The Net Worth of a Squirrel

We’ve all seen at least one of those short videos about how some animal, whales and deer seem to rate high in this arena, where the animal becomes trapped, often due to the negligence of some fisherman or hunter, in some kind of life threatening situation then some stranger happens across the poor critter and puts his / her own life or health at risk to save it.

Viewers seem to love this stuff. The helper likely gets more than 15 minutes of fame as a animal hero. The animal, once freed by this creation-loving human, swims or runs off only to pause at the last moment to, in raw animal terms, blow his rescuer a kiss of thanks as the credits start to roll.

I’ve always thought these videos present only the few scenarios that work well as click bait. For some reason, we never see the videos where the brave rescuer; get squashed by a struggling whale fluke,  gored by a panicking bull, bit by the scared dog or mauled by the trapped cougar. You know as well as I do that some may have even died attempting to rescue an animal in distress — but we’ll never see those videos – brrr, with good reason. I could happily live the rest of my life without ever seeing someone die trying to comfort a traumatized bear.

So, that said, I have two principals to stand up before telling this next story.

  1. The life of a person is always worth more than the life of an animal.
  2. The life of an animal should never be treated as value-less.

Also in my pragmatic view of where we need to live life somewhere between two principals, I posit that humankind and critter-kind are always going to contest with one another. Sometimes we will take them for food or kill them to prevent them from destroying our crops. Sometimes we will get bitten, mauled, squashed or maimed by not respecting their sense of territory or presenting ourselves as something that looks to them like food.

So in most cases of humans coming upon an animal in distress, a decent person will want to help, but the wise person will quickly recall if they have anyone, a spouse or child or grandchild or friend, depending on them for life or comfort and only then act either to help or step back and find some humane way to respond.

Yesterday, I had my chance to work through my own logic. Here’s how it played out.

For those who don’t know me well, know that I still have my one and only bride in bed with me each night and we have adult children who want to keep us around a while longer and none of them need to spend any time running medical errands for the sheer fun of it all.

In our back yard, we have a plum tree which has been through a lot itself. Some trees get planted and grow happily and thrive. This tree had a different calling so there’s was trunk damage as a young sprout. There’s been some sort of tree rash that attracted bugs and damaged much of its new growth for several years.  Its blossoms have been ravaged by our often gnarly winds and its fruit have been pilfered by birds.

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This past few years, I’ve been trying to give it some tree TLC and this year, we’ve been rewarded with a record crop of amazingly tasty plums; so much so that a large fruit-covered branch broke under the weight. Seriously. . .!? Can’t this tree catch a single break? Um, no pun intended.

Knowing how this would play out if I just let nature take its course, I had purchased a big tree net and wrapped the tree in a shield of protection – which worked very well – thank you. The fruit just keeps coming and we could not be happier.

But yesterday, during one of my morning strolls around the yard, I noticed some odd movement at the base of the netting surrounding the tree.  It did not look at all like wind, so I vectored over to investigate and yes, found a citizen of the local rodent population entangled in my netting, obviously from trying to pilfer some of our plums.

gry squirrel joshua-j-cotten

He (and I offer only sarcastic apologies for presuming on his preferred pronoun but am not qualified to determine even the gender of birth of a squirrel) — he was an adult gray squirrel and he had tied quite a knot.  Each of his five limbs and head were badly snagged.

So, what were my options?

  1. I could just let him be and hope he works things out.  This did not look promising and he most likely would have suffered terribly as he slowly died of dehydration, then starvation, then of the neighborhood feral cat who would have devoured whatever was left of him by the time he was discovered.
  2. I could call animal control.  Sorry, even I would laugh at someone who wanted to spend tax dollars to cut a squirrel out of a tree bird net.
  3. I could whip out my very sharp knife and start cutting him out myself. Hmmm, no. We’re not there yet. That net was a tad pricey and I am not done with it yet. Plus, imagine the fun a struggling squirrel and I could have together — me trying to cut only those parts of the net that bind him and with every success, him being freer to bite me. So no, this was not going to happen. I still have a family who would give me tons of grief if I chose any path that included my own injury.
  4. I could just go get the BB gun and dispatch him. Had this been a gopher, this would have happened already and we would not be having this conversation because as any yard owner will agree, gophers are the Taliban of landscaping – leaving death and destruction anywhere they are allowed occupy. They are not cute or open to negotiation. They just need to be dispatched as soon as possible. But this was a squirrel who has only threatened one or two of the multitude of plums I have. No, he does not deserve a BB to the head.
  5. So,is there a compromise between my two main principals that might result in both of us staying healthy with all our blood still inside our bodies?  I think this is worth a well-thought-out effort. So here we go.

First, I can’t just reach in by hand and start pulling the net free, nope, no hands within struggle and bite range will be allowed. I did try to grab nearby parts of the net to see if I could pull some of the netting off of him, but no joy on this idea.

I needed some way too get close to each binding line and push or pull it off of his paws so I used my 15″ long weed puller which is a handle, long steel rod with a flattened and forked end.  This actually worked pretty well, but he was really well wrapped in the netting so we spent some quality time, he and I trying to undo what he was trying to redo by squirming and, oh yes, I almost forgot, while screaming his distress out so loud I know they had to be able to hear him down in the Petaluma valley.  “Dude, be quiet.  You’re going to arouse the wrath of the local animals-first folks and we’ll both land in court.”

You have not lived until you tried to help a squirrel while he was screaming for help. Their scream sounds like a whale’s song, just with fewer words and notes. So yea, I soon had a single squirrel audience wanting to know who was torturing who. The entangled squirrel had summoned, I don’t know who: his mate, his king, his aunt, his attorney, their media, or his mistress – but he or she gave me that look of “what in the blankity-blank do you think you’re doing?” before realizing that I out weighed him or her by close to 3 orders of magnitude, so that expression quickly changed to “Sorry mate, but you’re on your own this time,” and off he or she went, squirrel-skipping along the fence line.

Suddenly, I must have pulled enough loops off of his tangled limbs because he squirmed again and, wow, he broke free, which was only sorta great because he was beneath the tree and still inside the net and had nowhere to go. So, of course, he ran straight into the net on the opposite side and thus we effectively restarted the whole process.

Oh no – I’m not going to enter this loop and decided to let him struggle while I prepared the net for the next cycle. I just needed to raise the bundle of netting to give him some openings and means of escape. So I did. I made three large holes for him and we did this dance three more times because he apparently could not see the net or was too busy being scared, but finally after being freed the forth time – whoosh – he was outside.

I expected him to transform into a squirrel rocket and head for the top of the nearest redwood tree, but no, what he actually did was run only about 8 feet away, stopped, (oh you are not going to blow me that stupid animal kiss of thanks are you?)  No, he stopped because he found a nut or something to sit back and play with.

I shook my head, picked up my weed tool, reset my netting and left hoping he recalled just enough of the experience to not try to navigate the netting around our tree again.

Finally – no, I did not record any of this adventure for sharing on Facebook or anywhere else. This story is all you’ll get.

I think it was a reasonable compromise between the two principals.

Thanks for stopping by. You are dismissed to go hug a domesticated critter.  Leave the yard rodents alone if you can.


GW bio card 4

27 thoughts on “The Net Worth of a Squirrel

  1. Haha! You are a good man. I once had a lizard stuck in netting and slowly snip away with teeny scissors to free him. I wasn’t sure how long he had been there – in fact, he looked like a goner – but, as soon as he was free, he scampered away. I felt so guilty that I removed all of that type of netting and installed a different kind that lizards can easily get through.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Janis.
      I got lucky here.
      My lizards don’t even notice the netting , and (you’ll love this) as if by magic, humming birds fly through it like it’s not there. I still haven’t figured out how because their wing span is about 2.5 – 3 inches while the net holes are 1×1 inches. . . So how . . . ?
      I don’t know.
      Thanks for giving it a read.
      I hope it left you smiling.

      Like

  2. Aww, I’m so Happy you saved Mr or Mrs squirrel!! 🐿️ Even though it took a bit to get it freed, I bet it was super duper happy. It was a fun and enjoyable read!! 🤠

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Diana. He (or she) did make for a memorable day. Somehow I’d never heard squirrel shrieking before. It all really was something, but he’s back to the business of being a squirrel, my net is intact and I know there is a batch of new plums to harvest. We can’t eat them up fast enough.
      Thanks for giving yet another of my stories a read.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m cackling with laughter here. I can picture the entire scenario. Sorry but it is quite funny. I’ve raised many a wee squirrel in my time. I can attest to their squishes. That said, they are too cute for their level of wildness. Even hand raised they do come to a point where their fearless comes out. Kudos for the rescue though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hiya Bear. It was something of a comedy – well, except for the shrieking of the squirrel. I’d never heard it before and that really was something I may never forget.
      How did you end up with baby squirrels to raise? You may have read my story about raising a golden mantel (slightly large chipmunk) and how great a memory I have of that event?
      Hmm, I see no evidence that you have seen it. I was in grammar school and my sense of logic was still developing resulting in some interesting events surrounding this pet from the wild. Given your affection for chaos, you might really enjoy it.
      https://garyawilsonstories.wordpress.com/a-pet-from-the-wild/

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, people were always bringing me wee things to raise, Gary. I had a ‘gift’ for it. Probably should have become a Vet… but I can’t stand to hear them cry in pain… rips my heart out, it does. Anyway, People cut down trees, branches break in storms, that kind of thing. I’ve raised many a squirrel, bunny, bird, etc. no reptiles, though. I’ll catch the link this afternoon, after class.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, I have two of the Where Honor Lies serials back up. Each one about 500-600 words. New genre, sorta, for me.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. You are a patient man but I’d bet that squirrel will come back again with his tribe to feast on the plums knowing the big man will not hurt them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha.
      The harvest will be over in a few days and I’ll tale away the net.
      They’ll be welcome to the leftovers and we may end up with plum trees everywhere within a squirrels reach.

      Like

    1. Well I know you have a unique combination of other critters fully able to traumatize nearby humans, but I’m glad you don’t have to put up with gophers. They are a pain, both they and their craters they leave all over the yard. I have two traps out and am hoping for swift gopher death as I type this. Thanks for stopping by IM.

      Like

    1. They really are as cute as can be. But they can be a nuisance especially to those who like feeding birds. Perhaps you have them there too and know how cleaver they can be in cleaning out most bird feeders.
      But I’ve learned they are not as cleaver when it comes to bird netting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lots of squirrels in the park here, and sometimes see the odd one running across our back wall. Although I’ve also seen a fox run across the back wall. Safely say I’ve never seen a squirrel on the back of a fox 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  5. “Gophers are the Taliban of landscaping” – that line is pure comedic gold. I mostly don’t mind gophers. Grasshoppers, on the other hand, should be nuked from space.

    Loved this story, and I can just picture your quality time with that squirrel. Glad you both survived the encounter without casualties.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Janet.
      A few others called out that line. I was worried that it was bound to offend someone but Biden put them into the public timeout box so now no one likes them. I think I’m safe.

      This is from my “I Recall” collection. It it really happened and I can find a laugh in it, I save in this collection. If you’re this much of a rowdy, you might enjoy:
      https://garyawilsonstories.wordpress.com/the-inner-tube-adventure/
      But regardless. Thanks for your reading time and for the kind feedback 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Blahahahah! Poor Jimmy. Having heard some of my husband’s childhood adventures, I have concluded that God looks after small boys with extra care. I have also concluded that testosterone poisoning starts young and poses a significant hazard to life, limb, and sanity.

    Liked by 1 person

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