Black Tip update

Black Tip the squirrel is still alive. We tried a small mammal trap for several days; after his first exploration, he wouldn’t go into it. Then yesterday he was so slow that I tried chasing him and throwing a box over him, but he put on an amazing turn of speed and escaped into next door’s yard. After that, we decided to give up trying to catch him and euthanize him.

The last days of Black Tip

When we moved to our current house, we soon encountered an old squirrel who considered our back yard his territory. For the last six years he has visited regularly, gradually getting tamer and tamer. In 2006 he got mange, and we treated him. Eventually he decided it was OK to take peanuts from my hand. Throughout the years he remained Alpha Squirrel, seeing off all challengers. But a few weeks ago, I noticed he had an injury to his left front paw; some sort of swelling on one of the fingers.

The inevitable happened

I got bitten by a squirrel. It wasn’t really her fault. She was hungry and nervous, and went for what looked like a tasty peanut, and discovered it was a finger. She stopped biting as soon as she realized, but because she was in a hurry she bit far enough to break the skin. That’s the point at which a lot of people would be yelling “Oh my god! Rabies! Help!

Arboreal rodent shenanigans

It’s Friday, so I decided to walk to Baby Greens to get lunch, as I often do at the end of the week. As I walked, I kept an eye out for fallen pecans to take home and leave out for our squirrels. I saw one at the end of the street, and picked it up. As I did so, I heard a noise. I looked up, and a squirrel was sitting in the pecan tree, barking at me for stealing his nut.

Squizirrel

Spotted today in our back yard: a black squirrel. Sadly, he had disappeared into next door’s yard by the time I thought to grab the camera.

Tooth and claw (and beak)

On Friday, I was gazing out into the back yard when I saw a hawk swoop towards the house, turn to the side at the last moment, and try to grab a squirrel from the fence. I’m glad to report that he failed, but the squirrel was clearly very disturbed by his near death encounter. He leapt onto the trunk of the nearest tree, and called out—a type of sound I hadn’t heard from a squirrel before.

Decks and squirrels

So, we finally found a builder who was interested in fixing up our decks. He sent waterproof deck coating samples, returned telephone calls, quoted a price, all the things I was naïvely expecting builders to do when I started the quest. This morning he turned up with 3 friends at 7am to start work. I guess in Texas you have to get the work done early, before the temperature gets too high.

A fluffy tale

Squirrels don’t hibernate during winter, but they do slow down their metabolism to conserve energy. Research suggests that their immune systems partially shut down as a result. Perhaps for this reason, squirrels often develop mange in winter.

Our resident alpha squirrel, Blacktip, developed a bad case of fur loss over winter. It started on his neck and chest, but soon spread to his belly and thighs, leaving him pink and itchy. Apparently squirrels usually recover on their own once spring arrives, but this particular critter showed no signs of getting better. I took the feed box away so he wouldn’t spread whatever it was to the other squirrels, and considered my options.

After reading everything I could find on the Internet about squirrel fur loss, it seemed pretty clear that the culprit in this case was notoedric mange–the symptoms matched exactly. Further research revealed that there is a common animal parasite medication that is used to treat notoedric mange in squirrels, as well as in rabbits, rats, and other small mammals. It was pretty cheap, too. The information available on the net suggested weekly doses, for a period of 2-3 weeks. It seemed doable.

Trees, leaves and a squirrelfest

We just filled 7× 110 liter paper sacks with fallen leaves from the back yard. We still have plenty of leaves, but we ran out of sacks. On Saturday it rained. I’m not sure if it was that or SXSW, but for whatever reason the squirrels all came out to play. We had all 5 of the regulars feeding at once. Chasing and comical feeding antics ensued. The high point was when one squirrel was sitting on the squirrel-a-whirl, looking over the hub and down at the corn below.

Squirrel update

We got some things called “Squirrel Logs“. They’re supposed to last as long as 12-24 ears of corn. Given the rate at which our half dozen fluffy friends go through corn, that seemed like a convenient idea. I tried hanging one from the bungee. No deal, it seemed that they would definitely last 12x as long as corn, because the squirrels wouldn’t touch ’em. They went straight for the corn on the squirrel-a-whirl instead, and even after eating it they continued to climb out on the whirl and sniff the corn husks rather than eat the log.