Sometimes, It Isn’t Chocolate


See this little guy here? It’s a chipmunk that looks like he has been salivated all over… He wasn’t, it was wet in the leaves on Saturday morning.  Unusual picture in a couple regards, though. First, where I live in Massachusetts, we don’t see these. I mean, there might be a few out in the protected wildlife areas a few miles away, but not here. We see squirrels (grey) and lots of song birds and hawks and stray feral cats and skunks and the occasional possum (not many raccoons, but still, not unusual). One thing we don’t see… okay, two things we don’t see — red squirrels and chipmunks. Where my parents are, in northern New Hampshire, they’re all over. They’re skittish as hell too.

So seeing this guy in our yard was kind of different, and explaining how he got here was a little trickier than with the oriole we had visit this summer, which was also a bit out of the ordinary. Also notice this little guy has a stubby tail.

It looked all healed and stuff, enough, anyway, that I was pretty sure it was something he’d survive.

Mr. Shoe and I have this saying — I’ll let you work out the subtle implications — that sometimes, when you see something that looks chocolaty under a set of circumstances, sometimes it just isn’t chocolate.

I kept seeing this little guy popping around, twice on Saturday. He looked okay. I mean, kind of stupid, but given that any small rodent running out of leaf litter and spotting a person will pause, then sometimes run towards it until it realizes what a dumbass it is being, nothing seemed amiss (save for his missing tail).

So did he come in in the mouth of a cat? Dropped by a hawk? Touched by an angel? Damned if I know.

Sunday I saw him popping around briefly, from a distance.

Monday… I had to call Mr. Shoe, because I had to ask if we were duty bound to do what I would normally point and laugh at and say, “Dude, that person is from the city!”

We had to call Animal Control and Fish and Wildlife. About a chipmunk. That was potentially rabid.

First, the people answering the phone at Fish and Wildlife apparently didn’t know what a chipmunk was (the animal they were thinking about was, the best we can tell, a woodchuck.) The city’s Animal Control people did know, but said they’d only be alarmed if it were, say, a rabid woodchuck. Um… Well, up until Saturday I’ve seen as many woodchucks here as I had chipmunks. There are just so many things wrong with that picture. Is there a rabid woodchuck population that the Massachusetts government is keeping all hush hush about?

The upshot being that the state figures the chipmunk would not survive an attack with a rabid animal and manage to contract rabies. Okay. I mean, I get that, but this little bastard had a pulpy tail, was drooling, charging at squirrels and birds, would have happily let me pat him yesterday if I were someone with a deathwish, and spent about forty five minutes out in the open (on a light colored paving stone) while I walked by him, birds flew over, and predators roamed freely. Then the palsies started… best I can describe it is as if he were completely aggressively demented and then he had a little chippy embolism in his brain that left him mildly sluggish or weirdly contorting and then the clot cleared and he became completely aggressively demented again. It was pretty clear that whatever it was, it was neurological and it was all nearly done.

I felt bad, of course. I wanted to do something to put him out of his misery (and I figured maybe there was some reason why the wildlife service might be interested in knowing about potential rabies cases… though I suppose meningitis is a pretty decent suspect in this guy’s case). But if the act of having to call the Fish and Wildlife people over a maniacal chipmunk wasn’t humiliating enough… I realized that it was much smarter to just let him go on his own, because it is a really traumatic thing to botch dispatching a small animal, and I was honestly kind of terrified by this little bastard. If squirrels are skittish (which they aren’t so much, but I couldn’t get this close to one), chipmunks are by nature ten times more skittish. This one came after me, and sure as hell didn’t back down from my shadow approaching. This is behavior I’d expect from a too used to humans raccoon. And I wouldn’t push my luck there, either, incidentally.

So we don’t know if the poor little guy was rabid or had an infection or what. I’ve not seen him (nor his body) today, so I hope for his sake he’s gone to the great chipmunk chipping grounds.

I’ve got a throwing ax and some hedge trimmers ready when the zombie cats start showing up, though, I tell you.


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