Friday, July 11, 2014

Lake Carl Blackwell's New Settlers

When we left to head for the East Coast for a family emergency, our first stop would be at Lake Carl Blackwell, located in North Central Oklahoma, 9 miles west of Stillwater. This 3,350 acre lake is one of three surrouding Stillwater, and is owned by Oklahoma State University. We weren’t here for camping, however, but for a release of nine orphaned squirrels back into the wild, which Jean had raised from bottle babies. It was time for them to go, plus we couldn’t handle all of them while also taking care of my brother. Those pictures are back on 1 April in a post titled ‘Raising Howard.’

Immediately at home.
Our route was well traveled. While driving east on Rt. 51, just before reaching the lake, we crossed the west boundary of the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889. At the opening of the territory on 22 April 1889, 50,000 settlers were lined up along the west boundary waiting for the firing of a gun at noon that would signal their rush west to claim 2,000,000 acres of what were called unassigned lands. A successful claim would entitle the settler to 160 acres to settle on with his family to begin a new life. By nightfall, thousands of homes and businesses had been staked out in tents, and tent cities covered the prairie.

Howard, standing on his head, in his very own oak tree.
We hoped to give our little four-legged settlers a new life. We looked for a place with access to water, and plenty of wooded lands and natural habitat and food. We were doing what is called a soft release. That means their cage is opened, their food and water set outside the cage, and they are allowed to go and come as often as they like as they explore their new surroudings. A soft release can take as long as three days as they reconnoiter, reaching further and further, until they no longer feel it necessary to return to the cage, food, and artificial nest.

But this one was just too timid to let go of the apron strings.
I guess that is separation anxiety.
They often take different times to settle in. When we opened the cage, eight climbed onto the top of the cage, looked around, and took off in a run for a nearby oak tree. They never came back to the cage, but the ninth squirrel freaked out. It squatted in the grass, and seemed scared to move. When we returned several hours later, the first eight had already started to spread afield, leaving only four visible in the tree, but the last one was still too scared to move. As soon as Jean got close, it scampered up Jean and clung to her back. She was obviously too timid and not ready to go on her own. That still left Jean with two---this one and a younger one Jean was still raising.

For two nights, Jean put a handfull of feed at the base of the oak tree to make sure they could find a food source. Instinct was taking over, as we already saw them eating from the tree, plus a half-dozen deer that started hanging around were undoubtedly cleaning up the feed, since it would be gone each morning.

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