*”The [Douglas Squirrel] is the brightest of all squirrels I have ever seen, a hot spark of life, making every tree tingle with his prickly toes, a condensed nugget of fresh mountain vigor and valor, as free from disease as a sunbeam. He seems to think the mountains belong to him. How he scolds, and what faces he makes, all eyes, teeth, and whiskers. If not so comically small he would indeed be a dreadful fellow.” John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra
On almost any day that you decide to take a walk in Arcata’s Community Forest, you’ll likely be scolded by a small gray backed, rusty bellied squirrel who will run headlong down a giant redwood to tell you exactly what you are doing all wrong!
Douglas Squirrels (Tamiasciurus douglasii) are notorious for their harsh critique of the anthroposphere throughout their range of the Pacific Northwest. Has any human, or human’s pet, met with their approval? No.
Although easily seen in broad daylight, another of Muir’s observations remains true: “He is, without exception, the wildest animal I ever saw, –a fiery, sputtering little bolt of life.”
However, when something disturbs their den site, all the wildness in the world can’t save squirrels who are too young to survive on their own.
In the case of the four young Douglas Squirrels who we admitted in early August at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, a kind man found them scattered and struggling around the base of a tall Redwood deep in the Arcata Community Forest. We don’t know what happened to their nest, only that no parents were seen and the young Squirrels were lethargic and barely moving. He scooped them up and carried them to our clinic a few miles away on his bicycle.
Too young to be on their own, cold and dehydrated, we admitted them for care. Soon, after receiving fluids and spending some time in an incubator, they were active and looking for food. We started them on mixture of milk replacer and ground seed. Within ten days they were strictly eating whole seed plus a lot more!
After a few weeks in care, the four sibling Squirrels were moved to outdoor housing to gain the benefits of exercise and some relief from constant proximity to human care providers.
After being weaned from a milk replacer, the youngsters were provided a varied diet that consisted of foods similar to what they would eat once they were free – a mixture of seeds, berries and mushrooms.
Rounding up Douglas Squirrels for routine exams is always a challenge!
We never underestimate the power of an angry Squirrel. Rodent teeth can really hurt!
After four weeks in care, our Squirrel patients were ready to go home – here is their living room. The person who found the Squirrels originally gave us detailed directions that allowed us to find the exact location – one more piece of the puzzle that will help ensure that these Hot Sparks will thrive in wild freedom.
Is anything more precious than a box of Squirrels? An HWCC volunteer prepares to unleash the fury!
The first Squirrel to leave the box scopes out the scene.
[Your donation makes the care we provide to injured and orphaned wild animals possible. Over 95% of the animals we treat were directly and negatively impacted by human society and its machinery. Your generosity goes directly toward helping right that wrong. Please donate today!]
The satisfaction of helping the wild survive alongside the harsh realities of human civilization is a reward like no other.
The face of wild freedom running fiercely through the Community forest.
Upon release, our volunteers noted that there were several adult squirrels in the immediate area. We are sure that we’ve successfully returned these youngsters to their family. Now with their second chance, which was possible because of your support, these youngsters will carry their fiery torch forward. Next year, they’ll have babies of their own and the seasons and our lives roll on. Thank you for providing us the resources we need to be able to help whoever it is that comes through our door. Our wild neighbors in jeopardy, whether an injured adult or displaced orphan would have nowhere to go without your generosity. If you’d like to donate, click here, – every little bit helps!
all photos: Laura Corsiglia/BAX