[CONTENT NOTE: disgusting images of baby squirrels, descriptions of wildly inappropriate human-squirrel interactions.]
Twenty years working wildlife rehab, and Kevin Barton has seen it all. Or he thought he had. At least until Hurricane Irma tore through Florida this week. It wasn’t the variety of species that grabbed his attention. It was the volume. Of utterly common critters, like bunnies and squirrels. Mainly squirrels.
By midweek, the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center of Venice had accepted 140 baby squirrels, from week-old hairless “pinkies” to unweaned juveniles.
ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY FUCKING SQUIRRELS. Yes, that’s what people rebuilding their lives from Irma’s devastation in Florida really need right now… more squirrels.
Given the scores of dead across the Caribbean and Florida, countless seaside communities reduced to splinters, millions without power from the Virgin Islands to South Carolina, and a projected cleanup bill of roughly $55 billion, swift local response to the fate of fickle arboreal rodents has clearly been a luxury.
A luxury bordering on treason.
Post-hurricane volunteers going all out
to save fucking squirrels.
This article’s author at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune has at least some sense of the gravity of the Sciuridae menace, and admirably recounts for readers a small sampling of squirrel terrorist attacks:
An ambulance dispatched to the Sterling Court Gracious Retirement Living facility following a squirrel attack that bloodied elderly Deltona residents in 2016; the squirrel that bit and scratched three people in separate incidents in June at a park in Jacksonville; the squirrel that sparked a high-voltage line, causing a fire that destroyed Sunshine Worship Center near Fort Myers five years ago. A year after that, another squirrel zapped itself on a Tampa power line, darkened 700 homes, and delayed state achievement tests in three neighborhood schools.
Squirrel encounters gone bad are hardly unique to Florida. As far back as 2005, a California study indicated The Golden State loses anywhere from $32 million to $317 million annually thanks to varmints – primarily squirrels – taking out power lines. A database compiled by the American Public Power Association indicates squirrels pose more persistent local threats to U.S. power grids than hurricanes.
“In 2016 alone,” states the APPA, “utilities reported 3,456 outages caused by the ubiquitous rodents that cut off power to more than 193,873 customers.”
But as readers here know only too well, that’s not even the half of it. And tell me if this doesn’t sound like something straight out of a zombie movie: even while Hurricane Irma’s winds were still howling, the good people of Florida were busy dropping off baby squirrels at a wildlife center. So many squirrels, in fact, that the center’s director put out an urgent call to all volunteers just to keep up. And by “keep up,” I mean consume your life:
Without maternal body heat to keep them warm, pinkies and older newborns can die from hypothermia. In addition to heating pads, they need to be fed every two hours, day and night, a more urgent schedule than human infants. Cow’s milk and goat’s milk are no substitute for mother’s milk and can be fatal. They can be weaned on Esbilac, a puppy formula, and Pedialyte solution for dehydration. But too much fluid – they need anywhere from a quarter to a half milliliter a day – can lead to asphyxiation and pneumonia.
Furthermore, baby squirrels can’t urinate or defecate on their own until they’re several weeks old. Failure to relieve themselves can lead to a painful death. The way to avoid that is to manually stimulate their genitals.
“Mothers stimulate them by licking them,” says Pam Defouw, who directs the Wildlife Center’s rehabilitation program. “That’s where I draw the line. I’m not going to lick them.”
WELL THANK JEEZUS YOU HAVE A LINE PAM. I mean, masturbating baby squirrel junk is one thing – everyone does that. But licking a baby squirrel’s junk until it relieves itself?! Now that is taking it one step too far!
Just lick it, Pam. YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO.
Among those stepping up is 21-year-old Soren Hegener, studying environmental sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
Pausing before cages containing Irma’s battered avian victims, Hegener has mixed emotions about saving the squirrels. If left where storm winds stranded them, the babies would likely perpetuate the cycle of life as part of the food chain for raptors of the sort now recovering at the center.
No hand jobs for this recovering cooper’s hawk.
“This is not something I saw myself doing,” says Hegener, who was introduced to the center through volunteerism as part of his studies. “But if I’m not here, who will be? That’s what motivates me.”
Don’t worry about it, Hegener. There is no doubt in my mind that some other asshole would step up to Save the Squirrels.
Have you ever seen anything more disgusting.
WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE RAPTORS.