Squirrel Season

Posted on Wednesday, October 12 2005 by Heather Brandon

Over the long weekend, my children were playing outside in the cool, damp air of our backyard. I went out to check on them to find that they were all huddled around the body of a dead squirrel near the foot of our back steps. Excitedly, they explained to me that none of them had touched it, but they were thinking they should bury it and say a prayer for it.

Their enthusiasm was touching, but I was revolted by the thought of burying the squirrel in our yard, which is still suffering the long-term effects of having been treated as a landfill and dog pound over a number of years. Large pieces of trash are still being recovered from all over the small area of yard. This summer, we were finally able to remove two rusted, broken chains that had been choking a straining tree near its base, the tree long ago having adapted by growing around and through the busted links. It sprouted a few leaves last year, but not this year. Once we removed the chain—with a chisel and rubber mallet—the tree began to seep a foul-smelling liquid around the wound.

Even if I wanted to bury the squirrel, I just couldn’t think of a good place to put it. I realized I had created this problem, this monster, if you will, of my children’s compassionate conservationism. In the past, when we lived at smaller homes with bigger yards, we had a habit of burying found dead animals and making a bit of a ceremony of it, to show respect for nature. We even did this with a young raccoon we discovered when we lived in Sixteen Acres.

But now, in a tighter urban setting, this type of activity just isn’t possible. Into the trash went the squirrel. Bagged, of course.

I promptly forgot about the whole incident until this morning, when I walked by the same location near the back steps to discover one of our cats—the one who is still borderline stray—bouncing around enthusiastically next to yet another dead squirrel. This one was a dead ringer for the other one: same position, on its back, spreadeagled, motionless. It was even the same size as the first one, on the small side.

Great, I thought. I’m having one of those Groundhog Day experiences where every day I have to dispose of a dead squirrel. I remembered my Court Square squirrel encounter from the previous weekend and wondered if I am supposed to be receiving some message from the powers that be about city squirrels who are mangled or destroyed.

I went to grab the camera and photographed the dead squirrel, as I rarely can pass up an opportunity for blog fodder. As I took a few shots, I noticed the squirrel’s abdomen rise and fall. Then I saw its mouth open a bit more. The whiskers twitched gently. It shifted its left forearm. Oh no, I thought. It’s not dead yet.

After fussing for a few minutes about what to do with it—mostly I wanted to find a way for it to die without being chewed on and toyed with by any of the cats—I finally settled on putting it on a layer of plastic on top of an old flannel sheet, folded, inside a large cardboard box, inside the garage, where no one will bother it while it slowly expires. Holding it in the plastic bag, I was sad to discover how cold its little body was, and wondered how long it had lain there in the little hollow of broken asphalt near the back steps, in this cold, wet weather. I could see no apparent injury on the body; could it be stunned? Comatose? Bleeding internally? I’m a sucker for little critters.

In a bid to see if others have experienced similar trauma, I discovered a blog post from the Seattle area describing an unfortunate encounter between a squirrel and a bucket of water. And on scarysquirrel.org, a young woman is portrayed in a newscast as being a victim of squirrel-treating-Ford-Focus-as-nest. I also appreciated their Gallery of Dead Skwerls.

After reading a helpful page on a site maintained by Squirrel Rescue, based in Los Angeles, I realize the squirrel probably needs an external source of warmth if there is any hope for survival. I’m not highly motivated to rescue squirrels, as there are so many of them around, but I hate to think I could have helped but didn’t.

Pictures of the squirrel after the jump.

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