Rocky the Flightless Squirrel

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Fellow Scoutmaster and friend in Tullahoma Tennessee, Tom Gillard, writes:

Friday afternoon I noticed a buzzard trying to feed on a dead squirrel in the road. I picked up the squirrel carcass and tossed it to the side of the road out of traffic (us old buzzards have to look out for each other). The dead squirrel was clearly a nursing mother. I felt bad for her babies, but knew there wasn’t much I could do.

A movement caught my eye Monday afternoon walking in the woods behind the house. At the base of a Loblolly pine I found a tiny little ball of fur; a baby squirrel so young its eyes were still closed. I saw a nest 40′ up the tree. Pretty good climb for a little guy that small and blind. I could hear a sibling up in the nest, but there was nothing I could do other than checking later to see if it would come down too.

I don’t recommend picking up wild animals if you don’t know what you are doing. About 20 years ago, we raised an orphaned squirrel. She did very well and we released her back into the woods. For all we know, the little guy I found could be one of her descendants.

I carried the baby squirrel back to the house picking fleas off him all the way (he was covered in them).

First night my new friend spent the night in a warming box (just a cardboard box with some cloth in it) in the bathroom. Next morning I was expecting the worst. In most cases animals at this age in this condition are fragile and don’t survive. But there he was! He was ready to eat a little, but mostly wanted to sleep. I am still wearing flannel shirts in March, that’s pretty cold down here in Tennessee. I slipped him into one of the front pockets of my shirt and he balled up and went to sleep. I have my own woodworking business and my new buddy went to work with me that morning. If I had to take him out of my shirt pocket to do something in the shop I’d let him sleep in the warming box.

Tuesday night my wife, over my objections, named him Rocky (for you youngsters there was once a cartoon called ‘Rocky the Flying Squirrel’). “He’s not a flying squirrel like the cartoon,” I said. My wife replied, “Maybe not, but he is a fighter”. Okay, then, Rocky it is.

Its Sunday now Rocky is still with us. He was hungry too; that’s a very good sign. He opened his left eye last night and that means he’ll likely “imprint” on us. He’s a little more active crawling around our arms and hands. It won’t be long before he’ll be running all over our heads and up and down our legs as if we were trees. The cage I pulled out of the attic I built 20 years ago will do for a temporary home until he is released.

Rocky is probably about 5 weeks old. Squirrels are weaned on to solid food at around 7 weeks and by 12 weeks, they leave the nest. Picking this little guy up means I have a commitment of nearly constant attention for the next six or seven weeks. I don’t recommend trying to care for orphaned animals yourself. There are animal rehabilitation centers who will adopt them, and release them into the wild.