Rescued squirrel takes over room in woman's house

An abandoned baby squirrel that was rescued by an East Yorkshire woman has taken over an entire room in her house.

Ask most people what pets they keep at home and the average response would be a cat, dog, rabbit, fish or perhaps a guinea pig. But for one woman in Bridlington, her choice is a rather more unusual one.

Shirley Higton, of Marton Road, has a grey squirrel for a pet.

She adopted the squirrel she calls Sammy 18 months ago, after her husband Steve found it abandoned in a nearby wood at just five weeks old, she said.

"My husband was walking home from work, he cut through the local wood and Sammy just appeared from nowhere. He just jumped straight out at him on to his foot and sort of clung on.

"He rang me because he didn't know what to do with him and I said 'well just put him further back in the bush and leave him just in case his mother's around'.

"So he did that but Sammy kept jumping out and following him."

'Clinging on'

Image caption A licence has been issued to the Higtons allowing them to keep Sammy

After seeking advice from an animal rescue centre, the Higtons left the squirrel in the woods. They returned a few hours later to find him still in the same spot and without its mother.

"They [animal centre] said to bring him home after two to three hours because a baby squirrel very quickly dies of cold if it's left out of its nest. So we brought him home and kept him in a big cat-carrier with a woolly jumper," she said.

"He was very lively the next morning. So we tried to take him back but as quick as we were walking away, he was galloping after us and we had our little granddaughter with us and he was just clinging on to her legs.

"We tried putting him up a tree and he wouldn't go up. In the end we just had to bring him back home because he was just following us."

Within several months Sammy had made the Higton's home his own and had taken over the family's study, she said.

Mrs Higton, a piano teacher, has had to move out of the study because she said: "He jumps on to the students as I'm teaching but they absolutely love him".

'Loves porridge'

He lives on a diet of fruit, vegetables, nuts and porridge with a penchant for plums and pecan nuts, said Mrs Higton.

"Sammy is such a messy eater and he loves porridge. It's like watching a little old man eating," she said.

"Since the onset of autumn he's still got the instinct to store away food even though he gets a regular supply of food."

Squirrels can live to about 10 years in captivity and up to five in the wild. While the advice from Natural England is to normally leave wild animals alone, licences can be issued to keep them.

The Higtons recently received their licence to keep Sammy for five years and will need to re-apply if he lives beyond this period.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is illegal to release grey squirrels or to allow them to escape into the wild, so the family will have Sammy for life.

Mrs Higton said Sammy was very easy to get on with but would not recommend people keep a squirrel at home as a pet.

"It's a full-time job. He needs a lot of looking after. We didn't realise what we were taking on until we brought him home.

"He's very high maintenance but I love him. I suppose he looks at me as his mum."

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