Although we normally don’t attribute human qualities to wildlife at the Cape Wildlife Center, by observing the animals we do believe they experience feelings. Squirrels appear to show happiness, curiosity, frustration, anger and fear. Try to imagine what an infant squirrel is experiencing when they discover they are alone and hungry and can’t see. This story relates my thoughts on what a baby squirrel is feeling when it is orphaned.
Life is good. I’m warm and have a lot of warm, fuzzy things snuggling next to me. One is heavier than the others, and likes to lick me and keep me clean. It also puts something in my mouth that makes my tummy feel full. Most of the time I sleep. It is dark all the time and I can’t really move very much. I could stay like this forever.
I am cold. I am hungry. The fuzzy things are cold too. One of them isn’t moving at all. The heavy one isn’t here. I am wet and my bed is moving. I am not in my bed. I hit something hard and wet, and I am alone. Nothing fuzzy is near me. I am afraid. I am getting colder and can’t move. I hear some noises and then I am not on the hard place. I am moving and something soft is on me. I go back to sleep.
I hear lots of noises and I am moving from one soft place to another. I am lying on a warm place and just as I am going to sleep again, I get a pinch in my back and my skin feels very tight. Then something goes into my mouth and fills my tummy, but it is not what I usually get. I don’t like it as much. I am alone in a soft bed for a while but then other fuzzy things are with me, just like before, but they don’t smell like they used to. The heavy fuzzy thing isn’t here. I really miss that one. I felt safe with it.
I begin to feel comfortable with all the skin pinches and the funny tasting stuff that goes to my tummy. I like to snuggle up to the other fuzzy things. Then one day, I can see. I don’t know how that happened. I do like it. The other fuzzy things look like me. We get that mouth stuff a lot by something that doesn’t look like us. They are not fuzzy and their hands are blue and wet feeling. But that’s Ok, I am able to sleep a lot and I feel safe. The heavy fuzzy one never returns.
The other fuzzy things and I move around a lot and climb on each other. We are getting faster and stronger. We still get the mouth stuff but today they gave us something that sits right in our beds. It smells pretty good but it gets all over me when I walk in it. I lick some off my feet and it tastes pretty good. I lick some more and realize my tummy is starting to feel full . Every day we get this new stuff and eat it on our own and the mouth stuff doesn’t come as much, but I don’t feel hungry. I like this new stuff. I can eat it anytime I want, not just when blue hands gives it to me.
We go to a bigger home. What fun. We can climb and sleep in sacks, and run and hide. The licking stuff is there every day and now we get hard things to chew on. I like that. I get to use my sharp new teeth. Some things have to be opened to get the good stuff inside, like a puzzle. I am ready to learn more new things.
Today we are on the move again. We go someplace that smells like our home when we were very little. The sounds are of other creatures. Some are fuzzy like us. We have stuff to eat all over our home. We also have a place to hide filled with something warm . We run all day and climb and curl up together at night and sleep. We don’t see blue hands as much. I like it here but I want to see what is in the places we can’t get to. Something hard keeps us in.
Today the blue hands come and chase us and try to catch us. I don’t know why, but it is scary. At least we are all going into the same box, but we are moving again. It’s hard having someone else always putting you where they want you. When we stop, I look out of the crate and see a place that look like the one that I couldn’t get to. The door opens and we all slowly climb out. Where to go? So many choices? I run and run and then climb a tree. I have never been here before but it smells like home.
This scenario is repeated for hundreds of orphaned animals that we care for at the Cape Wildlife Center each year. We are not Mom (that heavy fuzzy thing) but we are able to nurture these animals and get them back to the wild with the skills they need.