Orphans. The word conjures a host of images, mostly Victorian, of wide-eyed children dressed in rags begging on streets or, empty bowl in hand, pleading for more; of row on row of narrow beds, each filled with a child praying for a good family. These are Hollywood images, as unrealistic in their portrayal of real orphans as television is in its presentation of detectives or living in New York City. They’re the only ones I know, though. The human kind, anyway.
But there are other kinds of orphans.
This year we’ve handled the usual: squirrels, opossums, vultures, swifts, starlings, sparrows and more, all either passing through our hands up to Nature’s Nursery or down to us from there for release or fostering. At present, we’re hosting two: a black squirrel and a Virginia opossum.
The opossum was one of six found on their dead mother (she was hit by a car). While we’re not certain how long the little ones were out there clinging to her corpse, it’s likely that it was quite a while. All six were slow and skinny and dotted with fly eggs. The worst part of such a case is that the young continue to feed from their mother and after she has died, the milk that sustained becomes corrupted, poisoned. Five of the six died. On the up side, the one that survived is strong and growing and shows no sign of becoming attached to the people fostering him. Just the opposite, in fact. He hisses and growls when we approach, bites when we lift him out to clean his temporary digs. He’s been here about a month and we expect that he’ll need to stay another before moving on and out there, on the Quarry.
The black squirrel is a new arrival, an intake from a Lima man who found him outside his apartment. After doing everything he could to reunite the little squirrel with his mother, James called us. This squirrel, like the opossum, is strong and a good eater. We’re providing a temporary safe haven for him. Tomorrow he’ll make the trip north to Nature’s Nursery where they have several other juvenile black squirrels.