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CROW treats squirrels during busy nesting season

By Staff | Sep 3, 2009

Imagine losing your home and family every time someone decided to trim a tree or do work around the property.

Well for most folks, that is not a problem since homes for people tend to be built on solid ground and made with concrete foundations that hold them in place.

But for wildlife like squirrels that live in nests nestled inside trees, building a home and family can be a little more hazardous.

Any trauma to a tree such as trimming or cutting can impact nests and homes built in them. Many animals including squirrels make their homes in trees.

And during squirrel season things can get well a little more hairy. Nesting season for the fluffy-tailed rodents occurs all year round but tends to be more prolific in the spring and fall, said Dr. PJ Deitschel, Clinic Director and Staff Veterinarian for the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, Inc. (CROW). This fall the clinic is treating about 60 squirrels – many orphaned babies.

“The vast majority fall from trees,” Deitschel said.

Habitat destruction a hazard for many species of wildlife is the main contributing factor to squirrels falling out of trees. Tree trimming and other construction work on or near trees can create havoc for the tiny squirrels that depend on the sanctuary of their tree homes.

“It’s a big problem that we see,” Deitschel said.

Deitschel said the squirrels falling out of trees can be prevented by being careful and checking for nests before working on a tree.

When the squirrels fall out of the trees some become prey for dogs, cats and other animals while others mainly baby squirrels can be left stranded without food, water or protection.

The majority of the Eastern Gray squirrels CROW is treating come from off island, Deitschel said.

Depending on their size they can remain at the clinic for six weeks. The young baby squirrels require regular feedings.

Clinic staff work to treat and rehabilitate the squirrels so they can be released back to the wild. The youngsters are place together to socialize and learn how to be squirrels.

“The key is to keep them with other squirrels,” Deitschel said.

As teenagers they play and chase each other and then as adults they disperse and go off on their own, Deitschel said.

While at the clinic the bushy-tailed rodents have diets complete with fresh fruit. In the wild, the animals – chewers by nature – live on fresh buds, nuts and fruit.

They have a natural ability to know how to take care of themselves and what they need to eat.

“They’re very instinctual,” Deitschel said.

Their speed is their greatest asset and protection – though they have a sharp bite too. They are animals of prey and stay on the look out for danger.

Anyone who finds a downed or injured squirrel should use a towel to collect the animal since their first instinct is to hide. Gloves should be used for adult squirrels and they should be placed in a secure box or carrier to be transported to CROW.

If an injured squirrel is found after hours, they should be kept in a warm, dark box. And caretakers are urged to not feed the injured animals since ingesting fluid or liquid can kill them.

Why all of the fuss for something that chomps on acorns and scurries through the trees?

“Because it is here,” Deitschel said. “An animal has the right to be here.”

Anyone interested in helping squirrels or any other wildlife via volunteering or giving donations, can call the CROW clinic at 472-3644 ext. 1.