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Pet Information: Eastern Gray Squirrel
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"Ooooh! Let me see! What is it? It’s so little. What is it? It’s so cold! What is it? Go get me a scrap of flannel from the sewing room. What is it? Get the brooder plugged in. What is it? We need a bottle of Pedialite and a can of puppy formula so we can rehydrate and get him fed. What is it? This, almost a conversation, was the heralding of the newest member of our family. While my daughter sped off to Wal-mart for the puppy formula and Pedialite, my up to now, ignored, grand daughter was answered. She was not only answered, she was allowed to see and touch the tiny creature. He was naked, pink, cold, blind and had a tail like a piece of string. It was a very young baby boy squirrel.

I held him and his scrap of flannel against my chest to warm until the brooder had gotten warm, then put him in to warm up until we could get him rehydrated. I had rounded up an assortment of small bottles and nipples we keep to feed orphaned puppies and kittens and whatever other creatures come along. As it turned out, he never used one. He was too small and weak and had to be fed with a 1ml syringe.

For the first couple hours we gave him only the Pedialite for hydration, then we started the formula. We added an extra spoon of water and about half a spoon of cream to increase the fat content. He had no trouble with the syringe, at all. This may have been due to great hunger. I don’t know. We had no idea how old he was, so we just had to wait until he opened his eyes, and count backwards. Squirrels open their eyes at 5 weeks. Puppies, kittens, large parrots and things I am familiar with all open their eyes, pretty much on schedule,so I had no reason to think he would not do the same. He was about a week and a half old when we got him. My daughter was in the back yard with the dogs, and one of the dogs wouldn’t come back, so she went to see what was so interesting, and he had found what she thought was a dead mouse. We had put out rat poison the week before, and did not want the dog to mess with it, so she ran back in the house to get the “grabber” to pick it up and throw it over the fence. When she picked it up, it moved and did not look right to her, so she brought it in for me to see. 

After he opened his eyes, it was only a few days until he was doing loop-de-loops in the brooder. It has a fan and switches and stuff in the top and we did not want him hurt, so we knew he had to be moved. A cage was selected and outfitted just for him. It had all the requirements a young squirrel would need. We put in manzanita limbs,a heating pad, a thick layer of towels, several small stuffed animals, a water dish and best of all, his most loved “thingy”. It was a Christmas stocking, we turned inside out and turned the fake fur cuff back over a ring ,about 1 inch wide,cut from a 2 liter soda bottle. The thin plastic was not very stiff, but it was enough to hold the stocking open wide enough for a door. He was crazy about it. You could go in, play games, have a snack, find treasure or just fall over and take a nap. Unlike myself, my daughter is a whiz on the computer and spent a couple hours a day looking up the things we should be doing for our baby. This was not my first squirrel, but she wanted to be sure we did it right. We knew it was time for him to start getting used to the taste of food, so we got small jars of baby food in flavors we thought a squirrel would like. We got applesauce, peaches, peas,sweet potatoes, etc. When we made his formula, we added about half a teaspoon of one of these. He ate them all, but he really loved the sweet potato. Every time he ate he got bathed off with a wash cloth. First, his hands and face were washed, then his head and back and right around to his belly. He always enjoyed this. For some reason, it soothed him. He groomed his tail himself. From the very first, we had decided not to name him , because we knew he had to be raised to live wild. I’m not sure ,exactly, when we lost this, but I think it must have been about the time he was opening his eyes, because he has been called Peep Eye all his life. Via the internet, we were told many things, among them was a warning to watch for diarrhea. He did not get it. He also, must have small pieces of dry dog food, a rodent block, and a piece of antler or sterilized bone. Our stores were all fresh out of antler so Peep Eye got bone. He did bite the dog food, and immediately dropped it. As far as I could tell, the bone was never bitten and the rodent block doesn’t have a scratch on it. He grew fast and his jumping and running out grew his cage in just a few weeks. It was time to move, again. 
We selected a cage a bit larger in perimeter and more than twice as tall. All his belongings were moved and a coconut shell with 3 holes in the side, hanging from a chain, and a pinata for birds, made from cane or raffia of some kind, were added. We also added a pink velour, printed with red hearts, hammock. This became his big boy bed immediately. We had been told he should have acorns and pinecones. All our acorns had been eaten and the pinecones were dry and open. We gave him a couple, anyway, and he was a bit puzzled. He studied them a minute, walked all around them and sniffed at them, then sat up and gave us a strange look. It was as if we were brain damaged and he was obliged to be kind to us. We started giving him more grown up food at this time. He got pieces of sweet potato,apple,string beans,kale, and whatever fresh produce was available. We strung cheerios on a string and made a big loop. They are great training food for large parrots, so why not squirrels? He played with them, wrestled and climbed them and they frenquently whipped his little squirrel behind, but eventually he got the best of them and actually ate a few and broke a few. He was introduced to the wonderous world of nuts and seeds shortly after this. Peanuts were not a problem, neither were sunflower seeds. At first, we cracked the harder shelled nuts, like walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, and filberts, just to give him a head start. The almonds he could handle himself. He proved to be a real southern gentleman, just like I had thought. Pecans were his favorites!! 

We were all smitten with him by this time, especially my daughter. She had taken over 90% of his care long before this time. She was totally enamored by him and the feeling was totally mutual. When she left the room, he hopped down the hall behind her. He was so adorable it’s hard to describe. He ran around jumping from chair to chair and person to person faster than your eyes could track him. He would nuzzle your cheek and play with your hair and perch on your shoulder and make a low, strange, snuffling kind of noise I can only describe as a sort of purring. He did not do this very often and it seemed to be a kind of contented noise. He was growing so fast and there was a lot for him to learn before he could make it on his own.

He had to have a nesting box to use until he could build his own, so we got busy and gathered up the wood needed for this little project. We made it the suggested size and put both an entrance and an exit door, just the way we knew he liked because he had eaten two in every basket and such we had given him. I have a large greeenwing macaw who has a very large wrought iron cage she only uses for sleeping. This leaves the cage empty all day, and it makes a wonderful play ground for a squirrel. We had been wondering exactly how a person would teach a squirrel to build a nest. We soon had an answer. We placed the nest box in the large iron cage, along with a bundle of nesting stuff and some fo his favorite toys, one of which,was a tiny stuffed dog. When we put him in the cage, he was a bit leery at first. After a minute or two curiosity got the better of him and he sneaked around behind the box, climbed up the bars and pounced on top of it. He froze. After a minute it had done nothing, so he decided it was safe and proceeded to examine it completely, inside and out. He went in and out both doors, then started hauling in the nesting material. Boy! Did we feel stupid, or what? He liked the nesting box and played in it all the time, but would not sleep in it.

We started putting him out side, on the porch during the day, in another larger cage we had. I know most people don’t have all these cages and a brooder just sitting around, but we have raised macaws, silkies,and Rhode Island reds for many years and do, and we chose to use them instead of the Tupper wear tubs recommended. We also felt that life with no playmates would be rather boring, so we chose to provide PeepEye with toys and as much entertainment as feasable. The first day he was outside, a young female came to visit. They rubbed noses and patted hands and she squeezed between the bars and he allowed her to share his food. She came to visit every day. After 3 days it was obvious that he wanted out, so we opened the cage. He ran off, but came back that night, freezing and starving. He came in and ate for hours, then went to sleep and slept like the dead. This happened twice and then he stayed gone overnight. Again, he was starved and frozen. This time he slept and ate alternately all night and the next day. He stayed gone all night, while we worried ourselves sick, and then it was over. He came home and was sitting on the porch rail, so my daughter went out to take him a pecan. He jumped on her shoulder and nuzzled her cheek a minute, then he jumped down and ran off into the trees. That was the last time any one touched him. Both PeepEye and his little girl friend and another slightly larger friend come everyday. They look for a treasure and we make sure there is always one to find."
"Catherine Garriga"

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