Squirrel wounds

January 28, 2013 | Greg Dodge

Eastern Gray Squirrel showing wound on its side.

The squirrel above was at the bird feeders. The wound, which appears to be rather fresh, didn’t seem to bother the squirrel as it went about feeding. But I suppose that there’s not much the squirrel could do even if it did bother the varmint except lick the wound. I guess the question is, how did the squirrel get the injury?

An exceptionally tall squirrels nest. This one happens to be in a tree a couple of feet inside of the Red Wolf Encosure.

If it were earlier in the year I might suggest that it was a warble that the squirrel kept scratching and biting until it burst. Warbles are caused by bot flies who lay their eggs on tree limbs, twigs, or in the nests of rodents. The warmth of  the rodent’s body or the carbon dioxide from its breath stimulates the egg into hatching. The larva enters the squirrel’s body via a naturally occurring orifice or an existing wound. About a week later it forms a warble under the skin of the squirrel which becomes a large bulging pocket filled with the larva and, well, fluid. But, I think it may be too late in the season for it to be a burst warble.

There’s no real way to know how the squirrel may have gotten injured, but its not an uncommon sight to see squirrels with wounds as in the photo. This is the season when many fights over turf break out among our resident squirrels. The squirrels are building or refurbishing nests, fighting over food sources and presumably mates, and perhaps some of these wounds occur during battle.

From what I’ve read about them, the turf wars seldom result in permanent injury to the squirrels. But, from what I’ve seen and heard myself, the fights look and sound like more than simple little spats. There’s some serious fighting going on!

Last year around this time I watched as two squirrels went at it in the Red Wolf Enclosure, not a good idea. One of the squirrels fell from a tree and was nearly captured by the female wolf. The squirrel went back up the tree to finish what it had started. It, or the other combatant, once again fell from the tree, but this time the wolf inflicted a wound on the squirrel that was fatal.

Perhaps the squirrel in the photo at the top of this page was too preoccupied with territorial disputes to notice a Red-shouldered Hawk eyeing it. Maybe a feral cat took a swipe at the bushytail. A Barred Owl may have thought the squirrel deserved a go.

Squirrels are aerial acrobats for sure, but they can be very careless during the nesting season.

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