Wildlife Rehab Diary: Godzilla the Lonely Squirrel
Many wildlife babies come in sets: five baby squirrels, two baby foxes, thirteen baby opossums, two baby bears, three baby raccoons. Often, these animals will grow up to become relatively solitary, pairing up only for mating and rearing offspring, but while they’re young, they relish each other’s company. In fact, having siblings can be extremely helpful in learning how to associate with others of your own species: you can play with them, wrestle with them, steal food from them, and get disciplined by mom when you’re having a tussle with them.
Sometimes, a lone baby will arrive at the center because he’s been separated from his family by bad weather, a well-meaning human, or some other calamity. Such was the case of Godzilla the Lonely Squirrel.
(Please note: we don’t actually name the animals, someone just happened to mutter ‘Godzilla’ when referencing this particular squirrel and now I can’t let it go.)
Godzilla was put in his own special palace with lots of things to chew on, a smorgasbord of delicious delights, and a selection of cozy sleeping spots. But Godzilla was alone, and he made the loneliest noises a squirrel can make. Stuffed animals did not fool him, Cheerios proffered by us insulted him, and when we walked by his little hut, he would jump at us and make lots of squabbling Angry Squirrel sounds. He was the very definition of fussy, and a bit aggressive, but my heart couldn’t help breaking for him when he would finally calm down and curl up to sleep in his nesting spot – alone.
Squirrels come in sets, and we had several sets, but none of them were nearly as big as Godzilla. In fact, when he arrived, many of our baby squirrels were still days from opening their eyes. So Godzilla stayed alone, and nothing we did could soothe him. His chattering and squabbling sounds went on whenever we were present, unless he’d worn himself out enough for a nap by exploring and eating.
I had just about given up hope that Godzilla would ever have a friend, until one day I started feeding one set of our younger squirrels, a set of three. The smallest was still much too little and delicate to live with a bruiser like Godzilla, but the other two – well, they were downright huge, plump, with bright eyes, (somewhat) bushy tails, and the kind of spunk that squirrels start developing about a week after their eyes open. Kathy gave me a knowing smile and said the magic words: “Let’s put them together.”
Everyone got fed, and with some trepidation I put the two younger squirrels in with Godzilla. They were so close in size that I could hardly tell them apart, except that all three of them stood still, very still, evenly spaced apart in the Squirrel Palace, absolutely unsure of what to do next. They stayed like that for several minutes, and I realized I was holding my breath when Kathy spotted me and said, “Don’t worry – they’ll work it out.”
After a while they slowly started moving around, and, as expected, Godzilla approached them with a little more intensity than they probably anticipated. He wasn’t aggressive or possessive, however, but for a little while they fussed at one another as the new two explored their single housemate’s belongings, rifling through his food and spinning in his hamster wheel. Godzilla was visibly concerned, but he behaved.
The rest of the day passed and I realized that it was the first day that I hadn’t been vaguely aware of angry, lonely squirrel noises at almost all times. Godzilla had stopped making Lonely, Angry Squirrel sounds! The best was yet to come, however: as we prepared to head out for the evening, I peeked in to discover all three squirrels curled up together in their nest, a mess of tails and ears and little noses.
Godzilla was lonely no more.