Jerry Moss takes in a red squir­rel kit­ten.

Jerry Moss shows us that there’s much more to his work than shoot­ing

Air Gunner - - Contents -

“The man­ager said he was con­cerned about a young kit­ten that had turned up that morn­ing and seemed to be lost”

Ev­ery year since I started my role in red squir­rel con­ser­va­tion, with­out fail I will re­ceive a phone call or two re­gard­ing red squir­rel kit­tens. These could be from a mem­ber of the pub­lic see­ing them hap­pily play­ing in the trees, think­ing that they might be lost or aban­doned by their mother.

Such a call came in a few weeks back from the man­ager of a lo­cal ho­tel set out in the coun­try­side, with a lovely wood­land area where the squir­rel num­bers are very good. The red squir­rels visit the ho­tel grounds and en­ter­tain the guests who stay there and the man­ager said he was con­cerned be­cause a young kit­ten had turned up that morn­ing, and seemed to be lost. Adult reds had ap­proached it, but didn’t seem to be show­ing it any in­ter­est, and it was try­ing to get into the ho­tel. It was in the gar­den close to an area where peo­ple were sit­ting and en­joy­ing their morn­ing cof­fees, all highly de­lighted to get a close up view of the kit­ten.

Please don’t touch

I asked him to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion for an hour or so and stressed, “Please do not let any­one pick it up.” I told him that I’d make my way to the ho­tel to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion in an hour or so, and take it from there.

I made a quick phone call to Sarah, my part­ner, be­cause I knew she would love to come along and see the kit­ten and I value her in­put be­cause her hus­bandry in look­ing af­ter squir­rel kit­tens is fan­tas­tic –we’ve hand-reared a few now.

I picked Sarah up, made the short drive to the ho­tel, and as we walked up the steps to the gar­den, I looked over and could see the man­ager talk­ing to a cou­ple of guests. As I ap­proached, I just knew what had hap­pened; one of the guests had picked up the kit­ten and had it in her jumper. What can you do? I am sure in­ten­tions were good, and it was too late now as well, so af­ter ex­chang­ing a few words, the kit­ten was now in our care.

When we got back home, the first thing was to sort out a ham­ster cage, and then Sarah made up some re­place­ment milk – Lac­tol, puppy and kit­ten sup­ple­ment feed - and of­fered the kit­ten some via a sy­ringe. It al­ways amazes me how they seem to just take to the sy­ringe. We checked the sex of the kit­ten, fe­male, and then placed her in the cage, where we had al­ready put in some nuts, sun­flower seed and small bits of diced fruit. The kit­ten was straight into the food, strug­gling to sit up prop­erly, but at least she was eat­ing solid food, which is a great help when hand-rear­ing a young squir­rel, be­lieve me.

We guessed the kit­ten to be about 8-9 weeks old be­cause they don’t usu­ally leave the drey to start their ven­tures out into the big wide wood­land un­til that age, and over the next few days, the lit­tle red was of­fered milk twice a day, just to sup­ple­ment her other feed, which she seemed to take with great plea­sure.

Build­ing her strength

Af­ter a week, she was moved into a big­ger cage that has a bit of height to it, to en­cour­age move­ment and climb­ing, and then af­ter another week she was let into the big pen that we have in our backyard. In this pen there are branches of scotch pine, the floor has wood­chip and bark, and tree stumps and var­i­ous other items make the en­vi­ron­ment as wood land-like as pos­si­ble. She has the choice of three nest­ing boxes to use, and a sup­ple­men­tary flip-lid squir­rel feeder; ba­si­cally, we go in and feed and wa­ter her, but that’s about it now so we can keep her as wild as pos­si­ble with a view to re­leas­ing her back to the wild in a month or so. She con­tin­ues to grow and build up the strength to al­low this to hap­pen.

It is very re­ward­ing when you can bring a young an­i­mal on and give it a chance to con­tinue with its life. Once back out in the wild, you never know what might hap­pen, but at least she will have been given that chance. There are preda­tors that will prey on the young, know­ing that they’re not as strong or wise as the adults, and that’s why we fed her well to build her strength, and kept her in the big pen that let her ex­er­cise well to make her strong. We did every­thing we could and now she’ll have to make her way alone, and of course, we wish her well.

“She con­tin­ues to grow and build up the strength to al­low this to hap­pen”

Above: Cones were very appealing

Be­low left: She ap­peared to like this nest box

Be­low right: The big pen let her climb and strengthen her mus­cles

Above: Sarah fed her with puppy milk from a sy­ringe Above right: It’s in­cred­i­ble how they ac­cept some­thing so ar­ti­fi­cial so well

Right: Ex­plor­ing the big pen came nat­u­rally

Left: Even this young, she knew what to do with the solid food we of­fered

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.