The squirrel triplets
— By Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —
Dear Squirrel Momma,
We have your three babies and they are doing well. You took such good care of them—all three were sleek and well fed. Together, they must weigh more than you! How did you keep them all fed and cleaned so well? You had to feed yourself and make enough milk for them—and during the winter. What an amazing feat.
The first couple of days were a difficult adjustment for all of us, as they didn’t like the rubber nipple and we couldn’t get them to defecate after the change in diet, but it looks like that challenge is over. The milk formula we give them is no substitute for yours, made by your very body and taken into theirs in an exquisite continuity of Squirrelness and of Life. But they are drinking it eagerly now in their lust for life—the life you gave them and nurtured so carefully. I gently stroke their well-rounded bellies after each meal to help them to evacuate. Though I do my best, it is not a mother’s tongue. At first they struggled a bit, but now they hang there, limp with pleasure, as I finally get the right feel and we adjust to one another.
It must have been terrible to be so scared that you had to run away from your babies, and then return to find them gone after so much hard work and tender care. I just wanted to let you know they are safe and well, and we will release them near where you are when they are old enough to fend for themselves. Although it is very very sad that you won’t be there to guide them and teach them what they need to know as squirrels for survival, they will have their chance at Life.
I have no real idea of what a squirrel momma feels but I don’t see any reason why this is impossible. A mother is a mother, and the same hormones run through the body of every female mammal—including human. She may or may not mourn like we do, but the intense drive to protect has to have a corresponding sense of loss if a baby is lost. I write this because we don’t think of these things much—the suffering we cause without realizing it. If we give it any thought, we might be more careful and send less pain out into the world.
Sometimes it feels like we are a Specialty Baby Squirrel Rehabilitation Center
Three more yesterday!
Their mother was in someone’s attic and they called pest control to live trap her. In the process, the mother ran away—and only then did the technician see the babies. He called Fish and Game, who said to call us. The homeowner’s entire family spent the time and gas money to drive 50 miles one way to bring them to us.
The end result is that we have three very cute eyes-almost-opened baby squirrels, who are not too happy about rubber nipples and weird-tasting milk replacer, rather than real teats embedded in a soft, warm belly, offering real milk. But, better than nothing.
Now we need to get them to defecate after their abrupt change in diet. The worries are endless.
The triplets are adapting to the situation and they will have a chance at life—a very vibrant, busy, acrobatic, chattering, and opinionated squirrel life.
Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.