Rachel, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in Rochester, New York, considers Jeremy the squirrel to be one of her “most special wildlife patients.” He entered her life in an unexpected way and she never imagined how close they had become.
You don’t normally think of squirrels as companions, but Jeremy seemed to really connect with Rachel. He earned her trust and love by caring for him, so naturally he felt comfortable with her.
“He still comes to visit me every day, and if I ever go out walk around the neighborhood and hear my voice, it will come looking for me ”, he says.
An unusual friendship between a woman and a squirrel
Her story began in the spring of 2020 when a woman told Rachel about an injured baby squirrel she had found. He had contacted other rehabilitators in the area, but couldn’t find anyone to care for him, according to Rachel.
“It was during the height of the pandemic. Many rehabilitators were struggling to make ends meet and could not take in as many animals as usual, ”he explained.
“She had no transportation so I made the trip to pick up little Jeremy and took him home with me. As he was alone, I became not only his surrogate mother, but also his playmate. “
Jeremy seemed to realize immediately that he was in good hands. He reached out to Rachel quickly and began to improve in no time. Rachel knew exactly how to help him with his experience as a wildlife rehabilitator.
“He was very playful and loving with me, so we used his playtime as a way to therapy to strengthen that injured arm and help it regain some function, “he said. “I spent many hours every day with him doing physical therapy and massages.”
Return the squirrel to nature
Releasing Jeremy back to his natural habitat was difficult, but it didn’t go away forever.
One of the hardest parts of being a rehabilitator is bringing an animal you’ve bonded with back to the wild. Yet Rachel wanted to see him thrive where he belonged and knew the day had come to let him go.
“I finally got to the point where I knew I was going to recover enough to eventually be released back into the wild,” Rachel said. “When Jeremy was about three months old, we began the pre-launch process on my enclosed porch, where he could acclimate to the sights and sounds of the great outdoors.”
She had been preparing him for a while before officially releasing him. He wanted to make sure that he had the necessary skills to survive the harsh and unforgiving elements.
“He spent time developing behaviors that would help him survive in the wild, such as building nests, jumping and climbing, and storing food. When he finally proved ready, I opened the door and he was able to get in and out on his own, ”says Rachel.
However, when he finally released her, he didn’t stray too far from home. He had become too attached to Rachel in their little time together.
“Jeremy decided to build a nest in a tree a few doors down, but he still came home several times a day to visit me,” says Rachel.
Jeremy needed Rachel’s help once again
One day, however, he didn’t come to visit her, so instinctively she knew something was wrong.
“I went looking for him and discovered that he had suffered a terrible injury. He had trouble standing and walking, but was too scared to allow me to get close to him at first, ”Rachel recalls. “However, the next morning, I found him back on my porch waiting for me like he knew he needed my help.”
Rachel once again came to his rescue and rehabilitated him. It’s rare for a wild animal to trust a human so much, but Jeremy knew he could count on Rachel.
“In time, he healed enough to be released again. The most rewarding thing has been seeing him adapt to life in nature while still being able to maintain a relationship with me. “
While Jeremy needed a safe environment to heal, Rachel knew she couldn’t hold him back. Once again, she had to make the painful decision to let him go. However, squirrels need each other to survive, so isolating it from its natural environment would be selfish. Despite a squirrel’s ability to bond with humans and other animals, they thrive in close proximity to their own species.
“Squirrels are wild animals, so I knew Jeremy would be happier living the free life in the trees. It is very difficult to satisfy the needs of a wild animal in captivity, so I would never recommend having a squirrel as a pet. But, Jeremy’s example shows that these animals are very hardy and have an emotional intelligence that should be appreciated and respected. “
If you find a baby squirrel in the wild, you can find details here on how to care for it. However, after attending to your basic needs, it is important to find a wildlife rehabilitator near you. They have the experience and skills to provide take care of wild animals like squirrels. However, if you are an animal lover, you should consider getting your own license!
“I would encourage anyone who loves wildlife and wants to interact with them to explore the options in their area to become a wildlife rehabilitator,” says Rachel. “It is not easy and there is not always a happy ending, but it is definitely one of the most rewarding unpaid jobs you can have.”
When Rachel picked up Jeremy the squirrel, she had no idea of the relationship that would develop between them. Even after helping him recover from his injury and releasing him into the wild, he never quite left his side. He built a nest just a couple of doors away so he could visit her regularly.
If it weren’t for Rachel, she may not have had a chance to recover and live a full and healthy life. While wildlife rehabilitators are not paid, the satisfaction of helping an animal in need is priceless.