Written by
Preeva Tramiel
May 2012
Written by
Preeva Tramiel
May 2012

On Tuesday, I was in my garden with my gardener, showing him my new beehive, when I noticed what I thought was a dead grey squirrel curled up near the compost pile.


“Oh, Federico,” I said, “There’s a dead squirrel, can you get rid of it?”


The squirrel must have heard.  It unrolled itself, sat up and blinked.  It wasn’t running away though. It just sat there.


Federico and I discussed the squirrel, and it sat still while we talked about it. Federico noticed that ants were crawling over its spiky little feet. Yes, the sick squirrel was pathetic, but then I was overcome by rage at its kind.


I am constantly battling squirrels.  They eat my flower bulbs.  They wiped out my crop of snow peas by eating the plants.  They dug out my lettuce plants. Squirrels, I have heard and I believe, are rats with good PR.


Two years ago, I heard a funny noise under my skylights, hired a roofer, sent him up to look, and a squirrel had been CHEWING ON MY SKYLIGHTS. YES. I have photographic proof of this.


“Federico, just get rid of it.” I said.

“Yah, I’ll probably just move him” he said.  Federico is a gentle soul.

“Whatever you want, I can’t stand to see it,” I said, and I thought no more about it that day.


Very early the next morning, I had a dream about fleas and squirrels that woke me up and made my blood run cold.


 I was planning to go into my doctor’s office for a blood test for my annual physical. And fleas bite people. And squirrels. And people again.  Well, I sent an email to my doctor, you will see for yourself.



Hi, Kathy,

I am coming in for my fasting blood test today.


Also--and this is silly, but bear with me--is there bubonic plague or some other rodent vectored disease around? Yesterday, there was a dying squirrel in my garden, I didn't touch it, but I asked my gardener to get rid of it.


 This morning I remembered that the plague, and probably other diseases, are passed by flea bites from rodents, and a squirrel is just a rat with good PR. Leonard tells me that they find a couple of squirrels carrying plague in the Sierras every couple of years.

I am going to find a vector control website--they would know.



I know about vectors from AP Biology, organic gardening, and the movie ‘Contagion.”  I have heard the news stories about  mosquitos and  flocks of ‘sentinel chickens ’  the counties maintain. I looked up the Santa Clara County vector control website on Google:

Splashed all over the page is WNV, the West Nile Virus, but there is a picture of a dead bird at the bottom right hand corner of the page that says, “ Report dead birds and squirrels here,” and the link was clickable.

I clicked, and there was a phone number and a list of diseases that are carried—vectored—by backyard critters, and yes, plague is there.

(oh, yikes! Plague. Buboes. the Black Death. Ever see a movie called Restoration with Robert Downey Jr, ?)



Palms sweating and visions of  “Bring Out Your Dead” from Monty Python dancing in my head. I called the number and left a message on their machine about how I had an ailing squirrel in my backyard.


After I hung up it hit me.

The squirrel was not dead when I saw it, only lethargic and I  had not asked my gardener to kill the squirrel, only to get rid of it, and he said he would probably move it.


The squirrel might have recovered.  It was on its own, not my problem.


I stopped hyperventilating, and left the house to get blood drawn for my physical.


When I got back, my husband hollered down the stairs at me.

 “Did you call someone about a sick squirrel?”

I wanted to tell him about everything, fleas, plague, buboes, Monty Python.  I wanted to bury my face in his chest and have him soothe my fears of being the epicenter of a horrible pestilence.  But he was upstairs, and I am lazy.

“Yes,” I hollered back upstairs to him.

“They said if the squirrel isn't dead, and you don't have it, then they can't pick it up."

“OK,” I hollered up. Right, I thought. They can't test a rumor for West Nile Virus, they need a body. I made a quick tour of my garden, lookinng for the corpse, but didn't find anything. So the squirrel probably made at least a partial recovery.


If that squirrel ends up chewing on my skylights, I guess it serves me right.

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