Because it has sarcoptic mange, I’ve been concerned about its winter survival. You can treat mange with ivermectin, selamectin, or any of the class of avermectin insecticides that kill mites and other topical parasites that cause itching in pets and livestock. Left without treatment, the animal will suffer fur loss and diminished immunity, not to mention being driven mad with the itching. It will also lose out on some time better spent food gathering and stashing. Finally, there’s an increased risk of transmitting it to other animals and species. I certainly don’t want this, but I’m not sure if the mites that affect squirrels also affect birds.
It’s possibly illegal for me to have done this, but as my dog, Daisy, died and couldn’t take her HartGard pills with her on her journey, I took one of the pills, shaved off a slice, and slathered it in peanut butter. I put one out on the patio about a month ago, hoping the right squirrel would take it. Then, I started occasionally feeding it a tidbit or two to get it used to me, so I’d be able to treat it more directly. The mange cleared up, but in the past week, it has come back (probably the eggs in the nest have hatched and new juvenile and adult mites have latched on). So I followed up with a second treatment. He (or she) has stopped running away when I open the patio door, because it knows something edible is going to come flying out and land somewhere in the garden. Sure enough, it made a beeline for it today!
I had friends in the suburbs who used to feed a black squirrel. They named it Buddy, and it would come right up to them every day. Then Buddy disappeared – for a little while. It turned out Buddy was a new mom, and she brought her babies around to visit.
While the squirrels I’ve befriended (that is, provided drugs, nuts, water, and a house for) have been bold about coming around to me, usually they aren’t so bold with their babies. But over the years, sporadic friendliness (sporadic for their own good) means there’s a shared moment of mutual recognition when we meet each other in the garden, or on either side of the patio door.
Also published on Medium.