A Trip Worth Making

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…


36 thoughts on “A Trip Worth Making

    1. That article has some pretty good ideas. I have a lot of old chicken wire around here and that would work well in that herb bed (near the scene of the attack).

      Yes, I often get what I need… that cooler made my day! However, Friday on a hike to the river I picked up lots of treasures – skulls mostly. Can you believe I couldn’t find ONE plastic bag to put them in, when any other hike I might pick up a half dozen or more. I had to resort to my pants pockets and two of the skulls the teeth fell out, so I had a puzzle to put together when I got home!

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    1. Thank you, Anne. I am always looking out the kitchen window or I’m working outdoors when I see these things happen. It’s disturbing, but at the same time I’m observing I have a better understanding of how predators stalk and how I might help to prevent killings. We’ve had to place our feeders and watering devices so that the animals drinking or feeding have protection or have room to run to safety. We do what we can. Unfortunately, this time I learned how deadly cat saliva can be.

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        1. I would think the only predators you would worry about up high would be raptors. I make sure to put our feeders (at ground level) under the cover of tree branches so raptors can’t easily swoop down to nab birds at the feeders. We always have to be one step ahead of the predators!

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          1. I hope you never see it happen. It’s disturbing. I see it all of the time here, and it’s often that I intervene if I see the cat or fox stalking something. But, many times it’s already happened or happening. I did save a black bird a couple of weeks ago from an American Kestral. The hawk was very small, so it kept attacking. I intervened and the black bird managed to fly away. The kestral stayed around all afternoon waiting for another victim to come by. This all happens at the kitchen window!

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  1. Oh, I am so sorry the squirrel did not make it. I would have been upset too I never let my cats outside for many reasons- one is the fact that they are diligent hunters of birds and small animals. And there are too many things that can harm a cat. Anyway the same goes for dogs since several of my dogs have caught a squirrel but none in about the last 4 years or so. My border collie would get one if she could but I don’t let my dogs stay out for long so that they do not get into trouble.

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    1. Yvonne, it’s good to see you mention having responsibility for both aspects of cats – being a protective cat owner and having an understanding of their hunting skills in nature. I think all we can manage is to do our best to try to understand both sides, and make responsible decisions. Nature has it’s way regardless, but it’s always wise to educate ourselves and understand how we can make the best choices having both wild and domestic species in our lives.

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      1. Poor squirrel. I try not to intervene in predator-prey interactions between two wild animals, whether it’s a raptor and a feeder bird or anything else. It’s part of nature and everyone has to eat. But…domestic cats that are allowed to roam around outside are another story altogether. They should not be outdoors preying on our native wildlife. This is one issue that makes me crazy because some people just refuse to believe that their cats are killing wildlife. There are a couple people in my neighborhood who let their cats roam around outside, and I often find them sitting outside my window staring in at my cat. Then I have to deal with the fallout from that when my cats turn on each other because they get over-excited. Ugh.

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        1. I have always intervened when I could. I can’t say I’ve ever had anything like this happen. Most of the time the victim takes off, hopefully more alert and careful in the future. I would have a very heavy heart just watching something happen and not do anything.

          Cat’s are a major issue in wildlife rehabilitation, where birds especially are concerned. I can’t tell you the number of calls I get where an upset cat owner says their cat got a bird. Or the call I get from someone whose dog nabbed a opossum or raccoon. There is a responsibility owning pets. People choose to be ignorant about letting their animals roam.

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    1. Thank you, Paulette. I used to beat myself up mentally about decisions I made about care of both wildlife and domestic animals. Someone once told me the gift is in making realizations and learning from the experience somehow. That has helped me over the years. Wildcare staff has been a big part of my learning. I hope someday when FD retires we can volunteer some at their facility.

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  2. Lori, I am certain I would have been very upset to see such a thing. You have such a good heart. And thank you for the information on cat bites! It answers a question that has puzzled me for a long time. I read your comment on the skulls teeth and puzzling them back into place. Few would bother with such a task, and I admire you for doing it. Personally, I would find it intriguing (OK fun) trying to fit them all back in. 🙂

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    1. Oh those teeth! Actually, one of the teeth didn’t match the others and it happened to belong to the lower jaw of a beaver that I found! So it was like having a piece of a coyote puzzle (I thought it was a coyote tooth) that didn’t fit. After looking the tooth over carefully, I realized it was totally different in structure, and thus, found the owner’s jaw – the beaver. I never did find the top skull of the beaver, but the teeth alone were a find! I’ll be doing a blog post on this recent hike. Right now I’m quite miserable with chigger bites all over!!

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    1. I know, Arlene… I was sad about it. She was just a young female getting started in life – probably not even a year old. Unfortunately, most squirrels don’t live beyond that first year. Predators are the main culprits in their deaths.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this Lori. I had no idea about injuries from cats. So everyone who reads this, worldwide, will now know to act quickly in a similar case. And how about that cooler box!!!! I think the universe sent you a gift xo.

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    1. I’m so thankful to know the information about cat injuries too. You can bet next time I’ll drop everything and make a run to Wildcare. And yes, Universe provided just the cooler I needed for the day – something simple and easy to pick up! That road is usually very busy and there wasn’t a soul in sight! 🙂

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  4. Thank you for seeking care for this little soul. It matters. It did not die in terror. Squirrels are such charmers and have such a hard life.
    The hurricane, constant rains/flooding/habitat destruction is meaning critters are winding top and hunting in neighborhoods here. Recently a home security cam filmed a house cat desperately trying to escape a coyote in a SE part of Houston. Game wardens are warning people to be alert for animals other than the usual gators and to keep pets up at night.
    I knew cat bites must be treated immediately but didn’t realize why.
    It seems it’s true that when you are where you are supposed to be and doing what you need to do, the universe does notice and will try to keep things running a little smoother for you…who knew that meant coolers?
    Paw waves and warm thoughts sent from the Realm

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    1. Thank you for the “warm thoughts”. I can be thankful of course for what I’ve learned from the squirrel, but it was difficult to see the initial attack. That happens often here, I suppose because I’m looking out windows as I work or I’m out there working a lot I see more of this than most folks. Regardless, it’s sad because I’m such a lover of squirrels.

      Survival in the wild is tough. I do not like the predators, but I understand their purpose and instinct to survive. I understand the horrors of overpopulation of a species, and the importance of predators in our ecosystem. I even have a good, healthy understanding of death for all living things. But a tender heart makes all of this difficult sometimes. I can imagine with all of the flooding down there, the sudden aspect of mammals and birds being crunched into different areas or marooned in places ups the level of the will to survive. So many complications of Nature… yet not – I’m sure to Mother Nature the answers are all very simple to explain.

      And then crazy things come forth from Universe, like that silly cooler. That simple piece of trash in the ditch made my day. What a treasure.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I know that this off topic, and I certainly hate to compare it to a squirrel, but I just sent another obituary off to a local newspaper today. I am a garden columnist, so not actually qualified to write obituaries. Yet, this is the third in three years. In our Community, there are a few who are so afflicted with enough severe hatred for humanity that they organized what they refer to as a ‘community services organization’. It is really just a hate group that targets the homeless. It is comparable to the Ku Klux Klan in its tactics of blaming and directing hatred to a minority group that does not have much recourse. Well, to be brief, we organized our own group that does have recourse. (That is a seriously long story.) On our Facebook page and in the local newspapers, we post obituaries for those who otherwise might not get one. It is an opportunity to show anyone who is interested who the deceased were, and how much they were like the rest of us. When the local newspaper started charging for obituaries, and the Community responded by procuring funds to cover the expense! Hate groups hate this! Well, I suppose that is one thing they excel at; hate. They want to portray the homeless as mere homeless, worthless, unproductive, addicted and so on. I do not mean to brag, but I will brag about my ability to write a good obituary that describes the good and important qualities without directly mentioning the bad.

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    1. Oh Tony, that’s a wonderful thing to note… so many kindnesses like this are wonderful to hear. Thank you for making a difference in this way. I suppose my post on the squirrel and being thankful – and sharing its gift to me, was a bit of a tribute too.

      Everyone matters.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You are such a kind soul. I’m sorry about the squirrel.

    Many years ago we found a cooler (not Styrofoam, but much nicer) along a highway and picked it up. We’ve used it for years. On Sunday we saw another cooler aside the Interstate. We had to let that one lie. Just not safe to stop. What a blessing to you to find that cooler exactly when you needed it.

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    1. We have never had to buy a cooler! Either we’ve acquired them from family moving or an estate, or discarded or roadside trash. This one was just what I needed at the time, and it was indeed a blessing.

      Thank you about the squirrel. I’m still a bit sad – I wish I had known better. Just yesterday, Punkin arrived for a pecan snack (or five) and FD and I suspect she is pregnant. In that case, the death of one squirrel knocked down the squirrel population substantially. Life moves on…

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  7. Hi Lori, I have enjoyed reading your recent posts about your observations and learnings about the local wildlife. I admire the way that the more you learn about the creatures, the more you respect them and their place in the world.

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  8. Sad story! We’ve gone through such moments a few times when Tyson – and now Chucky as well – have attacked and killed the compound cats, including a Siamese belong to my friendly neighbour!

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    1. Oh no! That must have been difficult. Our neighbor’s dogs have been a problem for years now. They kill a lot of wildlife, and they get out occasionally and run through my gardens and such. Right now it seems they’ve killed an armadillo and just now our weather turned cold and wind is out of the north. We get to smell the stench of the dead carcass AND the layers of dog poo in that yard. UGH!!

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  9. Poor little squirrel. It was so kind of you to try and help it recover. We have cats like that, too. I am thankful to have recues that we can take injured animals to. I learned something new about cats, that is good information to know.

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    1. I learn something new with each rescue trip to Wildcare. If they aren’t busy I can often visit with staff or the vet and learn something new about a species or injury. I’m thankful they’re so close. There is one other large rehab facility in Oklahoma near Tulsa. Otherwise, the rest of us are just individuals doing what we can without financial support. The larger non-profit’s are really amazing with all that they can handle!

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