A Cat and His Pet Squirrel

Dawn Harrison
Squirrel eating nuts in a large hole in a tree

One heartwarming part of wildlife rehabilitation is seeing the result of all the efforts put forth. For many released animals, the results are not easily tracked. Raccoons, for instance, don’t come by and say hi after being released and are more likely to show their appreciation by eating the supplemental food left for them and leaving little raccoon prints in the snow. But in the case of our most recent squirrel release, we are able to check in with the releaser and hear wonderful stories of how she is doing.

The most recent update was to tell us that she had found a spot in a tree that suited her well and had not been back to the interim release habitat for about a week. In addition, she has found a little friend and they are working together to “squirrel away” their winter hoard. Unlike the raccoons, she does stop by every few days to say hi and accept some walnuts for her stash.

Sharing the update on this little squirrel with the rest of the staff started some story sharing, which reminded me of a cat named Watson, whom we had when I was younger. He would hunt anything in sight, to the point of leaping out of trees to catch flying birds. Even with that mindset, we came home one day to find that Watson had adopted a squirrel. He’d fed it so much kibble that it couldn’t get out of the little squirrel hole that it came in through, and they slept cuddled up together in his cat bed. Such a strange connection to be made, yet at the same time, it was just perfect.

Hearing that our little released squirrel girl has also found a companion and is making a cozy nest for herself makes it all worthwhile. Not every story will end happily, but every life we are able to touch is precious and we do our best to allow for as many positive endings as possible.

Cookie, Ada, and Franklin Find a Home

Normally, we don’t take on the task of finding homes for domestic animals, but we recently got a call from a gentleman about three ducks who were losing their habitat due to the canal drying up. He said he had tried all the local officials—including the animal shelter—and no one else would help. He just couldn’t see them become prey and didn’t know where else to turn. We couldn’t let these creatures go without a fighting chance and we couldn’t let down such a kindhearted man so persistent in his intent of helping these animals, so we decided to step in.

Two white ducks and a brown mallard
Cookie, Ada, and Franklin • Photo by Doug Harmal

After reaching out to the Earthfire community on social media, we were able to connect the rescuer with a nice family who lives in a much better duck climate than our valley would have been able to provide (although we were ready to step in and bring them here if the situation got desperate). The rescuer sent us a lovely note letting us know how happy the three ducks would be:

“The individual you referred to us for the ducks came and got them. We are SO Happy because they are going to provide a very loving home to our 3 little rescue ducks. There are 3 kids in the family and they have already named their newcomers to their family: Cookie, Ada, and Franklin. They have the perfect accommodations for them and have already sent us pictures. Thank you so much for helping find a wonderful home for them. We truly do appreciate all you do for the wonderful animals in our lives. Your service is so appreciated.”

Needless to say, we are thrilled that Cookie, Ada, and Franklin have a new home and will be safe, happy, and loved.

Telling Animal Tales at Local Teton Valley School

Written by Chelsea Carson

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit a local school and talk about the Earthfire animals and how they’re connected to our larger ecosystem. The kindergarten class chose to study regional wildlife as their class project, and the excitement from the students was palpable as we talked about our local community of Life. At one point while learning about wolves, we all howled together. During the grizzly bear section, I asked how big they thought Teton Totem was in real life. All of their hands shot up into the air and one kid excitedly answered, “As big as my dad!” We covered all of the Earthfire residents and a few other mammals who visit the Teton Valley regionally. Each had a story to tell about seeing wildlife in real life, and all of the kids were able to identify each species—some even knew how to tell a grizzly bear apart from a black bear!

Woman teaches small class of kindergarteners
Chelsea teaching the K/1 Moonstars • Photo by Mountain Academy

Teton Valley, Idaho, where Earthfire is located, is a part of one of the largest remaining intact ecosystems in the world: the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). Earthfire sits at the southernmost portion of this area, and the same species of wildlife that live with us on site—grizzly bears, wolves, coyotes, foxes, ungulates, raccoons, porcupines—also roam the landscape around the sanctuary. They can also travel hundreds of miles around the GYE and throughout the even larger Yellowstone to Yukon corridor. Showing students the uniqueness of where we live is so important for their own journey of becoming environmental stewards. Our location in the GYE places us among wildlife that is more abundant than anywhere else in the world. Many of us form an undeniable bond with our Teton Valley home, and it is vital for those bonds to extend beyond ourselves to stimulate action that protects what we love.

Bringing the voices of the Earthfire animals to our local youth is one of my greatest passions, and I believe they are and will continue to be the best messengers to share Earthfire’s mission and vision. The children are our future and instilling in them love, curiosity, and respect for all Life on Earth has infinite potential.

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