helps you to self monitor your emotions. If you are calm, that goes a long way to keeping Lucy calm. They are very observant and very emotionally sensitive. This is an integral part of their predator early warning system. Even if she is agitated, try to stay calm.

    The black coat might have a unique odor embedded in it: moth balls, dry cleaning chemicals, fabric freshener, the smell of another animal, etc. It is hard to say, their sense of smell is far more keen than ours.

    After my bleach incident with washing the old towel that was part of her day one bedding she was pissed off. I put the towel back in her old nest site hoping that she would go back to sleeping there, but every time she got near that towel she would start chattering her teeth. Ultimately, I realized that I need to remove the towel from her environment completely. Subsequently, she could be by her old nest site without getting agitated. Nonetheless, she never slept there again and that had been a nest site of her choosing.

    Try to see if you can get things back to the old status quo ante with respect to the hat. If not provide an alternate sleeping location and materials for her to form into another nest and see if she starts sleeping there. If so, I would try removing the hat to see if that helps.

    Don't assume that the issue with the hat will pass. In my case the smells triggered the negative emotions every time she encountered that old towel.

    Generally a female becomes sexually mature at approximately the age of 10 months. So, I would think that she was mature last mating season. Staying alive and having children are their number one genetically wired missions.

    If she is making aggressive sounds or acting aggressively don't approach closer. Let her approach you if she wants to. You are only strengthening her negative, defensive mindset if you do. Try to soothe her with your voice.

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    Squirrels have very few possessions: their nests, their territory, their food and their children. For them, these are a matter of life and death. If you lose a good nest during the winter or get pushed out of a food rich territory, survival chances plummet. So, messing with any of those triggers a deep, primal response, usually some form of aggression.

    By the same token, this is probably why they don't understand why humans get so upset when they chew on other things: the furniture, shoes, walls, cords, books, etc.

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    Yes she has always been quick to get angry, but has also been pretty quick to get over it too Ė except this time. She just doesnít seem to be getting over it. I was considering putting the new replacement hat and bedding back in on the other side of the cage without removing the old one and letting her move if she wants to. The old hat will not last forever so replacing it is inevitable. I agree about the emotional sensitivity! People look at me like Iím crazy when I tell them that she and I are bonded like ET and Elliott.

    Things were about one notch better yesterday but she still seems apprehensive and defensive of the hat. Last night I was able to coax her out of the hat by touching some walnuts to get the scent on my hand Ė she popped right out for that. She hung out for about 5 minutes then without warning she hopped down and went right back inside her cage and up to the hat. Usually at night I have to put her back in. I always let her come to the cage door and out on her own and the same with going back in, unless I need her to go back in then I just put her in there and she hops right onto her platform. She has always been the most personable and sweet in the evening/night time and that still seems to be the case. This morning I got her out and she was again one notch better, but still seems torn between being sweet and cranky. Teeth chattering sometimes means sheís upset and other times she just seems to chatter and is otherwise cool. I donít understand fully what it all means Iím still learning. Example Ė this morning she chattered about 5 seconds then jumped right out on my hand and then up to my shoulder like any other time. Again seeming torn between angry and sweet. I like your advice of talking to her - I always have but will start doing it more especially when I enter the room.

    I have had to adjust or replace her hat before (this is her 3rd) but it was never at this time of year. Could she be extra sensitive/protective because itís the end of winter? Could it be now that Iíve messed with her hat itís forever ruined in her eyes? I believe you on the good memory! I think she does a better job than most of my 7th grade students (Iím a science teacher). Iím worried that I made a much larger transgression than I realized by messing with her hat Ė I was afraid it might drop with her inside asleep (hat is almost 7ft up). I just want her to be happy and peaceful because that makes me happy and peaceful (ET and Elliott)

    The first thing I do when I get home is wash my hands then go give Lucy her teklad block. I've had this routine the entire time with no change of soap and almost the same time of day. The black coat was Gore-Tex. I know their hearing range is way beyond ours so it may have been making a sound she didnít like. Whatever it was, I definitely wonít be wearing it around her again! Iím trying to be scientific, humane, and do the best I can with the little miracle that fell from the big oak tree Easter Sunday 2 years ago. Iím willing to help her whatever the cost and however long she will stay with me. Thanks again for the insight and advice!

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sweet Lucy View Post
    I have had to adjust or replace her hat before (this is her 3rd) but it was never at this time of year. Could she be extra sensitive/protective because it’s the end of winter? Could it be now that I’ve messed with her hat it’s forever ruined in her eyes? I believe you on the good memory! I think she does a better job than most of my 7th grade students (I’m a science teacher). I’m worried that I made a much larger transgression than I realized by messing with her hat – I was afraid it might drop with her inside asleep (hat is almost 7ft up). I just want her to be happy and peaceful because that makes me happy and peaceful (ET and Elliott)
    Behavior definitely changes with the seasons. Sleeping hours, activity level and whether a nut is eaten or cached.

    Hormones are a powerful thing. Second to survival, reproducing is likely their most powerful genetically driven instinct.

    I solved a lot of behavior problems by reminding myself to "Think like a squirrel." The answer didn't always come to me right away, but eventually I usually had an 'ah ha' moment. You know her best and the history of the relationship.

    Just remember you can't reason with emotion, but if you can figure out the root cause the situation can be ameliorated.

    Yes, the evening is when they are most amenable to snuggling and some of their hyper energy has dissipated. On cold nights squirrels, which are usually solitary except when the female is raising her young, will sometimes share a nest with others. Passing the smell test and mutual grooming is an integral part of that.

    I would add the other hat and provide her plenty of paper to stuff it with. I would engage in a little trial and error change making and see if you can improve things, but the hat is probably the number one factor here.

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    I feed mine outside and during a windy spell, used some rocks as a wind block on the chair he sits on. NOPE. He wouldn't even come over to eat that night. Had to put everything back where it was, and then he came back. Quite particular little creatures they are!

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    At this time of year, there may be another thing for your consideration: time for doing the mattress dance aka making whooppi I know that one of my NR females - who is usually very cool with us - was suddenly very testy, even aggressive for a few days, going so far as alerting all day, but has since stopped and become her old self again. During that time she was also chewing on her wood nest box, seemingly rearranging everything in there, which are things she never does on usually. That too has stopped. I concluded that maybe her instinct was telling her to find a boyfriend and prepare for an eventual litter... which of course never did materialize. :dunno
    "In the midst of our lives we must find the magic that makes our souls soar."
    My darling Scooter, beloved Hami, sweet gentle Simon... YOU are the ones who brought that magic in my life. You've changed the way I see all things around me now and, because of you, I want to be a better person. This is not goodbye, my sweethearts. You be at peace, your work here on earth is done... now you are finally, truly free. Until we meet at the Bridge again, please remember that I will always love you.
    The greatness of a nation can be measured by the way it treats its animals.
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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    Quote Originally Posted by sundoesshine View Post
    I feed mine outside and during a windy spell, used some rocks as a wind block on the chair he sits on. NOPE. He wouldn't even come over to eat that night. Had to put everything back where it was, and then he came back. Quite particular little creatures they are!
    I agree with the layout sensitivity. We added a chair to the room and it took her a day or two to hop on it. I should have applied that sensitivity to her nest.

    This morning she was hesitant to come out, when she did it was back to torn between sweet and cranky. Iím just going to be patient and pray this will pass

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    Quote Originally Posted by Scooterzmom View Post
    At this time of year, there may be another thing for your consideration: time for doing the mattress dance aka making whooppi I know that one of my NR females - who is usually very cool with us - was suddenly very testy, even aggressive for a few days, going so far as alerting all day, but has since stopped and become her old self again. During that time she was also chewing on her wood nest box, seemingly rearranging everything in there, which are things she never does on usually. That too has stopped. I concluded that maybe her instinct was telling her to find a boyfriend and prepare for an eventual litter... which of course never did materialize. :dunno
    Lucy being testy and constantly rearranging her nest are exactly what Iím seeing. I feel like it started with me adjusting her nest, but that was a full two weeks ago. That week was in the single digits and we had ice and snow all week. Now the weather is breaking and looking more like spring. Iím trying to figure out if itís all her nest, the spring weather approaching and mating season, or just a really bad overlap of timing? The length of time this has been ongoing is what has me concerned. Honestly Iíve been feeling bad and even loosing sleep over this situation and kicking myself for the transgression. Do you think this will pass eventually or have I permanently broken the trust over all of this?

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    I think it will eventually pass. Engage with her on her terms.

    I had a female in the house that went through her first estrus cycle and she was not pleasant and was unpredictable for at least a couple of weeks. Impregnation window may only last for 8 hours, but the hormone change lasts much longer than that. As they get older I think the estrus cycle begins to wane a bit and is less intense, so hopefully as time passes this will be less of an issue. The oldest female flying squirrel that was documented as being pregnant was 3.8 years. Because squirrels donít usually live very long in the wild, they may go through their version of menopause at a much earlier age than expected.

    Youíre sure she has no stashes in her cage?

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    I think mel is right about the hormone change lasting a while. I had one overwintering one year who went through a major attitude change for a few weeks, so much so that I was thinking I would be quite happy to see her go at release time - when usually release day is always so bittersweet for me... like happy to see them go, but sad and worried for not being able to protect them. I think we all know the feeling. :/ But with her, Shookie was her name, I thought "Fine...she can have herself a good life once free" and I wouldn't really miss the little hussy. But hey! 2 to 3 weeks before release time? Well she became all nice and sweet again, wrapping my heart around her little paw and just like for all the others I was happy and sad to see her go.

    I think your girl will forgive you. Just look at her as you would a teenager - she just became a squirrel woman, so to speak and just like a teenager she's going to have her moments. I would call it S-PMS... as in squirrel pre and post menstrual syndrome
    "In the midst of our lives we must find the magic that makes our souls soar."
    My darling Scooter, beloved Hami, sweet gentle Simon... YOU are the ones who brought that magic in my life. You've changed the way I see all things around me now and, because of you, I want to be a better person. This is not goodbye, my sweethearts. You be at peace, your work here on earth is done... now you are finally, truly free. Until we meet at the Bridge again, please remember that I will always love you.
    The greatness of a nation can be measured by the way it treats its animals.
    - Gandhi -

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mel1959 View Post
    I think it will eventually pass. Engage with her on her terms.

    I had a female in the house that went through her first estrus cycle and she was not pleasant and was unpredictable for at least a couple of weeks. Impregnation window may only last for 8 hours, but the hormone change lasts much longer than that. As they get older I think the estrus cycle begins to wane a bit and is less intense, so hopefully as time passes this will be less of an issue. The oldest female flying squirrel that was documented as being pregnant was 3.8 years. Because squirrels donít usually live very long in the wild, they may go through their version of menopause at a much earlier age than expected.

    Youíre sure she has no stashes in her cage?
    I'm starting to lean towards it's the hormones. Thinking back I feel like I went through a similar time last year - although I also feel this time is worse.

    I got her out yesterday for social several times. She grunted and postured at first then came on out. Once out of the cage it was playtime as usual. What made me feel the best was she went to the couch she initiated play by doing her "side hoping" and rolling on her back with feel up (you know, like a cat). While she was out I checked her original nest for stockpile but it was empty other than crumbs and dust from her teklad blocks.

    I installed a new nest hat with new microfiber while she was distracted and I had to move her hammock a bit to accommodate. She immediately inspected the hammock side I adjusted but not the side I didn't. She knew exactly what bar it was previously attached to! She also took to the new hat, immediately organizing the microfiber and going back and forth between the old and new. She's definitely still super protective of the cage - during outside play she would all of a sudden run directly to cage and up to nest but then come back down and out to resume play. It's almost like she doesn't want to leave nest unattended too long.

    This morning I saw her come out of the new nest. She was still hesitant but didn't get as worked up as she has been. SO, maybe the hormones are waning a bit. Thanks for reminding me to engaging with her on her terms!

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    Quote Originally Posted by Scooterzmom View Post
    I think mel is right about the hormone change lasting a while. I had one overwintering one year who went through a major attitude change for a few weeks, so much so that I was thinking I would be quite happy to see her go at release time - when usually release day is always so bittersweet for me... like happy to see them go, but sad and worried for not being able to protect them. I think we all know the feeling. :/ But with her, Shookie was her name, I thought "Fine...she can have herself a good life once free" and I wouldn't really miss the little hussy. But hey! 2 to 3 weeks before release time? Well she became all nice and sweet again, wrapping my heart around her little paw and just like for all the others I was happy and sad to see her go.

    I think your girl will forgive you. Just look at her as you would a teenager - she just became a squirrel woman, so to speak and just like a teenager she's going to have her moments. I would call it S-PMS... as in squirrel pre and post menstrual syndrome
    Good insight! As a guy I don't always see or understand things on the other side of the fence... She will be two years old the end of this month so she is definitely "teen aged" and I'll agree with the diagnosis of S-PMS. The last few days I've been tempting her out of the nest with a tiny walnut or pecan. Even though that is treat I wouldn't normally give I think it's helping remind her that I'm there as a friend to take care of her not blow her nest out of the tree. Thanks for the response

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    I also wonder if maybe her hormones weren't very high last year because she didn't wild up as a NR, but now that she's older the hormones are really kicking to reveal her nesting instincts.

    Our jr is quite a little bruiser, but this week a young lady squirrel of the same size moved into our yard who is just kicking his butt daily. Those hormones are unmatched!

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    Your description of her actions makes it sound like she THINKS she has babies or is preparing for them. I have a released female and certain times during the year she is highly protective of her nest box...her tree....the whole side yard! She’ll chase any squirrel that ventures where she doesn’t want them. And this is when she’s NOT pregnant.....And then there’s other times she doesn’t seem to care.

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    Default Re: Lucy needs help and I need advice!

    Quote Originally Posted by sundoesshine View Post
    I also wonder if maybe her hormones weren't very high last year because she didn't wild up as a NR, but now that she's older the hormones are really kicking to reveal her nesting instincts.

    Our jr is quite a little bruiser, but this week a young lady squirrel of the same size moved into our yard who is just kicking his butt daily. Those hormones are unmatched!
    Iíve had the same thought and it does make sense. There are now quite a few bouncing around in the vicinity and I can just see the sunroom hvac blowing in the hormones...

    Today she seemed better and ever so slightly back to her routines; ex coming out of her nest to greet me when I walk in the house. But sheís still not back to normal.

    On a side note - we noticed today that there are three new babies in the same tree and hole she fell from 2 years ago, but, these are up and moving as of today March 8th. Lucy fell on Easter Sunday and it was 8 days later until her eyes opened. I do however believe that this family may be related to her.

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