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The Flyers and the Frog
Wilbur Wright and Amelia Earnhardt are two juvenile southern flying squirrels found injured and orphaned in late fall of 2014. They have been in the care of rehabber Lily Alexander since that time and are now thriving prime examples of healthy happy “flyers.” When Lily needed to leave Texas for an extended period to help her mother in Washington State in January 2015, she knew that neither the squirrels nor the season were right for their release. So it was that Wilbur and Amelia came to live for a while in the Pacific Northwest.
Lily thinks it’s important to create as “natural” of an environment as possible for her “babies” so that they learn sights, smells, behaviors, and develop the coordination that will allow them to thrive once released. Given that the babies were now going to be staying in someone else’s house, some flexibility in their environment was necessary. Wildlife is quite resilient and adaptable, so Wilbur and Amelia adjusted easily to both the travel and their new home, which turned out to be the office at Lily’s mom’s house.
Lily was able to bring in fresh fruit tree branches (flying squirrels eat bark and leaf buds amongst other things) and hang up polar fleece fabric so they had plenty of places to climb and jump, which helps them learn how to fly or soar. They had their nesting materials and plenty of high places from which to survey their new home. Flying squirrels, if given proper foods and fresh branches and stimulation, are basically non-destructive to typical home items, so can be allowed on furniture without fear of it being ruined. They’re also so small and light (generally weighing between 1 to 2 ounces) that it’s highly unlikely they would knock anything over. A part of the area they claimed as “home” was a bookcase, which had a few knick knacks on the top. One of those items was a stuffed frog which was about 7 inches long, substantially bigger than Amelia or Wilbur, who at full size are about 4 inches long and lean, i.e., not “stuffed.” For the record, aside from the frog, none of the other knick knacks were ever touched.
Lily began to notice that the frog would seemingly “fall off” the top of the bookcase each day. It wouldn’t fall all the way to the floor because there was a desk top that extended out below the bookcase. Because of the frog’s location and the direction that Wilbur and Amelia jumped from the top of the bookcase, it didn’t make sense that it fell off because they used it as a springboard for a jump. The only explanation was that they pushed it off, which also seemed odd. Then Lily started noticing that if she didn’t replace it to the top of the bookcase but left it on the desk, then the next morning (flying squirrels are nocturnal) it would be on the floor. Lily decided to give the frog a little more “friction” to help it stay in place, so put a towel on top of the bookcase with the frog on top of that. The next morning, guess where the frog was? At the middle desk level. And the day after that, all the way on the floor---poor Froggy! This behavior has been repeated over and over now and is completely consistent. If Froggy is on the bookcase or desk, it will be pushed off.
We don’t know if flying squirrels have issues with frogs (although the likelihood of interaction in nature would be highly unlikely), or if it’s simply this particular stuffed frog, or the fact that they think frogs belong on the ground, but we can say for certain that while Amelia and Wilbur may be quite open to new environments, they will not put up with a frog in their house! No matter how often it’s put there!