About three weeks ago, I noticed a red squirrel lying in my ground feeder, munching away. I thought, man, those squirrels are getting way lazy!
A day or two passes, and I finally notice that the squirrel may be injured. One of his back legs doesn’t seem to be working.
He’s out there every day, eating and drinking from my ground feeder and the ground level bird bath. But now it appears that both hind legs are paralyzed, his tail hangs limp as well.
I talk to friends about him, and of course I named him Gimpy, and they suggest there is nothing to be done but let nature take its course.
I watch him eat, drag himself to the bath, falling over in the process, but he gets a long drink. I watch him drag himself out of my little “bird room” and into our front yard. I watch him drag himself down our walkway, then down the driveway, and then across the street into a back yard.
I’m online, looking for information and I also put a call into our local wildlife rehabber.
Its spring and the wildlife people are busy with babies, abandoned or not, so I don’t get a call back until nearly dark.
She agrees, nothing to be done for Gimpy as likely he’s got a broken back. But, she says, if I can trap him, there is a place I can bring him to be put painlessly out of his misery for $10.
This is so much better than thinking about him being eaten alive by a hawk that I immediately resolve to try this.
I’ve got a flannel sheet folded over a couple of times to try to throw over him (supposedly, they go quiet when it’s dark), and a box ready with holes poked into it. I’m going to try to get him downtown for a painless death.
As I walked Bubbles this morning, I found a lump of entrails, some fur, a squirrel’s foot and a whole lotta blood on the street. That is probably what is left of Gimpy.
But in case it’s not, I’ve got the box and sheet standing by.
And the mound of guts wasn’t Gimpy….he appeared at my feeder right on time. So I lurk around the corner, waiting for him to finish eating. I wait a long time. And of course, once he is finished, he heads towards me until he sees me, and then does a detour, over to our neighbor’s deck. I stand there, uncertain and feeling like I’m harassing this poor guy, and he gimps up a step. I go after him but he’s surprisingly quick. As I hit the top of the stairs, I have this out of body moment: I imagine myself in my kitchen and imagine that a person comes up my deck and appears out of nowhere….chasing a gimpy squirrel. I imagine that I would be scared to see that, so I stop again, leave the deck, and scope out where the Gimp is…..and of course, he’s all curled up in a corner of the deck, furthest away from the steps.
Now what? I don’t want to cause more pain and agony, all I want is for this guy to not suffer! But if I chase him around, he’s gonna suffer.
So, l leave him alone. He appears the next day, earlier, as if to avoid the crazy woman with the sheet. I do nothing.
Yesterday, no Gimpy.
Today, he shows up even earlier, pulling himself into the feeder and having a bite with a young squirrel. He gets his butt beaked by a grackle or two, reacts quickly. When an adult squirrel shows up, Gimpy drags himself to the water, drinks, drags himself to our cedar trees, and lies in wait. When the adult squirrel is finished and gone, Gimpy is back in the feeder.
Watching him hurts.
I didn’t see him gimp his way down our driveway, today. But I did order a Havahart trap. If he survives until it arrives, perhaps I can offer him a better death than the one that awaits him if I continue to do nothing.
Gimpy is starting to look ragged.
His tail is losing fur. He isn’t eating with much enthusiasm; he’s drinking only a little. Trap is baited and waiting to go. Gimpy, please, let me give you a better death. You’ve earned a rest.
I’ve come to both admire and despise the survival urge.
He’s eaten at the feeder, gotten a couple of drinks, and now he’s lying alongside my neighbor’s deck, basking in the sun with his eyes closed.
He ignores the trap.
I pull the bait out of the trap and put it into the feeder, spring the trap and will try again tomorrow.
Annnd he ignores the apple slice coated in peanut butter and topped with walnuts. A young squirrel, who’s become a regular, was nosing around it, trying to figure out how to get the treat without actually going into the trap. I held my breath; he didn’t go in, but by climbing on top of it, sprung the trap! I sigh, go back outside and reconfigure the bait while Gimpy is still in the ground feeder.
While I watch, both a female and male Baltimore Oriole come to the jelly pot. What a treat for me!
Gimpy knows I’m here. He gets a drink and stares right at me. He stares at me a long time. This sensation (not thought) comes to me that he knows what the trap is for and he’ll go in when he’s good and ready. With that, he gimps off, leaving the trap alone.
Again, I spring it, put the bait out and close it up for the night. Gimpy comes but once a day. Tomorrow is another day.
The Gimp is full of surprises. He or she has appeared in the bird room no earlier than 11:30 and generally no later than 2 pm. This morning, before 9, he is out there, again with the young squirrel. I’m now wondering if Gimpy might be female and the young squirrel her offspring. They eat together at the feeder and now it occurs to me that the little guy is seen only when Gimpy shows up. Duh. I didn’t get that before.
A couple of days have passed since writing the above and now the little guy is reaching into the Havahart trap, picking the pecans off of the bait, and munching away. Trap may be stuck with peanut butter, because it is not springing……but he or she has the bait and is still free. Hmmm. I see a cleaning project in my future.
Gimpy is hiding nearby, waiting for the big squirrel to leave the feeder.
And when I peek out again, the trap is sprung with a squirrel inside of it! I go out, with my gloves and sheet and inspect my capture. Not Gimpy.
I set the squirrel free and bring the trap into the garage. Tomorrow is another day.
Another day, another squirrel trapped. Again, not Gimpy, in fact, haven’t seen Gimp yet today and he’s late. The secret of the bait seems to be in the pecans. The squirrels here like pecans better than walnuts.
Gimpy shows up today. He or she is lying in the feeder. Lil Guy is with him. I bait the trap, take it out, and as I’m putting it down, I say, “Whenever you’re ready, Gimpy.” He looks at me. I look at him. I walk away.
Whenever I’ve got the trap out, I monitor it closely. I’ve taken a close look at Gimp through the binoculars and I see more fur loss on his tail and a wound on his backside that flies are on. How much longer can this poor guy hold on? At least another day, apparently. Time to go out and remove the trap. He’s not going in today.
The following day, Gimpy gets a reprieve. I’ve got appointments and chores and can’t monitor the trap, so I don’t put it out. I don’t want some squirrel trapped in that thing for one more minute than absolutely necessary….don’t want to stress them, don’t want them to injure themselves. The trap goes out only when I can watch it pretty constantly.
Never saw Gimpy today.
Second day in a row of no Gimpy. The Lil Guy is out there, though.
Update: I think states vary, but generally, a person has to be unseen for seven years prior to be declared dead. It’s been over a week since I’ve seen Gimpy. Have looked around develhell for remains and haven’t found any, but I think Gimpy has gone to the Great Oak Forest in the Sky. Hope you’re ok now, Gimp.