Late one rainy afternoon in early September, I was putting dinner in the oven and thinking about how productive my day had been. I had managed to do some house cleaning, ironing, and a good bit of cooking and baking, and was finishing up a few dishes at the sink when something caught my attention at the kitchen window. I sprang into action, grabbing the porch broom as I exited the back door, down the porch steps and ran as fast as my feet could carry me to the north side of the house. What I had seen, was the neighbor’s cat attacking a squirrel! The squirrel was doing it’s best to claw and fight, but the cat was big and powerful. I screamed just as the cat lowered its head on the squirrel. As I neared the scene still yelling and waving my broom, the cat took off, jumping the fence into the neighbor’s yard.
This wasn’t the first time that cat had killed. Birds were generally its target, and I was surprised it had managed to nab a squirrel. One thing I did note that I would have to change in the next days, was to trim the under part of a forsythia shrub near the kitchen window. I now realized this was close cover for the cat to hide and easily kill squirrels and birds which often foraged or dug around in the nearby herb garden. I was only slightly relieved to see the victim squirrel wasn’t one of our rehabilitated orphans, Buddy or Punkin. It was a young female, and it was not a mother so that was good too. I would have felt even worse had it been nursing and I would wonder about a nest of babies somewhere nearby.
Putting my thoughts aside, I ran to the metal building for gloves and a towel and an old wash basket. I gathered the squirrel up, and was glad to see it was still flopping around a good bit. Doing a quick examination, I only saw one small superficial wound on a shoulder blade, but there was swelling on top of the head. However, this was not a good time for me to have to drop everything and make a run to Wildcare. Since the squirrel continued to move around, and occasionally made a chortling noise, I opted to make it comfortable for the night and see about things in the morning. Later that evening, FD helped me move the squirrel into a large cage in the storage building where it would be quiet and safe from predators during the night.
The next morning things looked about the same, except that the whole head seemed swelled where the night before it was concentrated on top of the head. Seeing this, I decided to load the squirrel up in the truck and drive more than an hour to Wildcare. With a veterinarian on staff, they were better equipped to handle wounded wildlife. With my mind made up, I quickly finished my morning chores and headed out for an early start to the day.
I decided I would use this opportunity to do a little grocery shopping at a couple of the specialty stores in the area, and also stop at Sam’s to stock up on Paleo-friendly products. But, about halfway into the trip, I realized I had forgotten to bring a cooler along. There was no way I could do all of the shopping I needed to do without a cooler to keep my food items cold. In a foul mood now, I decided to just forget the shopping. Instead, I would take another route home and forgo a hectic day in the Oklahoma City area.
I arrived at Wildcare at a good time – there was only staff there and I could see the vet working on a turtle. As I answered the check-in questions, the vet came out briefly and support staff did an initial exam which I was able to observe. It was then that I learned that with any cat attack or wound, its best to get help immediately. Cat’s carry a toxic bacteria which is always fatal to any wildlife if not treated within a few hours. With the head swelling, I had a bad feeling about my decision to wait until the morning. The staff thanked me for bringing the squirrel and said they would do a more thorough exam and treat it. If it did not respond fairly quickly, they would humanely euthanize.
Feeling sad about the squirrel situation, I headed down the road in a real funk. All this way for nothing. Well, maybe not nothing. I had to remind myself that any time I learned from an animal, it was a gift. The squirrel had taught me the seriousness of any cat attack on wildlife. As I drove down the highway thinking about all this, I saw something large and white in the distance. Lucky for me, there was no other traffic on this road at the time, so I pulled alongside the ditch and found it to be a Styrofoam cooler! It was just a cheap one, but it was in one piece, and the lid was intact. With this find, I would be able to go grocery shopping after all. And wouldn’t you know it, there was just enough space for my frozen and refrigerated items in the cooler that day and I was able to do all of my errand running thanks to that little Styrofoam box that blew out of someone’s truck!
That evening, I inquired to Wildcare via email about the little squirrel, and this was the response: Hi Lori, Our vet looked at her shortly after you left. She cleaned and flushed the puncture wound, gave fluids, and treated with antibiotics and pain meds but there were hemorrhages to the left ear and right eye, puncture wounds to the mandible and as you noted, her head was very swollen. In the end, we felt she was suffering more than responding to treatments so our staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize. I’m sorry we don’t have better news for you, but thank you for your efforts to help her including driving her all the way up here.
Take care, Wildcare
I said a few words of thankfulness to the squirrel that night. No living thing dies in vain and every experience has a purpose.
© 2018 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…