When a member of the public arrived at the PAWS Wildlife Center on July 9 with a box containing orphaned squirrels from Seattle, we assumed we were receiving a litter of Eastern Gray, Douglas or Northern Flying Squirrels. Ordinarily, this would be a safe assumption. All three of these species are found in the Greater Seattle Area. But when we opened the box, we found four babies that had no business being on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. They were Red Squirrels, a close cousin of the Douglas Squirrel that is only found in the northeast and southeast areas of the state.
What were baby Red Squirrels doing in Seattle, over 150 miles away from the nearest appropriate habitat? As it turns out, the little squirrels may have been on vacation. Well, to be clear, it was probably someone else's vacation, and the squirrels were just accidentally taken along for the ride.
The person who brought the squirrels to paws had found them in the heart of downtown Seattle, floundering on the pavement in a hotel parking lot. Their mother had likely made her nest under the hood of a car, and then the car had driven off with the nest and babies inside. How or why they finally became dislodged in the hotel parking lot is unclear, but there they were, and they needed help. We were able to give them the help they needed.
After seven weeks in our care, the Red Squirrels were ready to be released. On September 1, I drove them over 160 miles to prime Red Squirrel habitat in the Okanogan National Forest outside of Mazama, WA. I documented their transition back to the wild in photographs.
The four young squirrels were a little nervous after their three-and-a-half hour car ride. They huddled together in the back of their release carrier.
Likely feeling exposed and vulnerable, the squirrel became nervous on top of the carrier.