As many of you know, I love all animals. I love to watch the wildlife that appears in my yard throughout the seasons. The birds are always spectacular. I love having the deer come and wait patiently near my door for me to bring them some corn. I have even given food to a poor shivering opossum during a bitter cold winter. This year I am caring for a squirrel. Most of the time I have found the squirrels to be quite pesky. Yet I decided two years ago that they were not going anywhere. I feed them some peanuts daily and also some apple and grapes from time to time. I often have 8 or more in the yard at one time. This past January and February I watched a squirrel who I thought had been in a fight become quite sickly. This is the story of Mighty.
I first spotted this squirrel in late January. He looked as though he had been in a fight as he was missing some fur. He appeared most days in the yard for some peanuts. As February arrived I noticed he was missing more and more fur. I then noticed he was scratching and scratching. Through the binoculars I could see his skin was very red and he had a few open sores. I searched the internet for information. It appeared he had mange. It is brought one by tiny mites that burrow under the skin. It causes extreme itching. The fur will fall off and the skin will be exposed. Sores and welts can form from the scratching. From my reading, the worst time to get mange was in the middle of winter. The squirrel would be susceptible to frost bite if too much fur was gone. Treatment was a parasite oral paste called Ivermectin. At first I decided there was no way I could ever just isolate this squirrel and be sure he was the only one to get the medicine. But as a few days went by and he got worse, I decided to give it a try. I was able to purchase Ivermectin for just a few dollars. I have enough to last a very long time. It is apple flavored and easy to administer on a nut.
While I was waiting for the Ivermectin to arrive I decided to use a small tray to place food on for this squirrel. He took to it pretty easily. I decided I would use a peanut split to put the Ivermetin on. Each day if I saw him, I took the tray out. Amazingly the other squirrels stayed away and he ate his special food. I also decided this squirrel needed a name since I always tend to name the special wildlife that frolic in my yard. I call him Mighty as he has mites and needs to be brave to allow me to help him!
The first day I treated him it took about 20 minutes and lots of patience. He easily took the medicine! The first dose was to treat the existing mites under the skin. I then needed to treat him weekly as there would be others that would hatch. He was to stop scratching within a day or so. After 3 days, he was still scratching. I wondered if the paste had fallen off or it was not enough. I decided to try again and this time use a raw walnut piece. It was much easier to put just a small rice grain drop onto the walnut piece. Once again he took it easily. I worried for a few days that it would be too much medicine for him to handle. Yet it was cold and I knew he needed some relief. A few days after the second dose, I noticed he wasn’t scratching and his skin was no longer so red. It must be working!
I then noticed he was not moving around very well. I had been so focused on his skin that I hadn’t noticed he was limping. His front right paw was quite disfigured and he was not putting any weight on it. I then wondered if this could be something more serious. Back to the internet I went in search of information. I stumbled across more information on squirrels than I ever thought possible! There are a lot of people out there that love and care for squirrels. I found a man who was quite the expert on squirrels and emailed him about Mighty. I even had taken some pictures so he could see Mighyt’s skin and also his front paw. He said the skin condition was classic mange and that the Ivermectin should work and continue to treat him for 3-6 weeks. He also believes the front paw is broken. Most likely he said from a mating fight. Mighty is a male squirrel and this is mating season. It is common for them to fight and broken limbs happen frequently. He said that squirrels “auto correct” when they have injuries to protect the limb and digits. He believes Mighty will heal the paw and be fine in 5-6 weeks.
I am doing what I can for this little squirrel. I had thought of trying to trap him and take him to the local Department of Wildlife for treatment. Yet I know that would be so very stressful for him. He is best living out his life here. I am doing my best for him. He eats well each day and has survived so far. I am hopeful the paw will heal, the mange will subside and that he can regrow his fur. He has a long way to go, but I can see a bit of progress.
Here is Mighty a few weeks ago. You will notice you can hardly see his ear as the fur is mostly gone.
Here is Mighty today