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Squirrel Release OK–Except for that One Stalker Squirrel

The four baby squirrels I rehabbed in my NYC apartment are out in the wild and donig okay–mostly. Three are doing great learning the way of the squirrel. Hayes, the sweet and dependent one, acts like I’ve taken him camping, it was fun, but he’d like to come home now. One of the tasks of a wildlife rehabilitator is to make sure your charges aren’t too imprinted or bonded to you.

I think I’ve done okay by him. Hayes is a perfect example of how individual animals really do have distinct personalities–but are also a product of the cultures they grow up with. Hayes and Garfield, another squirrel in this batch, were raised identically. Both were found at about 5 weeks, with little hair and eyes still closed. Both traveled with me to my office in my zippered shirt pocket since they needed to eat so often. And then both spent time in a cage till they were ready to be released. But Hayes was always more rambunctious and when he got old enough he insisted on getting out of the cage every time I stuck my hand in. He’d ride on my shoulder, climb window bars and follow me around. Still that was just 10 minutes every other day. He studiously avoided our dog Jolly.

Garfield was always quieter and calmer. He never wanted to come out of the cage. Hayes was found in a nest accidentally cut down by a utility worker. Garfield was lying in the middle of a Staten Island street.

Meanwhile the other two squirrels in this batch had a different personality type and each their own personalities. Both were picked up older. Chester had his eyes open and was following people around a Queens yard. I could always recognized Chester because he was the one who would lunge at my hand. Tito was an adolescent when two women found her outside Tompkins Square Park. They kept her for two weeks in a bird cage, then gave her to me. At first she screamed, growled and cried at the other squirrels. I calmed her down only by separating Tito and Chester into one cage and Garfield and Hayes into another.

I normally release squirrels in Tompkins Square Park, but I knew Hayes would get in trouble jumping on people. Other squirrels I’ve raised would jump on me–but only me. Hayes wants to be everyone’s friend. So friends outside Manhattan offered to take them in their yard. I carried them out there in their respective houses.

We let Hayes out and couldn’t get him back in the house. So we just put up the house and let him climb to it. Garfield came out–cautiously. Chester and Tito went up in their house as my friend Alan nailed it into a huge maple tree. Chester came out to explore, but Tito mainly hung out in the doorway, not even allowing her brother back in.

Over the last few days Hayes has explored widely, but also stuck close to people–any people.
Once he comes over for food, he wants to stay. He wants desperately to get in the house. He’ll try to get in on the screen door or squeeze past anyone entering. If anyone runs or walks, he follows them. He’s also suddenly decided it’s ok to jump on Jolly’s back.

Hayes is a smarty pants and I think he’ll be fine. This morning I saw him go into alarm over a nearby cat. There will never be a Hayes among squirrels taken in late in the season. They all seem cautious, fearful, somewhat aggressive. And if you set out to raise a friendly squirrel like Hayes I doubt you could. Hayes has a personality all his own.

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