After being kidnapped at a rest stop, locked in a box and driven over state lines, this creature's surely got quite a story to tell.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that a trucker lured a luckless Uinta ground squirrel into a box trap near the Utah-Wyoming border, then presented her as a gift to a family near Madison, Wis. But the squirrel's repurposing as a house pet left both sides dissatisfied.
After two months of domestic life, the paper says, the rodent was taken by the family to Madison's Four Lakes Wildlife Center, which inherited a conundrum: A Uinta ground squirrel's natural range extends from central Utah to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, and she faced a grim end unless they could return her to the region.
That's when the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah received an unusual call.
“They said they had a squirrel that needs to come back to Utah,” said wildlife specialist Dalyn Erickson. “It was like, 'Well, how did you get a squirrel that was from Utah?'” ”
Gayle Viney, public relations coordinator for the Dane County Humane Society, said they looked into flights for the squirrel, but a former Four Lakes wildlife assistant offered instead to give the critter a lift on her way to a backpacking trip. Transfer papers were signed, and now she's back in town in time for Thanksgiving. Trucks, nuts and automobiles.
The ground squirrel is inclined to hibernate — they're usually out for 8 to 9 months a year — but she doesn't have enough fat stored up to survive, so the Ogden center is trying to trick her into thinking it's summer by using artificial light and piping in supplemental heat to mimic longer days.
When April comes around and her friends wake up, they'll release her back into the wild.
Erickson said squirrels are captured for pets more often than you'd think, though she can hardly fathom why.