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Releasing Trapped Squirrels

Over about a three-year period, in the summers, we released the squirrels we caught on our own property, a total of about 90 squirrels, at different distances from our office, using both straight-line runs and zig-zag patterns to different areas.  Each squirrel was released away from buildings, parks or residential communities.  For our "local" test, releases were within sight of residential properties, although some distance away.  

To keep track of "our" squirrels, we used spray paint to mark them.  We used red for males, orange for females, and another color for the specific release site.  All in all, the females came back a little more often, gravid or not, when the release site was within a mile or two.  Squirrels trapped again and re-released, came back more often and quicker, even when the route was completely different.  Males seemed to be the ones (if they came back) that were more persistent in coming back again. Most of the returnees could be trapped again, although it usually took longer.  

A zig-zag pattern within that local mile or two makes no real difference to the normal, healthy squirrel, especially the males.  Their perception of distance is different from ours and they usually have no problem getting back.  The return of females released within that same range is a little less likely, it seemed.  Probably 80 percent of the squirrels released locally came back.  (Lots of people have the paint idea, we pick up painted squirrels on a fairly regular basis.)  

When we hit the 5-7 mile range, using a zig-zag pattern, returns were rare, maybe 1 out of 15-20.  We did have squirrels return from as many as 10-12 miles, but less than a half-dozen times.  Even stranger, we had one amazing return from almost 25 miles, although HE was taken on a straight-line run out a county road adjacent to our office. We never tried our relocation plan in the winter, I doubt if any of them would return.

We never saw one of our painted squirrels dead, but I suspect a good many of the missing perished, especially seeing as how the ones that did come back were mostly pretty ragged-looking.

Releasing squirrels at night, and at a 10 mile range was virtually certain to eliminate their return - even locally, if the release site was at least a mile away.  We only had two return under those conditions, although one male was back two days later.

The squirrels we used were not rogue squirrels, and not squirrels we had retrieved in the course of our business activities.  We could not risk releasing squirrels caught at a customer's, in the event they would return.  Our "test" squirrels were trapped on our property and released that same day or that night.

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