Mother nature can be a cruel mistress. Indeed, there’s absolutely no mercy in the animal kingdom, and the food chain has no respect for the process of wildlife rehabilitation. Furthermore, this is something that a family who decided to nurse an injured squirrel back to health learned the hard way. Yes, good intentions or not, this man’s attempt to release a squirrel back into the wild went disastrously wrong.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of wildlife rehabilitation, you might assume it has something to do with taking wild animals and domesticating them as pets. In fact, it actually involves making sure injured or sick animals are able to return safely to the wild. And there are often several criteria an animal must meet in order to be released safely.
For instance, animals have to be able to survive without any outside help. That means they must feed themselves by scavenging for food or hunting prey, while at the same time keeping themselves safe from predators. And, of course, they must be able to reproduce and function as a normal member of their species.
Moreover, there are plenty of official organizations that specialize in rehabilitating injured wildlife. In the U.S., for instance, the ASPCA is well versed in helping sick creatures. Meanwhile, the International Fund for Animal Welfare treats animals all over the world, including rhinos, elephants and tigers.
However, there are also many cases where everyday folks with no special training have attempted to nurse poorly animals back to health. In January 2016 one family in Collierville, Tennessee, decided to try just that after their son Hoss brought home an injured squirrel. The family’s intention was to reintroduce the squirrel to its natural habitat once it had fully recovered.
Promisingly, after just a few days in the family’s care, the squirrel was beginning to show signs of getting better. So, Hoss’ parents decided to try releasing it back into the wild, by means of a tree in their garden. At the time, Hoss wasn’t at home, so the couple filmed their efforts for him to see later.
As the video begins, Hoss’ father can be seen cradling the squirrel in his arms as he approaches the tree on which he intends to place the rodent. Meanwhile, Hoss’ mom is busy filming the proceedings. “Look at the camera and say goodbye to Hoss,” she says.
Next, Hoss’ dad walks over to the tree and slowly places the squirrel on its wide trunk. Things start well as the squirrel begins to scamper a few inches across the bark. But then, it suddenly freezes. So, to try to encourage the rodent on its way, Hoss’ dad gives it a few reassuring strokes.
Suitably fortified, the squirrel continues moving up the trunk. And, at first, it’s all looking very promising. “There you go,” the doting dad says, “can you make it?” However, things are about to go horribly, horribly wrong for this poor little squirrel.
Indeed, the parents haven’t yet realized that their cat, Tom, is also currently outside in the garden. While cartoons like Tom and Jerry make light of cats’ tendency to chase mice, felines will actually go after pretty much anything that moves. And that includes, of course, squirrels. In fact, thanks to their luxuriant tails, squirrels tend to be of particular interest to cats.
It’s no surprise, then, that as the squirrel continues moving across the tree, Tom jumps for it. Indeed, it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in the video, but the ginger moggy absolutely launches itself at the target. And considering how high up the tree the squirrel appears to be, it’s actually a quite astonishing feat.
In a different way, the parents, too, are quite astonished. Indeed, Hoss’ mom starts screaming, while his dad hollers after the fleeing cat, “Tom! Tom!” They both appear to give chase to their pet, which apparently still has the squirrel in its clutches. And as they do so, the camera swings down and the video ends, leaving the fate of the poor rodent unknown.
Helpfully, though, the video’s description helps to fill in some of the gaps. Apparently, Tom didn’t actually kill the furry rodent. Instead, he dropped it by the front door of the house. That’s not quite so surprising – after all, cats are renowned for bringing home “presents” to their owners, and in many cases they don’t actually eat or kill their prey.
Once Hoss’ parents had retrieved the squirrel from Tom’s clutches, the hapless rodent managed to survive for another few days before eventually succumbing to its original illness. While the family’s efforts were ultimately in vain, then, they did at least prolong the squirrel’s life, instead of leaving it to die in the wild.
Meanwhile, the video of the entire ordeal was uploaded to YouTube in January 2018, and it’s since had more than 775,000 views. Moreover, the clip has also had 1,000 likes and more than 800 comments. Indeed, the startling footage of Tom the cat snatching the squirrel at its moment of release has truly set the internet alight.
And battle lines were swiftly drawn between those concerned for the squirrel and others sympathetic towards the cat. One commenter by the name of Yellow Waffle was firmly in the former camp, writing, “I really expected an eagle, still shocked, poor little guy.” Lynn Attison, too, had the rodent’s back. “Wow, I was NOT expecting that,” she wrote. “Paint me ‘scarred for life.’ WOW.”
Eric Martinez, however, was definitely on the moggy’s side. “Can’t blame the cat for being a cat,” he wrote. Meanwhile, Kevin Noll took a more realistic approach to the situation. “Natural selection,” he offered bluntly. “That squirrel was going to die anyway. Didn’t have a clue what to do when put on that tree.”
Of course, this isn’t the first showdown between cats and squirrels to get filmed and uploaded for the world to see. In January 2016, for instance, a YouTube user named FROSTY Life published a video of a particularly brave squirrel that would regularly taunt the user’s cats through the window.
Eventually, the cats’ owner decided to open the window ever so slightly, in order to show the squirrel that it probably shouldn’t be messing with the vexed felines. Unsurprisingly, the squirrel changed its mind about its teasing ways – but not for long. And when it came back, one of the cats did what all cats do best, chasing the squirrel away.
That particular video racked up almost two million views, proving the internet’s insatiable appetite for cats chasing things. Luckily, neither of the squirrels featured here actually came to harm at the hands of a feline. But it just goes to show that no matter how hard you try to save an animal, mother nature may always have other plans…