Messages of the Wild, to Heal My Heart

For the past couple of months, I have not felt much urge to write. Oh, I had formulated plenty of ideas in my head about what to write, and even managed a good collection of photographs of nature through the past weeks, but my heart was heavy with other things. I was just not able to muster the desire to express myself in a post. Lately, I had been pondering some obstacles in my life – primarily, the expectation of how people or things should be. I became overwhelmed with the realization that I could no longer put so much personal and emotional stock into the notion that life should be logical and orderly. It was also becoming clear that I could not count on ordinary justice and, no matter how hard I tried, I would never completely understand why things happen as they do. With all these things weighing heavy on my mind, getting my head wrapped around the disappointment that I had brought upon myself, and finding the fortitude to change my way of thinking, was proving to be difficult.

In times like these, I find reassurance by tapping into my ability to walk in the woods with my camera and seek messages from nature. For the past two weeks, I had noticed vultures soaring high above with their healing messages of “Glide and soar!” and “Leave the carcass of troubles behind”. I also observed the Monarch and a few other species of butterfly making their migratory flight south. A few had stopped to linger in our woods, reminding me of the message to “rest” for a brief period before moving on. Along with the butterfly, the deer were visiting more frequently and, among Daisy deer’s little herd, I had found the message of “unexpected miracles” with the arrival of Willow, a late season fawn born to Daisy’s yearling doe, Spirit.

With Daisy no longer in "protective mother mode", Spirit was welcomed back into the herd in late September.

With Daisy no longer in “protective mother mode”, Spirit was welcomed back into the herd in late September.

Spirit had kept her new little charge well-hidden for nearly a month before finally bringing Willow out. At that time, I was confused about the activity in the herd. Daisy often hoofed Spirit and Willow away from herself, Heidi and Dancer. And I witnessed Spirit also hoofing Willow from Daisy and her fawns. I later realized the importance of this was to keep Willow from wandering off from her mother. Spirit needed to keep a strong bond with Willow, separate from other does and fawns, lest Willow follow them and become lost.  When I went to the canyon to photograph the deer during this time, I tried to be very respectful of the herd and maintained a distance in order to keep from upsetting their boundaries.

By the time Willow was nearly two months old, I began seeing this time of separation end, and all five deer began traveling together. Willow loved gamboling and racing with Heidi and Dancer and, though she was more than two months younger than the twins, she managed very well to keep up with them. She began eating greens and deer chow earlier than I had seen with other fawns. It was almost as if she realized she would have to grow up fast, with the arrival of fall and winter just around the corner.

Spirit looks on while Willow decides on what grasses and weeds to nibble.

Spirit looks on while Willow decides what grasses and weeds to nibble.

This was the first "nice" meeting where Daisy did not hoof Spirit off!

This was the first “nice” meeting where Daisy did not hoof Spirit off!

Daisy meets her new granddeer!

Daisy meets her new granddaughter!

Willow is not sure what to think of me, but she does not run off. She is a curious girl.

Willow is not sure what to think of me, but she does not run off. She is a curious girl (or guy).

By October, it was common to see Willow with Daisy. Sometimes Daisy babysat while Spirit rested.

By October, it was common to see Willow with Daisy. Sometimes Daisy babysat while Spirit rested.

One evening in late September, my heart sank. I saw Daisy’s little herd come in for water and feed, with Willow showing a pronounced limp. Through the binoculars I could see it was a grave injury. Somehow, Willow had ripped a deep gash from under her left front leg back into the chest cavity. My first thought was the scent of blood, and how much easier it would be for a predator to track her down. But in the next two weeks, with Spirit’s tender care keeping the wound clean, Willow’s limp completely disappeared. I even managed to witness Willow running normally. Photographs showed that her wound was scabbed over, and healing nicely. Also during that period, I frequently observed all five deer bedded down at night on the eastern part of the pasture – away from the wooded area under some scattered trees closer to a nearby street. I believe they were protecting Willow during this time, and knew it was less likely a predator would come so close to civilization.

This shows the injury to the left front leg.

This photo shows the injury to Willow’s left front leg.

Not photographed easily, this is the only shot that shows the deep wound to Williow's chest.

Not easily photographed, this is the only shot that shows the deep wound extending to Willow’s chest.

Spirit was often seen licking Willow's wound, keeping the area clean.

Spirit was often seen licking Willow’s wound, keeping the area clean.

Though a few hot days with ninety degree temperatures persisted into early October, Willow’s healing brought with it the falling of leaves and cooler nighttime temperatures. As the vegetation around them changed – with leaves turning red and gold and dropping to the ground to repaint the floor of the woodlands – so did the natural camouflage of the animals. Before the second week of October, Daisy’s fawns, Heidi and Dancer, had lost their spots completely, and Willow’s spots were beginning to fade as well. With autumn officially here, the deer, who sported a light, reddish coat of hair throughout the summer, were now emerging with thicker brown hair, stark white underbellies, and beautiful black fringe around the ears. For now, these were quiet, welcomed changes – but the chaos of the rut was looming.

On Tuesday morning of last week, I heard loud mooing of a deer in the distance. As the source of the sound neared, I saw Spirit emerging from the pecan orchard towards the feed and water area. She stopped briefly to eat, then set out again, up the slope and all around the property up top, then back down to the canyon and heading west into the woods. I saw her twice more that afternoon, again mooing loudly. I had heard a similar call when Daisy lost her little buck, Rowdy, the summer before. For me, there could be nothing more heart-breaking than to think of losing your child, and throughout Wednesday and Thursday Spirit’s search proceeded, this time with Daisy and the twins accompanying her. As I observed the diligent search, I kept hoping that maybe Willow had just followed another doe and fawn, as I had seen two other does and a fawn with Daisy’s herd at various times during late summer. By the evening of Thursday night, however, Spirit’s continual mooing came with less urgency. My heart was heavy and I could see a solemness to the little group that did not exist before.

Daisy and her little herd stop to have a morning munch of corn and deer chow  before heading out to eat greens.

Daisy and her little herd stop to have a morning munch of corn and deer chow before heading out to eat greens.

Willow's leg has healed and her spots are beginning to fade.

Willow’s leg has healed and her spots are beginning to fade.

Daisy, Heidi and Willow get a big sip of water on a ninety degree afternoon.

Daisy, Heidi and Willow get a big sip of water on a ninety degree afternoon.

Willow is very photogenic. She is curious about my camera!

Willow is very photogenic and is curious about my camera!

Dancer, Heidi and Willow grazing atop the knoll overlooking the canyon.

Dancer, Heidi and Willow grazing atop the knoll overlooking the canyon.

Dancer and Willow on high alert! Notice Willow "stomping" and both deer have ears at attention. The perpetrator was a very smelly skunk rooting around nearby.

Dancer and Willow on high alert! Notice Willow “stomping” and both deer have ears at attention. The perpetrator was a very smelly skunk rooting around nearby.

At the feeders Friday evening, Daisy and the twins seemed to just nibble a bit, with their attention focused on Spirit, who ate a small amount of feed and then moved on to the neighbor’s bottom land to resume her search for Willow. When she returned, Spirit stopped briefly to eat again, then headed back to the pecan orchard. This time Daisy, Heidi, and Dancer followed. Spirit mooed softly, hesitating at a spot on the ground, before moving on as she had for three days now, hoping to catch some scent of Willow. And then something amazing happened. Daisy walked up to Spirit and began licking her neck. She licked her eyes and all around her face, while Heidi and Dancer began licking Spirit’s legs. It was the most beautiful observation of compassion and comfort that I had ever seen in nature. Spirit just closed her eyes and stood there – bathing in the love of her family. I watched with raw emotion, not having any idea how much time passed. Finally, Spirit opened her eyes and began to return Daisy’s licking. Daisy and Spirit had not engaged in mutual grooming since late May, just before Daisy had her babies. The grooming lasted for several minutes before Spirit turned to move on, nose once again to the ground, and heading west towards the river. Daisy and the twins followed.

I began my day yesterday morning with my usual squirrel feeding chores on the back porch.  After dishing out a little avocado and pecan breakfast for Punkin and Gambini, I again had the opportunity to observe our little troop of four deer peacefully feeding down below. The woods were quiet, and Spirit was no longer calling out. Soon, Punkin the squirrel took off for the trees. Her brother, Gambini, was content to feast on morning glories and explore the back porch. Life on the ten-acre ranch, it seemed, had returned to normal.

Later that morning, my friend Ruthie stopped by for a quick visit and, as I walked her out the front door to leave, Ruthie spied three deer very near our house! It was Dancer, Spirit and a young buck with just one antler! How funny he looked with only one antler, putting on a fantastic prance while in hot pursuit of Spirit! In no time, it became apparent to me what was going on. For the younger bucks, the jousting and chasing of the deer rut had begun, and was occurring quite early this year. I can only surmise this buck lost its antler in a fight with another buck over territory or breeding rights to a doe. And with this activity of bucks pursuing does, I had even more understanding about what may have happened to Willow. Her disappearance might be as simple as getting caught up in the frenzied chase of the rut. I remembered how five-month-old Spirit remained alone for several days when Daisy disappeared during the rut last year. But Willow is just two months old… and not yet weaned. Somehow, this whole scenario did not seem fair to me. What a confusing time the rut must be for fawns.

These latest experiences and observations of the cycles of nature have shown me that life is no more “logical and orderly” for the creatures of the woodlands than it is for me in my own, human existence. I realize that I might never have answers or understanding about why things happen as they do.  And, while I might view something as tragic or unjust at the time, it does not have to remain so in my mind or my heart. As a gentle reminder of this, my totem, the vulture, soars high above nearly every day, telling me to “Glide and soar! Leave your troubles and worries behind”. Vulture’s message is to find acceptance and joy while soaring in the moment of now, without expectation of some logical, orderly, or “just” outcome. Life simply is what it is in this moment – for me and you, for Spirit and Willow. Accepting this is the key to moving on with a loving spirit. Or, in this case, moving on with a loving Spirit…

Willow leading the way to the pecan orchard.

Willow, leading the way to the pecan orchard…

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 

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Learning To Speak Squirrel

The week after we acquired Punkin, a five-week-old female squirrel, I received a call about taking in another orphaned squirrel. “Why not?”, I thought to myself. If I was raising one already, how much extra work could two be? Besides, this would provide Punkin a friend to play with.

Two young women brought the little fella to our home. He had just recently opened his eyes. They admitted they had acquired “Gambit” the week before but, after trying to feed and care for him on a regular schedule, it had become more work than they had anticipated. These young ladies told me Gambit had been discovered crying out on the front porch of their Aunt’s house. In the street lay a dead mother squirrel, who had apparently been hit by a vehicle. Whether the baby had made its way down from the nest in search of its mama, or perhaps that the mother was transporting the baby to another location as it was struck by the car, would never be known.

After giving the little guy a quick inspection, we inquired how often and what they had been feeding him. This would be important in transitioning him to a proper feeding regimen and squirrel diet. Because his eyes had just opened, we determined he was about five weeks old – just a week behind Punkin. But this little fella was very tiny and bony in comparison. He also seemed a bit weak and wobbly compared to how Punkin was when we first got her.

Even after two weeks, Gambini had not grown much and continued sleeping most of the time in hit little shoe box.

Even after two weeks, Gambini had not grown much and continued sleeping most of the time in his little shoe box.

As the next days went by, “Gambit” proved to be a challenge for me. First off, I could not seem to get his name right. I had to think really hard about it. I finally gave up trying and just started calling him “Gambini”. For some reason I had no difficulty with that name. Perhaps I had watched the 1992 movie, “My Cousin Vinny” too many times and the Gambini name was stuck in my head. Regardless, I decided to rename him to something I could remember, while still keeping part of his original name.

Secondly, Gambini was not putting on any weight. Likely, this was because the formula was going right through his system and very little nutrient was being absorbed. Loose stools had plagued him from the day we received him, but I kept a positive attitude that it would clear up once we got him on a good, steady diet of squirrel formula. Diarrhea meant daily cleanup, both for Gambini and the little shoe box he was in. During this time, I bathed Gambini every day, which he seemed to enjoy very much.

Not being able to get the loose stool under control, I finally called our family vet, who was very helpful and encouraging. He pointed out the diarrhea could be caused by any number of things. Moving from one caretaker to another could have upset him. Also, what he had initially been fed was very different from what we were trying to acclimate him to. And, even though the transition from puppy replacement milk to squirrel formula had been done very gradually, Gambini’s system might take longer to adjust. Another thing to consider, my vet suggested, is that all wild critters are fairly sensitive to changes in their environment.

Considering this, along with the possibility that Gambini might have an illness, I kept him and Punkin in separate rooms. Still, there were indoor noises that Gambini might not be used to, as I have three little dogs roaming around the house. Perhaps Gambini felt anxious in this new setting. There was no telling what changes and traumas this little fella had dealt with in the last couple of weeks. Still, my vet advised we keep with what we were doing. He just did not feel like this was a case of an intestinal bug or an injury.

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In the early days, Punkin loved to finger wrestle and play tunnel chase in an old mattress pad.

In the early days, Punkin loved to finger wrestle and play tunnel chase in an old mattress pad.

In the beginning, Gambini kept to himself and did not interact with Punkin at all. In fact, he was timid and did not seem to know what to think of this pushy and very inquisitive neighbor of his. Punkin had flourished from the time she arrived here. She was a self-starter at most everything! She even weaned herself from formula. One day she just refused it. She became interested in avocados, apple slices, rodent block, and of course PECANS!! With her constant movement in the small cage, it was obvious she needed something bigger to move around in. We also had the realization that at some point Gambini would need Punkin’s smaller cage. Recognizing this and Punkin’s rapidly developing independence, FD decided it was time to build a larger, pre-release cage for her.

And so for two solid weekends, FD worked at constructing a larger squirrel complex. A lot of thought went into this – cedar wood to withstand the elements, and heavy gauge wire to keep predators out. And, of course, he included a top-notch squirrel house so that Punkin would have a safe nest to sleep in. Nothing but the finest for Punkin… and she loved it! She raced around the cage wire and climbed the limbs and branches FD placed inside. She was unstoppable. By the second week, FD cut a hatch door in the cage and added a ramp for her to come and go from the cage to the porch railing as she pleased. This, of course, was both good and not so good. Good that she was venturing out into a bigger world of exploration. Not so good in that it was my back porch she was quickly taking over!

Gambini plays chase by himself on the outside of the cage while Punkin steals a walnut from Gambini's squirrel house!

Gambini plays chase by himself on the outside of the cage while Punkin steals a pecan from Gambini’s squirrel house!

At first, I was not too keen about this flying hair ball with a tail racing all around my back porch. Also, she watched for me constantly. No sooner than I could get out the back door with her food plate of vegetables and fruit in the morning, she would leap onto me and climb all over my arms, legs and body. “Ur-ur-ur-ur-ur-ur” she would chortle. “OW! Aaaaaaaagh!” I would respond to her razor claws racing all around my body. “Ur-ur-ur-ur”, she continued, until she reached the food plate I carried. While still perched on my arm, she checked out her food buffet. And every day brought the same ritual. The only thing I found to distract her was to bring a cracked pecan with me. That, at least, would keep her from attacking me for a very short time.

Punkin in Morning Glories_7963

I was surprised to find Punkin eating morning glories on several occasions. She nibbled vine, leaves and the flowers! But of course pecans are her absolute favorite!

I was surprised to find Punkin eating morning glories on several occasions. She nibbled the vine, leaves and the flowers! But of course pecans are her absolute favorite!

While Punkin flourished, Gambini continued to have digestive problems. He was a lot more work to care for than she had ever been. For several weeks, I kept him in the smaller cage, until finally he became a little more inquisitive about his world. I continued to give him daily baths which he still seemed to enjoy. He already knew, instinctively, to groom himself after a bath. He became more active in his small cage, racing around in the early mornings and just before dark. But still, he spent most of the day hiding in his little cardboard nest box in his little cage which, during the day, I set next to Punkin’s larger cage on the back porch.

Finally having a little company on the back porch, Punkin seemed to enjoy scaring Gambini – pouncing on his cage and frightening Gambini while I tried to feed him his formula. Gambini was still intimidated by Punkin, until the day she tried to enter his cardboard box, and then I realized he did have a ferocious bone in his body! The squealing, chattering, and growling that came from within that box when Punkin breached its entrance, let her know she had gone just a little too far. And, after that confrontation, Gambini no longer seemed afraid of Punkin. He might race away from her at times, but it appeared to be a game in which he was building skills and muscle. Sometimes, he even outwitted her in their games of play. He might be half her size but, when it came to these games of play, he did not let that bother him one bit!

Punkin on the porch rail, considering a further jaunt across the yard to her favorite hackberry tree.

Punkin on the porch rail, considering a further jaunt across the yard to her favorite hackberry tree.

Now, Punkin and Gambini share the squirrel complex together. They each have their own squirrel box in the large cage, though I have seen them go into each other’s houses at times. Often, Punkin steals Gambini’s pecan stash. Gambini runs her off most of the time, but not after Punkin has the “goods” securely in her mouth. And then, there are those wonderful moments when the two of them are both in Gambini’s house together, and getting along just fine. In fact, just last night, which was unusually cool, I discovered they were nestled together in Gambini’s house, keeping each other warm.

The small hatch door remains open all day so that the two of them may come and go as they please. We close it each evening when Punkin and Gambini settle into their squirrel houses for the night. Recently, Punkin has been venturing out to a favorite tree near the back porch to spend most of her day. Gambini still enjoys the safety of the cage, and I am glad to report that, just this week, he is finally over his digestive problem.

It won’t be long before the call of the wild will take both of these little charges out into the woodlands, where they belong. When they are ready to leave the cage for good, we will move their squirrel houses down below the slope and mount them in tall trees. We will keep food handy for them this winter too, because they will not likely have time to build stores or prepare caches of edibles. And I know, as the autumn winds blow, and snow falls gently this winter, I will be tempted to wander into the woodlands, gently calling, “Ur-ur-ur-ur-ur”, and hoping to catch sight of Miss Punkin or Gambini.

The mighty Gambini atop the squirrel complex.

The mighty Gambini atop the squirrel complex.

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

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When You Least Expect It

As consciousness began to creep in this morning, I felt deeply renewed and sated from a restful night of sleep. Of course, this only made me want to remain curled up in the comfort of blankets and darkness of the room. But my nagging friend, “Responsibility” kept chiming in my head, “That poor orphaned squirrel has been without food for nine hours, and those three little dogs have been holding their bladders for eight hours. You need to get up! Get up!”  Yeah, well, I did not want to get up! Why did it always have to be me to get up early and get everyone taken care of? Why was I always the breakfast wench each day? Oh well, c’est la vie…

Finally up and at ‘em, I got the dogs fixed up and the squirrel formula prepared. While Punkin’s formula was warming, I quickly checked my email and texts. My sister Jules was on her way home from working the night shift at a rural hospital in Nebraska, and had text-messaged me to see if I was up yet. So I called her to keep her company on her drive home from work. While we visited, I fed Punkin, our orphaned squirrel, on the back porch. Punkin crawled all over me while I talked to Jules. It tickled for the most part, but sometimes those razor-sharp claws really dug in!

Now that we have appropriate squirrel nipples for the syringe, Punkin is going to town gobbling up his formula!

Now that we have appropriate squirrel nipples for the syringe, Punkin is going to town gobbling up her formula!

After I put Punkin back in her little cage, I happened to notice Daisy and her twins, along with another doe and her fawn, eating down at the feeder. I was just remarking to Jules how beautiful it was on the back porch this morning, in the company of all of these amazing deer, when… I thought I saw a fourth, smaller fawn! I counted again. Yes! There were four fawns and I knew the smaller one had to be Spirit’s baby! At this point, Jules knew what was coming next – we have had this conversation many times. I tell her I have to get the camera, and she responds with, “Oh, you go ahead and go down with the deer. I’m just about home anyway.”

I knew FD, who was still slumbering, would not want to miss seeing Spirit’s fawn, so I ran to the bedroom and rousted him up. I did not waste time. I grabbed the camera and quickly as I could, ventured back outside.

Daisy is about to send another doe's fawn off in the direction of its mother. Dancer and Heidi stay near the feeder.

Daisy is about to send another doe’s fawn off in the direction of its mother. Dancer and Heidi stay near the feeder.

Spirit's fawn, "Willow" curiously approaches the group of deer near the feeder.

Spirit’s fawn, “Willow” curiously approaches the group of deer near the feeder.

Heidi sniffs Willow.

Heidi sniffs Willow.

Spirit gets after Willow with gentle hoofing action to separate her baby from Daisy's fawn Heidi.

Spirit gets after Willow with gentle hoofing action to separate her baby from Daisy’s fawn Heidi.

Down below, Daisy was on a rampage. I watched her hoof off the other big doe and her fawn. As she was sending them off into the woods, Daisy’s fawn, Heidi walked over to Spirit’s fawn and they touched noses. All of a sudden, Spirit showed up, gently hoofing at her baby in order to separate it from Heidi.  Pretty soon, Daisy arrived back at the scene with her ears laid back and charging at both Spirit and the baby fawn!  Heidi and Dancer stayed where they were, both alertly observing their mother. I snapped a few photos but, unfortunately, I was not in a good position to see the baby very well.

Daisy’s charge sent Spirit and her baby down the buggy trail to the west, while Daisy returned to the feeding area. After nibbling a little more corn from the feeder, Daisy, Dancer, and Heidi joined the big doe and her fawn, who had moved to watch the ruckus from a safe distance in the pecan orchard nearby. Once the scene around the feeders had cleared, FD and I walked down the slope and carefully headed west down the buggy path in hopes of seeing Spirit with her baby. Sure enough, we spotted both of them about seventy-five feet down the lane from us.

Daisy sends the big doe and her single fawn off to the pecan orchard, while rounding up Dancer and Heidi. She watches to make sure Spirit and her new fawn are heading away from them, down the buggy path.

Daisy sends the big doe and her single fawn off to the pecan orchard, while rounding up Dancer and Heidi. She watches to make sure Spirit and her new fawn are heading away from them, down the buggy path.

I did not manage any great photographs, as we did not wish to spook our new great-granddeer, nor did we wish to alienate Spirit by following her.  Instead, we respectfully kept our distance behind them, speaking gently to Spirit to let her know it was us. The fawn stood at alert, looking straight at us, but did not bolt because its mamma, Spirit, was calm and not bothered by us. Soon, they both turned into the woods, weaving their way up to the top of a small hill that overlooks the entire canyon below. The foliage up the hill was too dense for us to follow quietly, so FD and I turned back to the house.

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As Spirit quietly meanders  into the depth of the woods, little Willow looks back momentarily to check us out.

As Spirit quietly meanders into the depth of the woods, little Willow looks back momentarily to check us out. Click on the photographs to get a closer look of Spirit and Willow in the woods!

As I prepared breakfast and FD made coffee, I was grateful the morning had presented so much activity. Had I not risen early and gotten on with the day, I would have missed out on seeing Spirit’s fawn. Again and again, and yet once again, nature had shown me that very little is predictable… and that some of the best life events happen when you least expect them!

This is the only good photo I managed before Willow high-tailed it down the path after Spirit. Willow was very curious - this probably being the first time she has seen humans.

This is the only good photo I managed before Willow high-tailed it down the path after Spirit. Willow was very curious – this probably being the first time she has seen humans.

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

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Late Summer Punkin

Tuesday morning started out in a typical, ordinary fashion. During the first hour I am up, I usually manage to accomplish quite a bit before getting FD off to work. But this particular morning, as I was setting our breakfast frittata’s on the table, the phone rang. The caller ID indicated a local number, but not one I recognized. I had a feeling it might be a wildlife rescue call, and it was. On the other end of the line was a nice young woman who had found a baby squirrel. She still needed to get to work in Oklahoma City that morning, but wanted to get this baby settled in where it would get some help from a professional. I told the woman it would be fine for her to bring the baby squirrel to my home. Even though driving here first was actually quite a bit out of her way for getting to work, she, like most animal lovers, was happy to do it.

Not thirty minutes later, another rescue call came in about three bunnies whose mother was killed while a farmer was mowing nearby. Apparently, this wild, country rabbit was used to the comings and goings of people, as she did not seem spooked by the caller and her young children who had actually observed her giving birth earlier in the day. After watching the birthing for a bit, the family went away to leave the mother rabbit to tend to her new ones in peace. Later in the day after noticing the nearby pasture had been mowed, the children discovered the unfortunate fate of the mother rabbit not far away from her nest. Evidently, she had been hit by the farmer’s mower. Fearing for the babies, the children went to the nest site to find them lying safely snuggled together in the hole they had been birthed in.

The woman calling had already cared for the orphaned bunnies for three days but, after learning it was illegal to keep them, she called me. Indicating that she was a stay-at-home mom and really wanted to raise the young rabbits, I told her how to contact the local game warden and emailed her the forms to apply for a license to rehabilitate wildlife. I also gave her the name and number of another wildlife rehabilitator in western Oklahoma who I knew had great success raising bunnies. I myself, had never raised rabbits, so I was relieved that I did not have to commit to raising this trio along with the baby squirrel that would be coming through my door at any minute. Still, it felt good to provide some manner of help to another individual willing to sign on as a wildlife rehabilitator.

Soon, Jasmine, the young woman who had called earlier, arrived carrying a little box that contained baby squirrel she had found. Jasmine had done her homework and had taken the initial steps to see that the baby was kept warm, while also attempting to re-hydrate it. Upon her initial discovery, she had inspected the young squirrel for injury but did not find any obvious issues. Providing a little background of her discovery of the baby, she mentioned that she had been outdoors the evening before when she heard a ruckus of squirrel chattering and squealing coming from a tall tree high above their garage. Then, all of a sudden, this little girl was cast from the nest and, THUMP, the baby hit the garage roof, and then tumbled down the roof to the concrete driveway.

All I had to work with at first was a kitten nipple from the local vet. Punkin dribbled more formula than he took in.

All I had to work with at first was a kitten nipple from the local vet. Punkin dribbled more formula than she took in.

Punkin actually did a little better with no nipple on the syringe. Finally, the special squirrel nipples arrived in the mail which made feeding better for him and me!

Punkin actually did a little better with no nipple on the syringe. Finally, the special squirrel nipples arrived in the mail which made feeding better for her and me!

My first thoughts were how traumatic it must have been for this four- to five-week-old squirrel to suddenly be thrown from the only home it had known. Now alone, and with its eyes not yet open, it only had smell, touch, hearing, and instinct to find its way around. Squirrel babies are timid and shy creatures, yet curious, anxious, and always on alert. Caring for a baby squirrel that has experienced the kind of trauma this one had just been through, requires much patience, quiet surroundings, and detail to creating comfort and security. Living here in nature, my mind thought about the scenario that must have taken place that evening. Likely a mother squirrel had her babies secured in her nest when a predator of some type threatened the nest. Like any good mother, she probably tried to fight off the intruder – likely a raptor of some kind, or perhaps a snake. In the fight, this baby was either knocked out of, or fell from, the nest. But then it occurred to me that, as tragic as the fall may have been, perhaps this single baby had actually been the lucky one. There was no telling what ultimately happened to the mother or siblings. And fortunately, this little baby was old enough to have been nourished well and managed to roll and tumble from the nest to the driveway without sustaining injury.

Those little claws are razor sharp! I love how he wears his tail all over the place!

Those little claws are razor-sharp! I love how she wears her tail all over the place!

Punkin is not a fan of my camera. I had a terrible time getting photos.

Punkin is not a fan of my camera. I had a terrible time getting photos.

Over the last several days, little Punkin has made great strides as a survivor. Her appetite has improved thanks to quick delivery of squirrel supplies from an online distributor, where we stocked up on special feeding nipples and formula. After recovering from her initial, dehydrated condition, Punkin’s bathroom business is finally spot-on as well. Her eyes are open and she is acclimating to human touch. Making gradual improvements like these to get back in the groove of everyday life, is normal for any newly-orphaned wild animal, and Punkin has been no exception. She has been a delight!

And truly, experiencing life-changing events is not so different with humans. Our days typically start out like any other, but misfortunes, accidents, tragedies, and catastrophic events do happen. And, when they do, we are cast out of normalcy and must acclimate ourselves to whatever we have to work with. The struggle to survive can be a continued burden, or it can be met with resiliency that catapults us into creating something good or, at least, something better. The choice is always ours.

My feeling is that little Punkin will do just fine. Having been raised by humans, her early days will not be the same as for other squirrels, but that will not direct the course of her adult life. Soon, her natural, wild instinct will take over, and her desire will be to live the life of a squirrel – bounding from tree to tree in Daisy’s woodland, and cleaning up the kernels of corn she leaves behind at the feeder…

Punkin loves to curl up on FD's chest to nap... but when he's in his little shoe box a nice soft tea towel makes a great cubby to hide in!

Punkin loves to curl up on FD’s chest to nap… but when she’s in her little shoe box a nice soft tea towel makes a great cubby to hide in!

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

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