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Thread: Peanut is thriving but not learning to be a squirrel

  1. #1
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    Default Peanut is thriving but not learning to be a squirrel

    So, I found a 5-6 week old fox squirrel about 4 weeks ago almost frozen and covered with fleas. She's been cleaned and de-flea-ed, and treated with steroids. She eats well but is still on the formula, with occasional veggies. I've bought the Henry's blocks, but she won't touch them. I put a little fruit juice on one and she chewed it to pieces, but mostly just made a mess. She has almost doubled her weight to 12.2 oz now.

    My question is, now what? I've tried calling the rehabber near me, but it must be an old number or they don't do it anymore. She seems to be happy, plays with the ropes and toys I've put in her cage, sleeps (not on the floor anymore) in a hanging sack. But winter is coming and I can't just put her out. Everyone else is kind of afraid of her. She hasn't bitten anyone or acted mean at all. Will she stay sweet or go wild once she's a bit older?

    Once she's weaned and its warmer out, do I just put her cage on the back deck and leave the door open? Will she know what to do? Will she get cranky over the winter being cooped up? Help!

    ALSO, this is everyone's worry, does she have any diseases that squirrels just "carry"? She appears to be in perfect heath, but I keep reading this stuff about fly bots and Tularemia and all this other stuff.... Are those common?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Peanut is thriving but not learning to be a squirrel

    https://youtu.be/grSHxEBKBvI

    Video of her playing

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Peanut is thriving but not learning to be a squirrel

    Lots of questions, I’ll try to answer.

    No, you can’t just open the door and let her go. I guess you could, but it wouldn’t be in her best interest. She will need to go through the soft release process which essentially is placing her in her cage outside with a roof and protection from the elements and she can learn the sights sounds and smells of outside life. After 2-3 weeks you open a small portal door to allow her to leave but too small to allow stray cats or other predators to enter. This shouldn’t happen until Spring. Her chances of survival through the winter are limited. No food stash, no leaf cover, no nest or territory are all strikes against her and her survival.

    A soft release involves providing food and access to her safe spot…her cage…until she’s ready to leave. This would be in the spring when the leaves are on the trees and wild food is available again.

    There are “sticky” threads on this forum that give helpful advise on the soft release process.

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  6. #4
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    Default Re: Peanut is thriving but not learning to be a squirrel

    I wouldn't send her out now, I just don't know what to expect over the winter. I've read some people dedicate a whole room to their squirrel, but I don't have the room for that. I don't want her to be a pet, I want her to go back to being wild (just not while I'm holding her! lol).

    So my real questions are:

    1. I've read I should handle her a lot, but wouldn't that make her domesticated?

    2. Can I assume since she appears to be healthy, that she doesn't have any diseases she can pass to my family or dogs?

  7. #5
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    Default Re: Peanut is thriving but not learning to be a squirrel

    Don’t worry about her learning to be a squirrel. It is coded in their DNA. They have powerful instincts. She will know exactly what to do. The example that I like to use is something I’ve seen baby flying squirrels do. No one has to teach a baby flying squirrel to glide (fly). It is coded in their DNA. A baby flyer will stand on a ledge (chair, cat tree, furniture, etc). They will start to bob their little head up and down and they instinctively JUMP! They thrust their little arms out to extend their patagium. The glides get longer and longer until they are gliding across the room. You don’t have to push them off the ledge or teach them. They just know.

    When I release squirrels, in a few days they will start cutting off small branches in an attempt to make a nest (drey). I’ve seen it many times. My yard will be littered with piles of small branches that fell out of the tree. They don’t give up. They try again until they perfect nest building. This happens within days of release. They are very capable of being a squirrel even if raised from days old pinkies.

    Now for the challenge. They do get bored when being overwintered. Unfortunately the extended time in captivity can (but not always) overlap with their tendency to ‘wild up’. Squirrels (like people) are VERY different. Some will remain sweet forever. These are the exception. Most will wild up to some degree. Some will become hellions and get very mean and aggressive. This is the opposite extreme. One one end of the spectrum is the lovey, cuddly pet and on the opposite end is the mean aggressive nightmare. Most fall somewhere in the middle. They VERY often will select their special person. They will adore their surrogate ‘mom’ and despise everyone else. They can get very mean/aggressive to other family members in the home. This is something that has to be managed but can’t really be fixed. You have to limit/eliminate contact with the squirrel with your family if this happens. I have read stories on this board of grown kids that are terrified of their parents pet squirrel. The squirrel will sit high up on furniture and chatter their teeth and flick the tail. These are signs of aggression. Of course, this is a worst case scenario. In my mind you just need to use common sense to make it work.

    The boredom is a problem so you have to provide enrichment to entertainment them. Some provide cat trees, climbing ropes, hanging carpet or other things to climb. It’s also nice to provide limbs for them to climb or chew.

    I hope I didn’t paint too dark a pic. It’s not usually that extreme. I have read some that say you need to limit interaction with them as they approach release. I have never done that. I interact with them as they permit right up to release. I have a few friendly squirrels in my yard that were released but most won’t maintain that friendly nature after release. They wild up rapidly and are usually indistinguishable from the wild population.

    As far as diseases, you don’t need to worry. In general tularemia is very rare and I don’t know a single documented case of transmission from a squirrel to a human. They don’t intrinsically carry many diseases of concern. Of course, I would use good hygiene practices like you would with a cat or dog. Bot flies are a seasonal concern. They don’t get bot flies in the winter and they should never get them in captivity. It’s an outside thing that is more common in some areas than others.

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    Chirps (11-24-2021), ddhall (11-28-2021), Diggie's Friend (11-23-2021), Mel1959 (11-24-2021), Sabache (11-23-2021), Scooterzmom (11-23-2021)

  9. #6
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    Default Re: Peanut is thriving but not learning to be a squirrel

    Quote Originally Posted by Sabache View Post
    https://youtu.be/grSHxEBKBvI

    Video of her playing
    I loved the video. You have probably noticed that they are very kitten like when young. They love to play.

    I just LOVE your beautiful, orange Fox squirrels. We don’t have those in FL. Wish we did!

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  11. #7
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    Default Re: Peanut is thriving but not learning to be a squirrel

    Thank you so much! I don't think you painted a dark picture at all, just a realistic one. I'm glad to hear about the diseases not being a big issue. That one had me worried. A lot of the things I read online turned out to be from exterminators trying to scare people, I think.

    Hopefully I can get or make a larger cage for her, so she won't feel too confined. She's a happy little booger now, so hopefully she can stay that way for a couple more months!!

    I have a large tree in my back yard, and a deck she can "soft release" from. She'll have three Papillion's to chase the other squirrels away. Since I've gotten her, they just either ignore here, or stare from a distance while I feed her. They're not sure what she is, just that she's mine and I'm Alpha, so it must be okay. So funny I ended up with a real squirrel to go with the Squirrel spaniels.

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    Default Re: Peanut is thriving but not learning to be a squirrel

    I have a thought on the Henry’s block. I bet you bought the high protein block for young squirrels. That would seem like the reasonable thing to do. This is just my experience but squirrels seem to hate them. They love the Picky eater block. I won’t be buying the high protein blocks ever again.

    A funny story…. I have 2 flying squirrels that are seniors. One is 11 the other is 9. The 11 yo is an extremely picky eater. He gets the picky eater block but often he hides them. Recently I got an older Eastern Grey baby for release. When she came she had left over supplies including Henry’s high protein blocks. I put them in the freezer. She has since been released. One day while preparing the boys food I grabbed the high protein block by mistake instead of their picky block. The next day the block was still sitting on Bonzai’s plate. I panicked because I thought he died. No, he didn’t die. He hated the high protein block so bad he couldn’t even be bothered to hide it.
    I won’t make that mistake again.

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    Default Re: Peanut is thriving but not learning to be a squirrel

    Fox squirrels need a habitat cage that is at least 5 ft long; and 4 1/2 ft wide and tall, which is under the dimensions noted that they require by the rehabbers association. A supportive habitat size and non toxic sources of branches or wood included is need to support healthy muscle mass and strong bone development over the winter till a spring release.

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    Default Re: Peanut is thriving but not learning to be a squirrel

    Too funny! I bought the healthy blocks, but just ordered the picky blocks after reading your message. Thank you!!

  17. #11
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    Default Re: Peanut is thriving but not learning to be a squirrel

    And of course this morning her healthy block was missing from her bowl. I thawed another and put it in and she ran down, picked it up and held it over her head while sniffing it, so much so the almost tipped over backward. Then she ran up to her hammock and started munching away! Silly girl.

  18. #12
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    Default Re: Peanut is thriving but not learning to be a squirrel

    That’s pretty typical behavior for a squirrel.

    Hey, I wanted to mention something. Please don’t post about your baby on social media. It’s not safe. It’s illegal for the public to have wildlife in their possession. Sure, it’s legal to kill them or throw them back outside to die but it’s illegal to save them unless you’re a licensed rehabber. Also, limit the number of people that know about the squirrel. Apparently wildlife officials have nothing better to do than go after people saving baby squirrels. We get a little complacent and forget to tell people about the ‘laws’. We had a reminder of this last week as DNR came to the door of someone with a baby squirrel. They had initially contacted a rehabber to find placement for the baby (before they even found TSB). The rehabber wouldn’t take the baby but offered to euthanize it because it had issues. The rehabber took her contact info and for some reason felt the need make the world a better place by turning her in.

    On TSB you are anonymous but on FB they know your name and can figure the rest out.

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