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Fox Squirrel Rescue

Saturday, April 25, 2015

I was running along a high ridge when I heard a vocalization that was unfamiliar to me. It was a piercing, mournful whistle, insistent and regular.
When I hear a birdlike call that I've never heard, there are two possibilities.

Possibility One is that it's a bird with which I'm not familiar. Because I bird by ear,  and have made it a point to learn firsthand every peep, burp and giggle of every bird that lives around here in this rumply corner of Ohio since 1992, that can only mean that it's a rare vagrant.

 On April 21, 2014,  I heard a mellow dove call, "who cooks for you?" coming from the orchard. And by the time I had run inside to grab the binocs and long lens, held up my iPhone and made a recording of it, I knew it was a white-winged dove, strayed here from the American Southwest. Or somewhere. I got reasonably unequivocal photos, considering the bird was backlit, and several great voice recordings to boot. Something like Ohio's fifth state record of the species. All from hearing an unfamiliar bird call. It ain't braggin' if you can back it up.

Possibility Two is that it's not a bird. This is actually more likely than that it's a bird I'm not familiar with. There was need in the call. Distress. I climbed the cow pasture gate and headed toward the sound. No way was I going to go home without figuring this out, and helping whatever needed help.

In the photo below, I ended up standing under the tree just right of center, the one with the dark spot in its crown. The cowpasture hill is so steep the cattle have cut parallel tracks in it, and I actually had to walk down it stepping sideways, lest I pitch forward and roll the rest of the way. Yes, we clear impossible slopes in Washington County, slopes that should by all rights be in forest, not "pasture." But hey. It's not a housing development, and there are bluebirds and meadowlarks. I'll take it.

I still didn't know what the sound was, but I had decided that despite the high, birdlike tone,  the metronome-like regularity of the call indicated that it was a mammal. By the time I got close to the source, I had narrowed it down to squirrel. A crying baby squirrel. The season was right.

Now you can see the dark nest in the  deciduous tree to the right of the pine patch, with a green pine at its base. These photos taken after the fact. I hadn't seen the nest yet, when I was trying to home in on the strange peeping.

I entered the woods and heard two crying at once. Now I knew it had to be babies. 

One voice was coming from the forest floor, the other from high in a tree. From a stick and leaf nest, draped with blonde inner bark strips. 

Just then, before my unbelieving eyes, a tiny animal launched itself into space and crash-landed atop a branch on the forest floor. Oh no! But what were the chances I'd be there at that exact moment?? There is an answer to that question, but I wouldn't realize it for another day.

It was the most beautiful baby fox squirrel I had ever seen. The first, actually. And he was cold, shivering, starving. Something must have happened to his mother. 

I searched quickly through the forest litter and found his sibling, who must have launched earlier, and had been crying intermittently the whole time. It was weaker, smaller.

From carefree and headed home from a 4.7 mile run, to suddenly and completely responsible for two precious and beautiful lives.

 Welcome to another installment of "Being Zick." 

A little bright red blood bubbled at the bigger male's nose. He was the one who'd taken the leap to land at my feet. 
That wasn't good. It spoke of internal injuries. He'd fallen at least 40 feet. 

All this time, Chet Baker had been with me, but hanging well back. He was intrigued by the high, peeping distress calls of the squirrels, but he would not come any closer than 50' while I searched the ground for them.

Finally, with a lot of coaxing, he came to me and sniffed shyly at the babies. 

He was struggling to contain his avidity.

Everything in his demeanor read disbelief. That I had two squirrels, his dream prey, in my hands. That now, since they were babies and in my hands, there was no way he would ever be allowed to grab them and give them a quick shake, as he does in his dreams. He's half rat terrier, after all. Fast and very skilled at dispatching small mammals. I could read his thoughts. RATS! Rats rats rats rats rats. She got to 'em first.

But remember--he had stayed absolutely clear of the area. He was actually hiding behind a multiflora bush as I searched for the squirrels!

At the mature age of ten, Chet Baker knows this about himself. He reminded me of a recovering alcoholic at a Christmas party, standing as far away from the bar as he can get. 

Look up "Good Dog" in the dictionary. There will be a picture of Chet Baker, Boston Terrier.

Now, what to do? My mind went into overdrive. I tucked the squirrels up under my chin, ignoring the fleas that riffled through their fur, and headed for the house, about a mile distant. By the time I got there, I'd have a plan. 

To Be Continued...


Oh MY! I am on the edge of my seat now!!

Thanks for being you!

You're an angel! And a tease with the "to be continued!" Ack!!

Another rescue by the Zick Being being Zick!

Another rescue by the Zick Being being Zick!

Welcome to the club. I'll keep my titmouse- it feeds itself !!! Cute reaction of JB. My Foxy would have gobbled "squirrelies". Anxious for cont.

Groan. Don't take too long before you continue.

ARGH!!!! You and your cliffhangers! I MUST know what happens next! Is the one with the bloody nose okay? I tell ya, there is some preternatural reason why these things always happen around you. Perhaps it's part of your life purpose to take care of these creatures.

If a tree falls in a wood, and no one is there to hear it... If squirrel babies are hungry and alone in the wood, and no one is there to hear them... but wait, Zick was there. What are the chances? Lucky lucky baby squirrels!

Posted by Gail Spratley April 25, 2015 at 6:50 PM

Those sweet orphans deserve at least a chance in this cold world, and it looks as though they may get one. In the meantime, I will be here flapping my hands anxiously, awaiting your words.

Reading this brought tears to my eyes--of course you had to be there!!!What a good doggie Chet was to contain his excitement--My little guy would have come unglued!!!:-) Am also eagerly awaiting the "rest of the story"

More please!

Here's what I love. Most of my friends do not have baby fox squirrels in hand, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. Only one has baby fox squirrels AND A PLAN.

Thank you for being the Critter -Whisperer once again.

You can't leave us hanging for very long, PLEASE ....

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