Keep the WD-40 away from squirrels

  • By Sharon Wootton
  • Saturday, April 9, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

Last week’s column included a reader’s story about the weird behavior of some squirrels around his WD-40-greased bird feeder pole and lots of sunflower seeds on the ground.

The consensus of reader feedback was that the squirrels were licking the toxic WD-40 off their paws and fur, the result

being possibly brain damage.

Barbara Belshee emails: “He is most likely witnessing the temporary or permanent effects of one-time or chronic chemical exposure. Squirrels’ paws are actually their ‘hands.’

“With each attempt to climb the greased pole, they’re getting WD-40 on their hands

and belly fur, the very hands they’ll use to hold food and groom themselves; the fur that will be rubbed and licked clean …

“I recommend (that he) clean the pole and grease it with something benign and digestible like vegetable oil. Then create a feeding station the squirrels can access.”

Yet another viewpoint came from a reader who has wildlife rehabilitation experience. His take is that the WD-40 is not good for the squirrels. but that the description of the strange behavior indicates a disease, baylisascaris, a roundworm.

It doesn’t harm the raccoons that carry it, but they pass millions of microscopic eggs in their feces. Any contact with the droppings can lead to infection (keep your children away from raccoon feces, another reason not to turn raccoons into pets).

The roundworm gets into the bloodstream and ultimately burrows into the brain, creating tunnels. It affects squirrels and other animals, and leads to balance problems and other unusual behavior.

There are countless YouTube videos of squirrels falling over backward, leaning to the side and other “funny” actions, but roundworm is not funny, and it’s fatal.

Either way, ditch the WD-40, spray poles with with vegetable oil and see how that works, and stay away from raccoon droppings.

Eagles and owls: Sharon Nelson recently offered her favorite avian websites. Hornby Island eagles are the stars of Doug and Sheila Carrick’s website, www.hornbyeagles.com. It also has a chat section.

The Carricks had to get a British Columbia permit to install a closed circuit video camera in a Douglas fir about 500 feet from their home.

Doug Carrick commented on the website about the eagles’ reaction: “The eagles returned from migration, right on schedule, and noticed something new: a camera. They stared at it and glared at it, as only eagles can do, then approached closer and prodded it with their beaks. They would push their heads right up to the lens, making them look like giants on the TV screen, staring into our house.”

Since its launch several years ago, the site has drawn millions of viewers.

Nelson’s other fave site is for owl-watchers, www.ustream.tv/channel/owlceanside. The camera lets us see into the inside of an owl house on a 15-foot-high pole. Gotta love those faces! A few weeks ago, the owls were smaller but as they have grown, there’s less open space in the box so less visual individuation.

A companion site focuses on the outside of the box to catch the comings and going (www.ustream.tv/channel/owl-cam-oceanside-ca).

Nelson checks in the morning on the Sydney and Mel family. Sometimes mice are lined up on the “porch.” One clip that was posted on YouTube shows a parent flying in with food, a bit of elbowing in the box for first eater, and then the winning owlet dropping his dinner to the ground.

Most of the time the young ones swallow their food whole. Now there’s a sight that you don’t get to see every day.

Mark your calendar: The annual Washington Coast Cleanup Day is April 23, and the call has gone out for volunteers of all abilities. Last year more than 1,000 volunteers removed more than 16 tons of marine debris from the Pacific beaches.

State park rangers also need volunteers at more than a dozen parks to help with community cleanup events in April. Three parks in this area on the list are Deception Pass, Fort Ebey and Larrabee.

If you can hold a bag, you can help.

Learn more and sign up at www.coastsavers.org/Washington.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.

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