My least favorite squirrel: California Ground Squirrel

California ground squirrel

California ground squirrels are all over California. You can see their little den holes in the dusty chapparel. Wikipedia says they are “common and easily observed ground squirrel of the western United States.” Easily observed, my ass.

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Mickey, black silly squirrel, dies months after hawk attack

Avoacadoface Mickey

Mickey, the black squirrel with ingrown teeth I took care of for a few months earlier this year, has died. Mickey had increasingly worse seizures and wasn’t responding to medicine, the wildlife rehabilitators who took her in said. Eventually they sadly had to euthanize her.

Mickey came to me from Peter Richter, a hawk-watcher and blogger, who knew Mickey as a cheeky character at a Queens community garden. Mickey took nuts by hand, much braver than her squirrel companion. Mickey tried to fight off a red-tailed hawk and ended up falling. My theory was that she broke her top teeth, which her big bottom teeth need to grind against.

Peter nervously watched her decline and brought her to me just in time. She was cold, had lost weight, was covered in mites and her bottom teeth were growing into her top gums. I clipped her teeth and she regained her strength eating mushy foods like avocado.

I got to know and like Mickey. She was easy to handle, almost like a released pet. I wondered if she wanted to be treated like a pet. I hugged her. She peed on me. I stopped trying to cuddle her, but she always did like a back scratch. I thought she’d like to be a mom to orphaned baby squirrels. Nope. She carried them out of her house and attacked them. She would stomp around her cage if she thought it was time for food and I wasn’t providing

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Hey, Let’s Take All the Unpopular Raccoons and Move them to NYC Parks!

central park raccoon

Which would you rather have the NYC health department spending its limited resources on? Preventing rabies in one of the world’s busiest parks–or providing some old ladies in the practically suburban part of Queens with a free pest removal service?

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Visit Prairie Dogs Just Outside Yellowstone in Montana

Prairie Dog

When you actually go out to look, these husky-sized ground squirrels aren’t so easy to find. So, if you’re an easterner headed to Montana, check out the Greycliff Prairie Dog Town a couple hours outside Yellowstone National Park.

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Bill the SoHo Groundhog Released into the Bronx

Bill the SoHo groundhog is now Van Cortlandt Bill. The grumpy little woodchuck was found mysteriously wandering around West Broadway in lower Manhattan a few days ago. The workers at the SoHo Grand did a great job of catching him (no easy thing to do)  and finding a wildlife rehabilitator (me).

Normally wildlife rehabbers take in animals that are injured, orphaned or sick. Bill was just in the wrong place, somehow transplanted to a neighborhood of concrete by humans. He was fine–aside from being ticked off at being in a cage. He enjoyed the apples, chestnuts and acorns I gave him, but let me know he had big teeth and knew how to use them. I just needed to find the right place to release him. In New York wildlife rehabbers are supposed to release the animal the region where you found it–in this case New York City.

With the help of the city’s most prolific rehabber Bobby Horvath, I found  David Kunstler, the wildlife manager for Van Cortlandt and Pelham Bay Parks in the Bronx. Groundhogs are found in both parks (and also Fort Tryon and Staten Island). Kunstler recommended Vault Hill, where the parks department is restoring a meadow. Bill got very excited as soon as he realized he was near the wild. He tried to chew through the carrier bars. When I opened the door, he sat there stunned for a minute, but then happily took off.

Where to See Animals in New York City


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Groundhog Takes Manhattan

The entertaining part of being a wildlife rehabilitator–aside from aside from all that helping animals whose lives have been thrown off course by humans–is the crazy phone calls. Right in Manhattan I’ve gotten calls about “a bird someone told me is an eagle,” a baby skunk, a few possums, a handful of raccoons and pretty much every baby bird one neighbor ever sees. Today I got call from the SoHo Grand–a hotel more known for celebrities than wildlife–about a groundhog they found out on West Broadway. In what little experience I have, I have learned that New Yorkers do not know their animals. Every call I get for a baby squirrel, I fear I am going to pick up a rat. But, much to my amazement, tonight I have a Manhattan groundhog sitting in a dog crate in my living room, awaiting release. The people at the SoHo Grand couldn’t have been nicer–to me or the marmot. They captured her (or him) off the street, despite the animal’s screaming, because they figured leaving her there would be cruel. (They used to call them whistle pigs.) They gave her a nice crate, water, carrots and apples. Their theory was that she climbed into somebody’s trunk, then unwittingly stowed away into Manhattan. There was some speculation that she had somehow escaped a Chinatown kitchen. Groundhogs can move faster than you think, but I doubt one could make its way into Manhattan like the coyote.

I talked to Bobby Horvath, the kindest

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Happy Squirrel Awareness Day: Where You Can Find Unusual Squirrels

Please, sir, may I have some more?

Today is officially Squirrel Appreciation Day. I don’t know what else I can do for the family of squirrels that frequents my window sill and fire escape. “Mommy Squirrel”–named because she was lactating last summer–will put her paws on the window to demand chestnuts if I only have out peanuts and sunflowers. These New Yorkers also have South Carolina acorns (bought in bulk on eBay) and apple cores on the menu.

HuffPo has a list of suggested activities, including looking for TV shows. Thanks to my lousy Time-Warner DVR, I can’t even do that. There are plenty of places that have specialty squirrels around the country that you can visit: the Grand Canyon has black and white Kaibab squirrels, Maine has chatty red squirrels and plenty of towns boast the title of White Squirrel Capital.

As a made up animal holidays go, it sure beats yesterday’s far more theoretical Penguin Awareness Day.

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Which Animal to Blame for Lyme Disease? Not Deer

I’m in my third week of antibiotics after returning from a trip from New Hampshire with a textbook bullseye surrounding a tick bite. Which animal should I blame?

The New York Times let five biologists and entomologists debate the issue. The first guy out, Thomas Mather, professor of public health entomology, gave the answer that has become commonly lore: deer. The premise: Deer populations have risen along with lyme disease cases.

But then other scientists basically cast some reasonable doubt on the case against the deer. Ixodes scapularis, commonly known as deer ticks, bear ticks or black-legged ticks, can pick up the bacteria that causes lyme disease from a whole range of animals, not just its namesake. The American Lyme Disease Foundation calls deer this species’ “preferred host” but notes that mice are the primary carriers of the disease, which can also be spread via birds, dogs, cats, horses, squirrels and other small mammals.

Richard S. Ostfeld, of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, notes that the incidence of lyme disease and deer don’t correspond, but that acorn crops (which feed white-footed mice) do. William L. Krinsky, entomologist at Yale’s Peabody Museum, says we don’t have enough data to understand how much blame rodents and deer should get.

Interestingly, two species come out as heroes. Bard biology professor Felicia Keesing cites the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) as the under appreciated fighter of lyme disease; these guys attract and kill ticks by the thousands. Ostfeld gives some credit to owl,

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Visit the Groundhogs at the Punxsutawney Library

Punxsutawney, Pa. Groundhog ZooGroundhog Day is Punxsutawney’s day in the spotlight. But you can visit the groundhogs in their long off season at the Groundhog Zoo on Punxsy’s Barclay Square.In the winter Punsxsutaney Phil and Phyllis usually just sleep. But you can spy them in their groundfloor, windowed ‘zoo’ thats attached to the library on the pretty town square. (Occassionaly the groundhogs have escaped into the library)Groundhog statues are easy to come by. Here’s a story I wrote about visiting the place in the Washiington Post yesterday.Where to See Neat Animals in the Northeast

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