Pip – The diary of a red squirrel orphan
The diary of a red squirrel orphan
Pip the red squirrel was possibly born around the beginning of July 2006 and on Thursday 10th August was blown out of his drey during very high winds. His Mum didn’t come down for him and he tried several times during the day to climb back up the tree, but kept falling down or being blown down. We moved in when we saw him cold, shivery and hunched on the ground and brought him to a warm cosy nest, lined with carded alpaca fibre.
At first he drank goats’ milk every four hours and slept the rest of the time. As he became more used to his new surroundings he would get cross and chattery with us, if we were slow filling his pipette with milk.
When tiny he was easy to handle because he didn’t move around very fast, but became more wriggly and agile as time went on. He increased his weight in his first month with us by 61 grams, to end up at 142 grams. A four-foot square pen was constructed to give him more room and his feeds gradually reduced to two a day by the time he was approximately twelve weeks. His pen was then moved outside, tied down and he thoroughly enjoyed meeting the other wild squirrels.
A day before his proposed release date, a stoat bit him badly on the face, through the wire of his cage and left him very shocked. After shooting the stoat which would not leave Pip’s cage, we took him to the vet and were given antibiotics to give him. Thankfully, he still remembered being given milk from the pipette and took his antibiotics for the full course. We then carried on with milk and vitamins twice a day to build up his strength.
We took advice that he should stay with us until Spring, built another much larger pen for him, around 12ft x 5ft, which he enjoys hugely as it is positioned underneath the wild squirrels feeding station. Wild squirrels run around his pen and meet him every day and they are preparing him for release in the Spring.
One problem that we had to overcome was the overgrowth of his toe nails. We stuck coarse sandpaper onto a board which he like to go across often and after a few days his nails were much shorter and he was going much better.
Pip was released from his enclosure for the first time on April 12th 2007. He sniffed around in the grass, looked up at the wild squirrels feed-station tree and examined many things, before popping back into his enclosure, where he ate some nuts, carrot and had a drink before going back to his nest for the rest of the day! We are not encouraged by this start as he is quite happy not to be out and about outside his enclosure. So far we have been encouraging him out most days unless the weather is dismal.
He has had his toe nails trimmed to help him move more easily and his drey has been refurbished to get rid of fleas he caught from the wild squirrels.
Pip released himself during what was meant to be a continued ‘soft release’ on Thursday 16th August 2007.
We wish him well with his new friends and miss him terribly.
We saw Pip on the nut box in the middle of November 2007 – unless there are two squirrels with scarred mouths.
STAY SAFE, PIP!
Pip’s story happened while we were living in North Northumberland surrounded by anything up to nine red squirrels around the feeding box at one time.