5 Squirrels Off to New Homes with 2 Firemen

squirrel says goodbye

The Horvaths take Mickey

All five of my squrrels left home Wednesday night for their future permanent homes. Oddly, they all went home with firemen, but through different circumstances. No squirrel cooperated in any way with the move.

Mickey, the curiously tame black squirrel from Queens who suffered from malocclusion, is going to live permanently with Bobby and Cathy Horvath. Bobby’s a fireman and Cathy’s a cop and together they are a de facto wildlife squad for New York City and it suburbs. The Horvaths are the city’s big hawk experts and they also handle just generally the difficult and weird cases that no city agency expected to encounter, like wandering coywolves or pet lynx. They showed up with an SUV full of raptors after giving a demonstration to NYC Audubon in Central Park.
mickey opens mouth

Mickey loves avocado. Everyone loves Mickey.

A friend of Bobby’s, Peter Richter, was the one who brought Mickey in. Peter is a hawk photographer who keeps an eye on nests for Bobby, so he knows when juveniles are likely to take their first wobbly flight onto urban greenspace, only to meet a panicked public, who calls the cops.
Longo and Benji
The other fireman, Ralph Longo, rescued three baby squirrels from a car fire he put out in Queens. He saw them squirming in a nest near the fire. Two were burned, one badly enough to lose three back claws. This third one, Benji, I told Ralph, was especially sweet and gentle, probably because I’d handled her so much treating her foot. She can still hang upside down from a branch. Her siblings Alvin and Grover compete with each other to be the most cheeky and obnoxious. Ralph inherited a fourth who turned up in Stuyvesant Town. Baby Ruth is kind of a jerk, always squawking at her siblings and complaining about something.
baby squirrels

Alvin opens his eyes for the first time

Ralph got off early and I hadn’t cleaned and prepared the kids’ cage and house. I needed to switch cages and install a bigger porch–one that could fold up and cover the hole for transport. With a proper squirrel, you scare them into the house by using a drill or vaccuum or other device that makes threatening sounds. But Grover isn’t a proper squirrel. She came out to investigate the drill, putting her paws on the drill bit.
I first took Mickey–inside her house, where she had spent 95% of the last four months–out of her cage and put it on the floor. I had been tempted at one point to get rid of the cage because Mickey came out just to eat, go to the bathroom or stomp around as a way of tellling me to get her some avocado, pronto. She’s only shown interest in getting out of her cage once, when a wild squirrel came in the window.
She was clearly annoyed with the commotion and kept popping out of the box. I’d shoo her back in, she’d come back. I stuffed the door with fleece. Meanwhile, Ralph calls to say he’s found parking. Mickey then flits out of the room, all hippity hoppity, and gives herself a tour of the apartment. As long as she’s out I switch the kids cage, then catch her.
Ralph is impressed with how big and fluffy the squirrels are. When he last saw them, they were maybe 15% of this size, eyes closed and with rat-like tails. He and his girlfriend, who’s a burn nurse, will put their nest box up in a big tree behind their new house. I warned him of the dangers of Baby Ruth, who–as if to  defy me–acted like she had a crush on him, being all friendly and attentive. I took out Benji, my sweet squirrel, to say good bye and show Ralph how to handle them. Skittish, she tried to bite him.
After they left, Mickey was clearly pissed at me. Even though their cages sat togehter, she certainly didn’t miss the baby squirrels. When I put them together thinking she’d enjoy mothering them, she bit them and threw them out of her house. She’d growl whenever they made too much noise. She climbed all around her cage, looking for a way out. She refused to go in her house, that’s how upset she was. Instead she curled up in a quiet corner. I put fleece down for her and she testily grabbed it and pushed it away.
The Horvaths first reaction was wondering if some other rehabber had bottle-raised and released her. Even angry at me, she let me scratch her back. They noticed she walked with a tilt. Cathy was the one who told me she didn’t think Mickey could make it in the wild, even with a community garden full of friends. Mickey’d been a fixture at a Queens community garden, inexplicably friendly to people and hostile to squirrels. She would climb on people and insist on being fed by hand. She got into a squabble with a hawk, fell and afterwards suffered greatly. The fall broke her top teeth, with let her bottom ones grow unchecked into her top gums.
It’ll be great to get updates on how they’re all acting around the new people in their lives. I’ll love hearing about the kids’ release. I can’t wait to hear what the Horvaths think of Mickey. There’s something just off about her that I don’t understand.I’m grateful the Horvaths are out there, ready to help.
I’m releived Mickey and the babies.

squirrelWhere to Go to See Interesting  Squirrels

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