Sunday, June 08, 2008

Carol Vinzant on Eating Habits of Hand Reared Squirrels

Squirrel Photographs
by Carol Vinzant

Blog contributor Karen Anne Kolling asked, " Do hand-raised squirrels know how to get food in the wild after reading about Wildlife Rehabilitator Carol Vinzant"s newly released trio of human raised squirrels. and Carol responded with this explanation.

Rehabbed squirrels will generally do ok in the wild because a surprising amount of their behavior is instinctive and because they can eat a wide variety of plant matter and bugs.

I’m sure, however, there are food gathering and storage tricks—and more importantly social behaviors--that they would learn from watching their moms. I’d liken hand-raised squirrels to kids that are home-schooled by someone who is really socially inept.

But there’s a lot they seem to be born knowing. They’ll start gnawing on nuts and fruit even before their teeth are ready. Rehabbers put containers of dirt in their cages and they get right to digging and burying nuts with no lesson.

Before I started rehabbing them, I assumed their diet was nuts, seeds and maybe some fruit. A huge part of their diet is tree bark and the layer just under it. They eat bugs, buds, pine cones and lot of other things. When I’m raising them I’m always on the lookout for fresh branches, which they quickly strip of bark and buds. Their seasons of food scarcity are winter and late summer.

All that said, I’m still worried about the ones I release. “They’ll never be full squirrel,” one expert told me. There’s some disagreement on this. I release my rehabbed city squirrels in city parks. To me, that gives them a safety net of all those people either purposely or inadvertently feeding them. I figure they’ve been city squirrels for 100-some generations and have probably evolved with city park skills. But others release them in wild areas.

Carol Vinzant207 East 5th Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 979 - 5327

Though only a nominal improvement on my first photograph of the Great Crested Flycatcher at Thresherman's Woods, at least in this one the cinnamon hued tail and wing feathers of the species are visisble.

And the Irises are in bloom,

As are the Daisies.
Donegal Browne

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