CARROLLTON, Ala. — On Jan. 29, Donna Bain of Carrollton, Alabama, was in her home cooking supper when she got a text from her 10-year-old son, Clark, who was out hunting with Donna’s husband, Keith.
The message contained a picture of two hairless, wrinkled baby squirrels, along with the message: “Can we keep them?”
Keith and Clark found the squirrels in the family’s shooting house when Keith accidentally destroyed their nest. The two baby squirrels fell to the ground, while their mother raced up a tree.
“She wouldn’t have been back until the next morning, and they’d have been dead by then,” said Keith.
The Bains are an outdoorsy family. Their house is surrounded by woods, and the family goes hunting every season. Both Clark and his 14-year-old sister, Carrington, have animals they have hunted mounted on their walls. The night the Bains found the squirrels, they had already killed a doe, so Donna put supper on warm, and she and Carrington took the Polaris down to the shooting house to pick up the deer. They brought a box along for the squirrels.
“They were ugly,” Donna remembered.
“I thought they were cute,” Clark disagreed.
Though Clark found the squirrels, Carrington is the one who usually cares for them, according to her parents.
“Carrington has a tender heart for animals,” Keith said.
She keeps the squirrels in a large shoe box with air holes poked in the lid. Inside the box is a heating pad covered by towels.
“The first night, we didn’t know that they needed a heating source, so the next morning they were really cold,” Carrington said. “You’re not really supposed to feed them if they’re cold, so we ended up putting a droplight over their box.”
Later, the family replaced the light with a heating pad. They also did some online research to get a better idea for how to care for their house guests.
The squirrels, christened Hershey and Daisy, eat four to five times a day. Carrington feeds them when she gets up every morning, then again at around 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. During the day, while Carrington is at school, Donna feeds the squirrels at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The squirrels eat raw egg yolk in a bowl of milk.
The care seems to have done the trick.
In four weeks, Hershey and Daisy have close to doubled in size, according to Keith and Carrington. They are also now covered in a thin coat of fur and are becoming more active, wriggling through the towels in their box and sometimes crawling on top of each other. When Carrington takes the top off their box, they lift their pink noses up to sniff the air. Though their eyes are not quite open, Donna expects that to change in a few days. Clark added that they were starting to make squirrel noises.
Considering their small size, the squirrels live a rather adventurous life. They make the trip to Columbus with Donna and the children, both of whom attend Heritage Academy, every school day. And though they don’t interact much with anyone, they do occasionally get sniffed by the Bains’ indoor dog, Lilly, while Carrington or someone else in the family supervises.
Their box is big enough that they both have room to move around, but small and dark enough that they can stay safe and warm when the lid is on. Sometimes they sleep close together, according to Carrington.
“They like to sometimes stay near each other, but…they don’t really play yet,” she said.
The Bains plan to put the squirrels in a rabbit cage. They added that the cage will have to be up on stilts — the family’s other two dogs are squirrel dogs.
And eventually, they said, they’d like to release Hershey and Daisy back into the wild if they determine that the squirrels can survive on their own.
“I wouldn’t want to keep them in a cage forever,” said Keith. “They belong out in the wild.”
Until then, Hershey and Daisy stay snuggled in their new home. The Bains think it is important to protect the squirrels and keep them safe.
“They probably would have died if we had left them there, and it’s better to give them a chance at life than to just leave them,” Carrington said.
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