Squirrels Acting Squirrel-y?

I live in a small (Maybe 200 residents) town in west central Indiana. It’s very dry here. Maybe that is the problem with the squirrels. I don’t know.

There is a squirrel out in the front yard. It is acting, well, squirrel-y. Stumbling around, walking sideways, and not really coherent. You can walk right up to it. This is the second squirrel in a week that has been acting this way. Is it lack of water? Could it be rabies? I can’t get a straight answer from anyone. I recall the drought of 1988, and I don’t recall squirrels, or any other wild animal, acting this way.

The neighbor is trying to BB gun it to death. I told him he needs a .22 for that. He said that the BB gun will work. No. Not properly, it won’t. But, that’s another thread. I have a .22, but I only have birdshot (Which isn’t going to do anything, other than make it suffer more than it already is, and I don’t want to shoot it in town.), and hollow points (Which is also not something that I want to be shooting in town!).

I called our county sheriff’s office, and the dispatcher told me that we don’t have a Conservation Officer available right now. He gave me the number for the Indiana Conservation Officers, and I called it. Their dispatcher told me that the CO for my county isn’t ‘on’ right now, and everyone else is busy. She said that she would call one of the nearby cities, to see if someone could give me a call back. So, I’m waiting for that little miracle to happen.

Has anyone run into this sort of thing?

Sounds as though it may be rabies to me. Be careful.

I’ve seen juvenile squirrels acting like that when knocked out of trees by a storm… and a little Google-fu tells me that juvenile squirrels act strangely when orphaned.

Thank you, both!
These are adult, and quite large, squirrels. We’ve not had any storms for months.

Yeah, sounds like rabies to me.

Years ago, I found a kitten on my doorstep, and it was displaying these very same symptoms. It died two days later, literally just as I was handing it (in a box) to the Humane Society worker. The worker told me that there are two types of rabies- the standard aggressive form, and the “dumb” form. It sounds like your squirrels have the latter.

Could it be drunk from having gotten into some rotting, fermenting fruit?

Years ago, decades ago, just after getting married, wait… that would be centuries ago, we lived in a ground floor studio with a little patio in the back. The squirrels would come running over in the morning looking for acorns that fell from a nearby oak tree. All except one acted like normal squirrels. One acted like some comic character actor, glancing side to side, running up on the stucco wall, jumping down, circling, moving sideways, all sorts of odd movements and behavior. We named him Psycho Squirrel. He was kind of spindly, maybe mangy, compared to the others. We were only there for a year, and he was around the whole time. Maybe rabid? Who knows.

Now we have plenty of squirrels around, they stick mainly to the front yard and the pine trees because in the backyard Blackjack is Death, the Destroyer of Critters. My wife thinks they’ve got it out for her, running across rain soaked branches that overhang the walkway as she goes under. She claims they drop pine cones and dead branches on her too. I tell her to remind them we named a son after a squirrel so they’ll be a little more respectful, but they’ve crossed her, and she isn’t the forgiving type. Anyway, the lesson is, be nice to squirrels, they can climb faster than you can.

It does sound similar to rabies, but I wouldn’t get too freaked out unless you’ve got rabies running rampant in your area.

According to our Animal Control (and verified later online), it is EXTREMELY rare for squirrels to have rabies. Most rodents don’t generally catch rabies, for one thing. But also, squirrels are small and easy to kill once you catch them. Any squirrel that tangles with a rabid critter is far more likely to end up dead than rabid.

Could they have been hit by a car? Well, not really hit but you know what I mean. That can daze them pretty good.

Lightnin’, ok. Thank you for the information.

Kimballkid, I have no idea if it had got into anything fermenting, or not. Not on our property, anyway. Hard telling what other people throw out, though.

Rabies in squirrels is extremely rare, to the point of non-existent. They aren’t high enough on the food chain to contract it.

TriPolar, LOVE the story! We have had two PsychoSquirrels. Maybe they are just psycho! I hope, anyway.

redtail23, thanks. Maybe it’s not rabies, after all.

There’s only one way to test it, and if they send anyone out here, or even have someone call me, I’ll feel better about it all.

I’m moving my vote to “Don’t kill it.”

Infestation by bot fly larvae can cause squirrels to act squirrely. Check with your extension office. Search bot fly infestation at your own risk: pics are disgusting. Dis. Gust. Ing.

carnivorousplant, ok. Thank you! I won’t kill it, and I’ve told Mr.BB man not to kill it, too. I don’t know how much suffering it’s had with him shooting it with the BBs, though. It’s probably suicidal by now.
Troppus**, Bot-flies? In west central Indiana? Interesting. Thanks!

Unfortunately. The larval stage is commonly called “warble”. This may not be your squirrel’s problem, but infestation can cause some crazy behavior. Can’t really blame them.

Can squirrels get distemper? (I’d keep my distance, no matter what. Don’t pet it!) I seriously doubt that lack of water would cause that, though.

Troppus, I don’t know what to make of it. Hard telling what the issue is. But it’s happened to two different squirrels within the span of a week. The other one died. The neighbor found him/her in his yard.

I have no idea about distemper, either. Good point, purplehorseshoe.

I’ve still not heard from any Conservation Officer,county deputy, or anyone else.
Oh well. I did the best I could.

My first thought was drunk squirrel. It happens.

I’m finding conflicting info on distemper. If they can get it, that would produce similar symptoms.

Also Baylisascaris sounds very possible. GROSS LINK WARNING: Gross Link


AND that one is transmissible to humans, so definitely stay away from the squirrely squirrels.

redtail23, wow. I’ve got dogs that go out to potty and play. In their fenced-in dog yard. Not wandering around the front yard. They’re up-to-date on their shots, but it’s getting really close to the year being up. I guess I should get them in to the vet, to have their yearly shots a bit early. It can’t hurt!

RedSwinglineOne, COOL! Drunk squirrel!