Kwaali, the Born-Again Squirrel
Sometimes animals just know best. Such was the case with a tree squirrel that had been hit by a car. Jeff and I were volunteering at Snowdon one day when we received a scratchy cell phone call from a guy who had scooped up an injured, unconscious squirrel and wrapped him in a towel. At least that’s what I thought he said. Cell phone coverage at Snowdon can be fleeting at times. Then the caller said he was speedily on his way to the sanctuary as we spoke, so it was lucky that Jeff and I happened to be on site to assess this squirrel. In my mind, a squirrel vs. a car does not usually end well for the squirrel. When Brent drove up, this was the scene: All the vehicle windows were open; there was a large panting black dog in the back seat; and there was a lively squirrel running back and forth across the top of the bench seat. Apparently, the squirrel came back to life during the drive! I couldn’t believe that the squirrel didn’t jump out the open windows or, for that matter, into the dog’s gaping mouth. This was when I began to chuckle.
When Jeff and I tried to capture the squirrel to assess its injuries, it demonstrated amazing skills at eluding capture inside the car. It ran over Brent, onto the steering wheel, across Brent’s arms, and back to the seat top. At one point, the little squirrel jumped straight onto the big dog’s head and clamped all four squirrel toes onto his doggie scalp, like a toupee! At Brent’s command, Elroy the dog froze, and the little squirrel ran down Elroy’s back to the other end of the vehicle.
OK, at this point I was having a hard time containing my laughter while trying my best to act professionally. Needless to say, everyone realized the squirrel wasn’t fatally injured, so laughing was also good stress relief. After several more clumsy attempts to capture this squirrel who was now flying around the back of the vehicle, Brent finally said he’d like to try the gentle approach.
Jeff and I backed off while Brent stretched his arm toward the squirrel. Then Brent began to sing. It was a gentle little song that he was making up as he went. Brent named the squirrel Kwaali at that moment. We couldn’t believe what happened next. The wide-eyed squirrel slowly walked up Brent’s arm and touched Brent’s face with his little squirrel nose. I am not making this up! Then Jeff made a quick grab and put Kwaali in a beer box (Pyramid IPA, I believe). We transferred him to a small kennel where we could get a good look at his injuries, noting one limp foot but use of the toes, and some scrapes on his face and jaw. This was one lucky squirrel.
We put together a nice bowl of food and water and brought Kwaali to one of the outdoor rehabilitation cages. We felt confident he would recover and be released soon. Snowdon takes in and successfully rehabilitates countless squirrels. Sometimes I think of Snowdon as a Youth Hostel for our young local squirrels. Just ask Sierra how many orphaned baby squirrels she has nurtured during her first year as manager!
At this point in my story, as we were transferring Kwaali from his beer box to the larger cage, he must have decided that the nearby bushes looked better than a cage. As Jeff grabbed the beer box for transfer, little Kwaali flew from the box and jumped onto my shoulder. He then launched squarely onto Jeff’s face and made a final bounce off into the bushes! My laughter just about brought me to my knees. Even Jeff and Brent were giggling now. Kwaali could not have chosen a better spot to release himself than the forested habitat of our wildlife sanctuary. He will have food and plenty of other squirrels for company! Go, Kwaali.