While taking a walk the other day, something caught my eye – some movement in my peripheral vision that didn’t seem right. Something felt off. I looked over to my right, over a small fence on the side porch of a charming 3-story brownstone and noticed one of those “Have-a-Heart” traps with a sweet and totally terrified little squirrel inside. Ugh. Why? After mustering up my non-confrontational self’s courage and allowing a sense of duty to take the lead, I knocked on the door. Nothing. I called animal control. Apparently, responding to the totally legal and “humane” method of trapping and relocating animals is not their thing. Live and learn, I guess. I walked away but that felt pretty terrible so I went back a couple of hours later to make sure the little guy was okay.
I’m historically not the trespassing bad-ass I sometimes think I should be, in particular when I observe something I’d classify as abusive. I’m law-abiding. I’m polite and (usually) nice. Sometimes, I hate to admit, I’m even a little timid. But, damn it, Squirrelly Joe (Yes, I named him) was still in that trap and now he was partially in the sun and it really pissed me off! There are not enough exclamation points to emphasize my feelings! I mean, if you’re going to set one of those (or, more likely hire someone to do it) then do it when you’re home so you can respond quickly and not leave a little Scaredy Squirrelly Joe to suffer in there and now possibly die of heat stroke! Just don’t do it!
I called Animal Control again and said, “It’s me again – the squirrel lady? Well, now the squirrel is in the sun and he’s going to die and I’m not sure if it’s legal but I KNOW it’s not right. What should I do?” They still said it was not their problem but this time they gave me the name and number of a local Animal Rescue person named Barbara. Barbara was just who I needed. She perfectly balanced my budding hysteria with her calm voice and clear instructions. “Can you access the trap? Move him to the shade. Is there a serial number on top? If so, let me know.” I followed Barbara’s instructions and, in so doing, gained the attention of a woman inside the house. A well-dressed woman with a cigarette balanced between two fingers (Really? People still smoke cigarettes?) opened the door.
I said, “I’m not sure if you’re aware but it seems you’ve trapped a squirrel.”
She said, “Yes, I’m aware.”
I said, “Well, he’s been there for a few hours now and he was in the sun which is dangerous. I moved him but he’s not looking good.”
She said, “It hasn’t been there so long. He’s coming to get him now.” I waited for her to elaborate but she didn’t so I offered my helpful suggestion to only set that trap when she’s home so she can act quickly and her little prisoner won’t get too distressed or hot or dehydrated. puff puff. She closed the door.
I wanted to say (but the door was closed) that I know it’s easy to be indifferent and to see a squirrel as a nuisance – as a problem to be solved or as an “it” versus a he or she but that, really, it’s just a small animal who feels really scared who doesn’t mean to be a bother but needs to nest and eat and scurry about just to survive. I wanted to say that we humans have all the power and we can choose to use that power to dominate and control or we can try to coexist. I didn’t get to say this to her. Instead, I walked away feeling dejected, quietly brooding until I realized Barbara was still on the phone. Oh my, that woman has deep and enduring patience. We talked a bit more but she was at that moment on a rescue so we agreed we could talk later. I wanted to feel better prepared should anything like this situation arise again. When I feel prepared, I can actually be that bad-ass defender-of-justice-for-all-beings gal I want to be. Nothing wrong with being polite and law-abiding, but sometimes those who can’t speak for themselves need a little help. Usually, they’re better off when we leave them alone but, sometimes, they need us to speak for them.
In addition to preparing myself for future encounters, my experience prompted me to do a bit of research. According to Skedaddle Humane Animal Control relocating squirrels doesn’t work and can actually increase a squirrel population. I’m not entirely lacking in compassion for the plight of puff-puff lady (I didn’t catch her actual name). I happen to live in the woods so I get that we have to take measures to happily coexist with critters who were, incidentally, here first. Prevention seems to be the best way to go. Plug up any entry points, trim trees, and use squirrel-proof bird feeders. I think I’ll write puff-puff lady a letter just in case she’s yearning for more of my helpful hints.