Death-defying squirrels and scared cats

Arborists confront many challenges in our daily work.  Usually the problems relate to how to remove a branch with out damaging a house chimney, or a stone lawn ornament or how we are to access the top of a certain tree.  But since every day is different, it shouldn't be a surprise that some times we get to deal with animals.  I have run across my share of squirrels, raccoons and cats over the years.  I want to share a few ante dotes here, but don't worry no animals were injured in the telling of these stories.

Squirrels are the cause of our most common animal- human confrontations.  Usually once the squirrel realizes that we will be working in his tree, he most often vacates the premises while we go about our task.  But on occasion, we have come across more stubborn squirrels that don't want to leave the tree until we start our ascent into the canopy. A tree climber now has to do the trimming or branch removal, and worry about this small mammal climbing around with him.  Once the squirrel realizes that we are not going to leave any time soon he will jump to another tree, or scamper down the trunk to one of his other numerous homes.  Once in a while however, there can be a surprise squirrel, hiding in a cavity or a nest.  When this happens we try to just leave him alone.

A couple years back, I had to remove a beech tree that was right next to a house.  The top of the tree was dying, and the tree needed to be removed before it broke apart and damaged the house.  I started to climb to the top of the tree, as I moved higher, and got near the top I noticed a cavity in the tree.  I paused here, and prepared my ropes and got ready to remove branches from this location.  Immediately after I started my chain saw, a grayish brown fur ball jumped out of the cavity, traveled down my left arm, jumped onto my leg and proceeded to continue down the trunk of the tree.  This skittish squirrel was already running around on the ground before I realized what happened.  My adrenaline really got going there, and I sure was glad that I was firmly attached to my ropes.  Once I got my wits back, I continued with the task and got the job completed.  An arborist will not let rain, sleet, snow, or squirrels stand in his way.

I have also been involved in a few cat rescues over the years.  I want to start by first mentioning that the best way to get cat out of a tree is to place food and water at the base of the tree.  A hungry or thirsty cat will want to come down.  Patience is important because it can often take hours or even days for the cat to venture down.  In rare situations a cat will become too scared and stay in the tree.  This is the time that at cat rescuing arborist may need to attend to the matter.  People often picture the cat rescuer climbing into the tree with some treats and a bag or pillow case to securely capture the feline.  Unfortunately I can attest to the fact that this method does not work.  I have never been able to get coax a cat into my arms or a bag, no matter how hard I tried.  The more effective way is an indirect approach.  The secret is to climb up past the cat, so that the rescuer can then gently prod the cat to move down the tree safely to the ground.  After all, if the cat was able to go up the tree, it should be able to go back down the tree.  This is the manner in which I have gotten cats out of trees.  It sounds easier than it is, because getting up past the cat with out him climbing up higher and higher is no easy task.  The moral of the story is try not to let your cat climb trees.

Whether it is dealing with death-defying squirrels or scared cats, arborists are called on to perform many tasks that are not part of our job description.

August Hoppe

Certified Arborist WI-0477A

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