Friday, October 23, 2015

Human Depredation

Jean does wildlife rescue.  Regular readers know of some of the unusual rescues she has done, but every year produces some regulars, like doves and squirrels.  She will get calls from all over the state, and even gets some referrals from Arkansas, Kansas, and Florida.  Some causes are obvious, like broken bones, abrasions and cuts, and stripped feathers, but some causes of  injury and distress are mysterious and sometimes never solved, but likely causes are poisoning and chemical exposure from the misuses, sloppiness, and even illegal practices of agriculture and the oil industry.

As small as they are, they still have individual personalities.  
It's fun to watch how some of them feed.

Spring and fall both bring numbers of squirrels that are blown or otherwise fall from nests.  Some are pinkies, naked of any fur, while others begin to get their coats, but are still blind and not ready for solid food.  People will find them on the ground, and even an occasional dog will show up at its home with an infant squirrel carefully held in its mouth.

As they take the warm food, you can see contentment replacing
hunger as their eyes begin to close...

Healing and raising unfortunate animals is the easy part.  After weeks and weeks of around-the-clock hand feedings and cleaning and warming, the hard part is worrying about them once they are ready to be released to fend for themselves with food, water, shelter, and avoiding predators.  Having had no mother but Jean, there is always the question of what instincts have been passed to them, and what they need to be provided with until they learn to forage and identify enemies.

..and their posture slips into relaxation.

Jean’s last four squirrels had been released, and while she tried to keep them wild, they know that for their lives until now a human has provided for all their needs.  As they make the transition to a life in the wild, they take some time to divorce themselves from human dependence, and even trust.  For some days they will still be seen scampering across the yard for a visit, or another night in the more familiar cage, until they feel comfortable on their own.  This method of returning them to the wild is called a soft release, and gives them time to make the transition on their own.

After being cleaned up, it is time to curl back up in some warm fleece.

So, it was a shock to find that a man had trespassed into our yard, walked right up to the tree where they were nesting, and was able to take advantage of one squirrel’s still undeveloped natural defenses, and crushed its skull with a club not more than 50-feet from our back door.  As though he had every right, he continued right through the yard with the dead squirrel in hand, and proceeded up the street.  Before I could understand why Jean had yelled and could get the car out of the garage, he had disappeared.  The police said we needed to post ‘no trespassing’ signs, and as unreasonable as it seems that we should need to erect signs to tell people they have no right to enter our yard and kill animals right behind our house, the signs are up.

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