Squirrels and the Dangers of Tightrope Walking Power Lines

11 01 2013

Have you ever been outside and witnessed a squirrel tightrope walking on a powerline? Almost every day I see squirrels doing these amazing stunts and often wonder how they do it. Their tiny little feet and claws gracefully scurrying across a thin, high voltage line, crossing over streets in what appears to be a very risky endeavor. I’ve seen a few slip but would quickly catch themselves and continue on. Most of the time they make it across to whatever destination they were pursuing.

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Picture © Paul Young 2008

The other day when I was walking my dogs in the morning before work like I always do, I experienced something pretty horrific and a little traumatizing. I can’t get it out of my head.

I have a routine with my dogs and that is they get a walk every morning before I go to work. It’s great exercise for me too and really wakes me up and I feel better knowing the kids got to enjoy some semi-fresh air and a little exercise before I leave them for a day of work.

Ever since the holidays it’s been harder for me to get up as early as I would like. Each morning they get walked at different times. Sometimes early, sometimes later. This particular morning I was struggling with getting up. So their walk was just slightly later than the average.

We made it around our 1.5 mile loop and were coming down that last long stretch that dumped us out on our street. Throughout the walk we encounter other dogs walking with their owners, lots of cats that either scurry away when we approach or tense up in a ball and stare us down with evil glares, several squirrels that like to race us along the top of the wooden fences, lizards, birds, etc.

As we were walking down the sidewalk, I was keeping my Boxer mix puppy under control as she was getting excited about a cat sitting in this neighbor’s driveway. All of the sudden I heard this noise. It sounded like a splatter, one I’m oh too familiar with. This sound reminded me of my childhood days when I used to skateboard and rollerblade. There was always that one stick or rock that would get under my wheel and cause my wheel to lock while my body continued with its forward momentum. Then I would slap my body onto the concrete sidewalk, face first, sometimes catching myself with my hands or knees. It wasn’t the greatest feeling in the world. Who am I kidding, that hurt like a bitch. I recall several accidents resulting in me falling and smacking myself hard onto the concrete.

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When I heard the sound I thought to myself, “Was that? No, it couldn’t be. But that sound.” I felt it was something more than an acorn or bird poop. It was more of a splat than a splatter. When I turned to check it out I was horrified. Only a few steps behind me on the sidewalk lay a squirrel, flat on its stomach and face. I watched for a second to see if it was alive and I saw some movement. My heart went out to this thing. It must have fallen from a powerline or tree or something. The crazy thing is if I was 10-15 seconds slower it would have landed right on top of me or one of the dogs. I kind of wish it did because it didn’t look like it was doing well on the sidewalk.

I thought maybe it broke its neck or seriously injured itself. It was barely moving until I started walking back towards it. I wanted to help it if I could, and yes, I was planning on scooping it up and taking it to a vet if it was still alive. When I took a step towards it, it started to crawl a little. Its hands looked a little funny, like they were broken and weren’t working properly. This squirrel still tried to crawl, dragging its body to the edge of a yard.

I didn’t want to scare it but I had my two big dogs with me, both very interested in the squirrel now. I couldn’t just leave it because I thought time was of the essence. As the three of us approached, that squirrel quickly recovered and skipped on through the chain-linked fence to the base of a nearby tree where it sat for a few moments. I imagine it was trying to recover and stay safe. I was still a little worried since that cat next door looked like he was ready to prowl. I walked up to the fence with the dogs and the squirrel scurried up the tree, holding on without any difficulties. It seemed as if the fall didn’t hurt it that much. It was lucky this time.

That sound still haunts me because it originally appeared that the squirrel was dead and that made me sad for a moment. Oh, well. Happy endings rock!

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