If Jimmy Toskr the Eastern Fox Squirrel (EFS) had been born almost 10 years ago with 20 toes, he would have spent his life running up and down trees, doing backflips over blowing leaves, growling and squealing at people and other predators under his tree and collecting tree nuts to stash in tree cavities and underground. He would have danced rapid spirals around tree branches with female squirrels in early spring, and on warm fall and winter days. He would have done the latter for the sheer joy of sunshine and freedom.
Instead, Jimmy Toskr lived his decade bound to the indoors. He was born in or around a Northwest Ohio golf course. According to Oregon State University’s National Pesticide Information Center, golf courses regularly use pesticides to maintain the health and appearance of the turf. Pesticides include herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and rodenticides, plus a few other applications that lead to golfers being advised to minimize their risk of exposure by:
- Wearing golf shoes and socks that cover the ankles
- Wearing pants or longer socks to cover the lower legs
- Consider wearing gloves and/or be sure to wash hands after golfing, before eating or smoking
- Consider calling ahead and scheduling tee time several hours later or the following day after a pesticide application has been made
Since wildlife, including Jimmy Toskr’s mother, can’t do any of those things, Jim was born with a stunted tail, no cartilage ‘cup’ around one ear and only eight toes. He was unable to climb to escape predators. He couldn’t grip tree trunks and branches or balance properly with a full, bushy tail. Although EFSs are mostly terrestrial, Jimmy was completely ground bound, and that ground was where he was found. He was accepted by Nature’s Nursery and placed in the care of volunteer Linda Madras Gorey. When it was clear that the young squirrel was nonreleasable, Linda allowed him to be put in the care of The Quarry Farm as an education ambassador. He lived with us until the early hours of Friday, December 2, 2022.
What we learned from Jimmy Toskr:
• EFS are not very social, unless the squirrel is Jimmy Toskr and his friend is Steve. Jimmy allowed Steve to stroke his forehead and to coax him back into his cage after a run.
• EFS are very intelligent. They know approximately where they have stashed tasty tree nuts, including in the ferret hammock that swings from the ceiling, and will strongly object to it being removed for any reason.
• EFS recognize when they have the advantage of safety from a predator. Quinn the Red Fox and Chryssy the Cat are two predators that Jimmy taunted on a regular basis. He knew they couldn’t get through the cage doors and would throw things at them from high on the top level. Sometimes he would sprawl like a sunbather on the lowest level and twitch his tail, just out of reach.
• EFS run, jump and roll just for the fun of it, like this:
Although an EFS may have a steady diet of tree nuts, greens and fruits, a cozy hammock to hide in and destroy a couple of times a year, fresh water and interaction with a variety of species—even when they have never really known otherwise—they recognize the absence of a life that is rightly theirs. Jimmy often sat on the upper level of his cage, watching the cottonwood and the world outside his east window. Nothing would break his concentration, not even new walnuts in the shell.
Three weeks ago, Jimmy exhibited signs of a stroke. Quinn sat outside his cage and cried. Jimmy seemed to regress; to allow and even want human contact no matter who that human was. He rode around on one’s out-stretched arm and munched apple during the ride. In the evening, he sprawled out on Steve’s chest and fell asleep. Jimmy rallied a week ago, walking on all fours to stash food under Steve’s t-shirt and licking Greek yogurt and almond butter from his favorite person’s finger. He fooled us into ordering another ferret hammock as it appeared he might actually need it for another six days, weeks or maybe months. Then he went away altogether.
In Norse mythology, Ratatoskr is a squirrel who runs up and down the world tree Yggdrasil to carry messages between the eagles perched atop Yggdrasil and the serpent Níðhöggr who dwells beneath one of the three roots of the tree. Jimmy Toskr is now whole and is running up and down the Tree of Life. He is the Toskr, hurling commentary as he connects Heaven and Earth with the support of 20 strong toes.