Welcome little Digger! Digger is a ~4 week old Eastern Chipmunk. He came to WTS last night, and you can see he has a pretty severe head-tilt, and his left eye is unresponsive to light. However, he is in good body condition and there are no obvious signs of trauma. A mystery! It's possible that his symptoms might be caused by some kind of localized-type illness, such as an ear infection. So, he's been put on antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs and we will see how he responds. In the meantime, he is stable and may just need time and rest. We will see. Don't forget about lopsided bunny on post 4/18/08- and he ended up doing great, now living in the WTS woods!
I think that this is a good time to address a really important issue: WILD ANIMALS ARE NOT PETS!!!!!! The worry of writing a blog like this is that people will look at the pictures and think "Oh, how cute: I want one!!" But let's take a look at a patient like Digger. To begin with he is at a delicate time when he is just weaning and it is essential to give him the right balance of formula and weaning foods. Without this is can develop abnormalities, bone disease, etc. Plus, he has some sort of medical condition. It is not unheard of for chipmunks to have rabies. Digger appears relatively alert and this is unlikely, but you never know. However, he might have swelling on the brain. As an adult, chipmunks can become aggressive and can bite...hard! So, THANK YOU for not keeping him as a pet, but bringing him to WTS!!
What about Amelia, the flying squirrel? She is adorable, however, they can also bite as they get older, and smell VERY strongly!! I had an adult all winter, and phew! What a smell!!
What about grey squirrels? The are adorable! But they are also strong, have extremely sharp nails, and if they don't have the right outlet for energy they can become very aggressive as well. Here is a picture of Little Brother the other day. They still depend on me for some food, all 3-4 month squirrels still depend on their mum even if they are full grown. Anyway, Little Brother is somewhat calm, but sweet Little Sister is very aggressive!
I walked outside the other day to put out their breakfast and she launched herself into the air and attacked my hand. Ow! And a few scratches on my hand is the very beginning of my various cuts, bruises, and weird zoonotic sicknesses that I've had (these are illnesses that you contract from animals). Keeping a wild animal, even if it appears healthy, and has been OK'd by a vet, does not mean that it is impossible for it to transmit diseases to a human.
Many animals also cannot be toilet trained, as in the wild they "mark" their territory. This means that they will want to mark, either with urine, feces, or scent (or all 3) all over wherever they live, i.e., their cage, or your house! And many animals' natural behaviour involves digging and what humans would call "making a mess." In a nutshell, wildlife natural behaviours lead to constant clean up! A lot of activity at WTS is spent on cleaning and doing laundry!
Most wild animals also have very special nutrition and behavioral requirements, and if these needs are not met they can get sick, become aggressive and die. As a rehabilitator, I can't tell you the number of animals that come to us after people think that they can take care of them, and then, as the animal is dying, they realize that they can't handle it. Equally, we get many adult animals, or young adults that are suddenly too big, too strong, too active, too smelly and the people can't handle them. Many of these animals must be euthanized as they are not able to return to the wild because they don't know how to survive on their own.
Without the proper education, bringing up a wild baby animal will retard its mental growth, and it will never be able to properly function. Do you want that for any animal??
To me, no matter how much I loved sitting with Little Sister asleep in my hoodie while I cleaned their cage, I could not be happier that she attacked me. This means that she is wild and understands how to protect herself.
I got into all this because I love animals, but to really love something you have to understand its needs and make sure those are met. I would love to cuddle Amelia all day, and carry her in my pocket, but then she wouldn't properly learn that SHE is a flying squirrel and I am a human. Without knowing what she is she could never survive, and she would have to be kept in a cage for the rest of her life.
Will I be heartbroken when I release Sparkles & Silver Blaze? Absolutely! But I will be so happy that they have a rich bunny life to live.
Wild animals are not here to serve humans' need to possess, or need to be emotionally connected to something. Like human children, they need to be nurtured and cared for, set up to be able to make it on their own, and released at the right time!
Don't let all my pictures of me & my patients fool you, after a certain age, I limit contact. For example, once sweet little groundhog from post 6-9-08 was gaining weight, I started to distance myself. She is now the meanest, scariest animal at WTS! And I couldn't be happier!! It means I've been doing my job and she has a great chance of living a groundhog life with groundhog love stories, groundhog fun digging activities, and groundhog garden robbing!