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Utah squirrel is back home after being kidnapped to Wisconsin
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Kidnapped at a rest stop, locked in a box and delivered to a surreal world with many suns, one season and no sky, this Utahn likely has quite a story to tell.

Alas, The Tribune has no reporters who speak Uinta ground squirrel.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that a trucker lured the luckless rodent into a box trap near the Utah/Wyoming line on Interstate 80, then presented her as a gift to a family near Madison. But her repurposing as a house pet left both sides dissatisfied.

After two months of domestic life, the paper says, she 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 the Beehive State 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.

"She's definitely a wild squirrel," she said. Ground squirrels are "kind of like miniature prairie dogs. They immediately go to burrowing and chewing things up and shredding them for bedding. They are very, very fast, and they can climb."

Besides, she said, it's a crime to adopt a wild animal.

The center is hosting an informal poll on its Facebook page to name the squirrel. The choices: Amelia, for the pioneering world traveler, or Madison, where her entire concept of being was called into question. Madison has a strong lead.

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper

Wildlife • Ground squirrel was given to a Wisconsin family as a pet but is now at Ogden wildlife center.
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