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…


59 thoughts on “Late Summer Punkin

  1. Long ago, I found an abandoned, newborn squirrel. I fed it milk replacer for kittens from and tiny baby bottle. It slept in a shoe box with a heating pad. I was told by wildlife experts that the squirrel would never make it in the wild. So, he became my pet. I named him Ernie and he lived in a large hut in our back yard. We had him for years! Thank you for reminding me of what a sweet time that was, nurturing little Ernie.

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      1. Well she’s definitely in good hands. 🙂 Always thought a friendly squirrel around the place would be nice but we don’t have any around our place. I am working on increasing the bird population though. 🙂 Have a great weekend!

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        1. We have worked hard to make this area bird-friendly, especially in the winter months. We really have too many squirrels around here, thanks to the corn feeder. Daisy and Spirit generally entertain six to nine squirrels at a time while they’re eating from the feeder, dropping corn! You enjoy your weekend too! It’s really hot and muggy here, after the nearly inch of rain we got Thursday night.

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  2. When we were children in southern Ohio our Dad would often bring home baby animals that had been orphaned. Once it was a nest of squirrels. We raised two to adults and turned them loose and one of them (as in Merilee’s story) came back to visit for several years. It’s great that you share your stories. I forget that many people have not had this experience. Lovely photos too!

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  3. Poor little Punkin! Such a tiny one. What a rough start, but she landed in a good place. Squirrels seem so congenial and have such a difficult life here with the traffic, and hawks. There’s a rather young one hanging around the bird feeder – it’s hard to say no to him.
    Thanks for taking on the littles ones who need a bit of help

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    1. I really enjoy the squirrels around here. They are the “alert” squadron down in the canyon. If a predator shows up one squirrel will start the chatter, and before long every squirrel in the area is making a fuss. They are generally very watchful and clever at escaping. Those young ones are hard to turn away or get after… those soulful eyes get me every time!

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  4. Ooh – great post and so well written. Syringes are the best for me. I’ve raised a few in years past and released them in our yard. They finally acclimate to outdoors with minimal help from the human that raised them.

    The photos are adorable.

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    1. Thanks, Yvonne! I just learned about the ease of use of the o-ring type syringes. They move so smoothly and can be reused many times. I also found some great nipples that fit on the end of syringes. Each time I raise a new baby I learn something more!

      Somehow I would have guessed you might have raised a few squirrels in your life!! 🙂

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    1. Oh, I love squirrels too! I will be sure to keep everyone posted on Punkin. I tried again tonight to follow Spirit, but she led me on a wild goose chase this time. She grunted as if she was searching for her baby, then took off like a shot and I lost her! She is a clever girl!

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  5. It is a wonder the poor little thing didn’t get killed in the fall. She is so cute. You are a wonderful person to take care of her and others and turn them back into the wild. I would want to make a pet out if her and keep her. I would make a pet out of anything if I could and knew what I was doing. Thank you for the post. 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much! I think what keeps most of us from actually keeping these wild animals as pets, is that we can see the yearning (as they get older) to be free to be the wild critters they are. Sometimes a wild animal can manage the wild world and a more domestic human world – like Daisy deer. But Daisy could never be penned up or kept in fences. She would hurt herself trying to achieve her freedom – what she was born to do. If something happened to us she would go on and flourish, because she is more in touch with her wild side. She does not need anything from us and is not dependent on us for anything. When we raised a squirrel some years ago, he hung around here for a long time… but eventually his instinct led him to roam the woodlands freely. As living beings it is our own choice to live as we were meant to be. And so, for me, it is about helping these orphans so that they may eventually be allowed to live as they wish… wild and free.

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      1. It is better for them to stay wild, and I think it is wonderful that Daisy has decided to love you and trust you to bring her babies around knowing that you are not going to try and hurt them or keep them. Humans can learn so much from animals if they wanted to.

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  6. Oh, oh, OH! When I was busy raising my Smackers squirrel, I never thought to take any photos until he got big. It’s such a delight to see these, and have all those memories renewed. If you’re a very good Mama, and train your baby well, you’ll be surprised by how helpful they can be. Coffee, anyone?

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  7. Little Punkin looks pretty happy and, given a year or so, I suspect will be very handy to have around cracking the shells on peanuts and walnuts for you 🙂 Your huge heart, love and compassion for people and for the animals of the earth is amazing and it’s a wonderful reminder for us all to do the same. It’s a joy and honor to know you my friend. ~ Rick

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    1. Oh, thank you Rick! I believe we all have ways of showing our love, kindness, hope and compassion on this great earth. Mother Nature gives to us, and so we give back. People give to us, and so we give back. It does a soul good to help another. We that dwell in nature are kindred spirits… and it is an honor and joy to walk this path with you too, my friend!

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    1. Thanks Sandy! Punkin is doing great! FD just put her in a small cage that we set outdoors during the days. It contains a little cardboard box for her “nest” and some small branches and a little leaf cover to acclimate her to the outdoors. We bring the cage in at night. Already FD is planning to make a larger cage that will serve as Punkin’s home base, but eventually we will do a soft release – probably in November – where she can come and go from her home base, until she gets established in the woods.

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    1. Oh, thanks Margaret! Punkin doesn’t like the camera much but she is quite photogenic. I will be sure to keep updates coming. Squirrels are hilarious to watch. Already this little sweetie has us in stitches at times!

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  8. Oh, what a cute little squirrel! I’m reminded of my days volunteering at a local rehabilitator, feeding young squirrels and young raccoons, as well as birds and a deer or two. Good times. How long will you care for her before you release her?

    And I love how you’re so willing (and able) to take care of creatures such as Punkin. You’re beautiful souls, you and FD.

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    1. Hi Sid! We do a soft release here. Punkin will have a cage with her squirrel box house in it on the back porch. Eventually, we will leave the cage door open for her to come and go. Once she’s acclimated to the woods, and possibly makes herself a shelter out there, she won’t return anymore. This method worked fine when we raised Frosty. Frosty returned for about a month, and later we saw him at the neighbors property. It was about three months before he was off on his own.

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  9. Glad to hear she will be ok, she’s such a cutie. You do such good work for these animals Lori. I salute you! (And those who care enough about animals to get in touch in the first place.)

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    1. Thank you, Rachel. It is always interesting to meet the folks who bring these little ones to us. All are caring souls who make the first step in saving the little orphans and the injured.

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  10. Wonderful post, great photos of Punkin, and I particularly liked that you said she is finding her “inner squirrel” 🙂
    You inspire!

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  11. What an adorable little girl! It’s just amazing that she’s okay after such a fall! Glad she’s doing so well, she’s definitely where she needs to be; there’s no better squirrel mama and papa out there 🙂 .

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  12. You have certainly been busy, Lori. I would have suspected special formula, but would never guessed that you needed special nipples to nurse a baby squirrel! Amazing! But even more surprising is that they can be ordered and delivered to your door!

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    1. Yes, Lynda, there are some great companies out there that make all sorts of formulas and supplies for animals. I just Google and viola! We also do a lot of research online to learn about feeding schedules and care of these sweet critters.

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  13. Sometimes I feel bad about being a human being. I watched a video about a poor dog that had been abandoned who was living on the railway tracks and cried like a baby “who could DO something like that?!” Sometimes I despair of humanity and our wars and our inconsiderate behaviour and our desire to render everything, including ourselves, extinct on this floating blue gorgeous planet but then I read a blog post like this and it makes me proud to be human again. Thank you Lori for this post 🙂

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    1. I know, Fran. I too get overwhelmed and feel the pain of situations like you described. It truly hurts the core of my spirit. But then when I get rescue calls from people who do their part to get an orphaned or injured animal help, my faith in people is renewed. I think we all like to hear the rescue stories and note how people join together for the good of another living being. 🙂

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  14. Once again I’m late to the party, but I’m trying to catch up. I admire you so much for your willingness and ability to take care of animals, Lori. And this really spoke to me: “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.” I’m in the midst of a major struggle in my own life, and this was a great reminder that I always have choices. Thanks for that.

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    1. Ah, Kim. We need to talk… it seems we both have a struggle going on! I pour myself into my writing… and tend to hang with the animals when I need time to myself. Nature is so soothing and healing. 🙂

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