breaking news

Police hope home security video yields clues in bombing, chief says

If a baby squirrel dropped at your feet, what would you do?

Meet Fudgie the squirrel, who had a rough start in life


Linda McCoy found an injured baby squirrel on the sidewalk outside her workplace.

She hoped the animal’s mother would retrieve it. When it didn’t, she took the baby home and nursed it to health.

It’s illegal to keep wildlife as pets without proper permits.

Meet Fudgie the Squirrel, who enjoys underarm rubs, pecans and warm offices.

Last August, when he was just a few weeks old, Linda McCoy found him lying on the sidewalk outside her South Austin business, injured and abandoned. She scooped him up, whisked him indoors, warmed him by tucking him in her bra, and searched online to figure out what to do next.

The fox squirrel fit in the palm of her hand. Its eyes hadn’t yet opened. It apparently had fallen from a nest high in a treetop; it was bleeding slightly from a bump on its head. Heeding advice she read on the internet, McCoy placed him in a cardboard box from a fudge store she’d visited in Michigan. The tiny animal curled up in some shredded paper, and she set the box — with a note taped to it that said, “Don’t take the squirrel” — back outside.

She hoped the squirrel’s mother would retrieve it. But a few hours later, nothing had happened. When night fell, McCoy decided to take the squirrel home. (Who wouldn’t be tempted? But read on to find out why that’s not always such a good idea.) Based on more research, she fed the squirrel strawberry-flavored Pedialyte from an eyedropper. The next morning, she bought some puppy milk replacement, and Fudgie began his recovery.

Today Fudgie’s ears resemble tawny-colored rose petals; his eyes are black pearls. He eats Henry’s Healthy Squirrel Blocks and the occasional unshelled nut. (He likes pecans best.) He likes to pilfer items off McCoy’s desk. He once swiped a tape dispenser, and he likes to chew on a toothbrush he carried to the top of his double-decker wire cage. He’s been known to bury nuts in McCoy’s hair, especially if she’s wearing braids. His way of flipping, jumping and somersaulting looks like a squirrel’s version of parkour.

“I wasn’t planning on being a squirrel mom, but he’s been a little joy,” says McCoy, a competitive paddleboard racer who owns a textbook consulting company. She also has two sons, ages 21 and 11. “He’s like my littlest kid.”

WATCH: How the Austin Zoo prepares for cold weather

Hayley Hudnall, an Austin wildlife rehabilitator, says others who find abandoned baby squirrels should resist the temptation to bring them into their homes. Observe the animal for an hour or two first.

“Sometimes Mom will come back down and get it if it’s an accident,” says Hudnall, executive director of Austin Wildlife Rescue. “If she doesn’t, bring (the baby) to us and we’ll get it on the right diet and raise it with other squirrels so it can go back out into the wild.”

Under Texas Parks and Wildlife regulation, it’s illegal for anyone without a rehabilitation permit to raise a fur-bearing animal. McCoy does not have a permit, but has since joined the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association and filled out an application for a rehabilitation permit with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. She says she has no plans to rescue any other animal and simply wanted to save one baby squirrel.

Squirrel season is just gearing up. Austin Wildlife Rescue typically gets hundreds of baby squirrels as it starts to warm up in late February, and again in July and August.

McCoy hopes to release Fudgie to the wild as soon as temperatures are warm enough. “Fudgie is going to start spending more time outside,” she says. “(I’m) starting to transition him toward release. It makes me sad to think about, but that’s what’s best for him.”

SERVICE: Experience of raising a guide dog is worth the pain of saying goodbye

In the meantime, she wears long gloves when she handles Fudgie, who roams freely around her office, where she brings him every day. When he was a baby, she hid him in her shirt and took him with her to run errands.

Today he travels in a bright green backpack with a porthole window that looks like a space capsule. Sometimes Fudgie naps on McCoy’s lap, and he leaves tiny paw prints on her computer screen. He raises his paws blissfully when she scratches his underarms. He also chirps and grunts, depending on his mood.

“He’s kind of a spaz,” McCoy says. “Very acrobatic and curious.”

This fall, she took him to visit her sister in Boerne. She let him outside, where he dashed to the top of a tree, then came down when she called him. The same thing happened the next day.

“I think I’d be OK with him not coming back if it’s not cold outside. My fear is he’s not going to be afraid of humans,” McCoy says. “I’m fully prepared to keep him as a pet if I have to. But I feel like he deserves to be out in the trees.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Lifestyle

Lion Gate Estate: Bizarre $550K home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars takes internet by storm
Lion Gate Estate: Bizarre $550K home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars takes internet by storm

In the market for a whimsical $550,000 home with carpeted ceilings, vintage cars and statues lurking around every corner? No? You'll still want to check out the now-viral listing for Detroit's Lion Gate Estate. Trust us. "Unique barely begins to describe this one of a kind Grixdale Farms estate," reads the listing by Real Estate One's...
Americans binge 17 billion drinks a year, CDC estimates
Americans binge 17 billion drinks a year, CDC estimates

College students have a reputation for binge drinking, but it’s not just them. Americans drink massive amounts of alcoholic beverages, according to a new report.  Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, to determine...
Woman who broke barrier at Boston Marathon knows real power of running
Woman who broke barrier at Boston Marathon knows real power of running

You’ve seen the photos — a race official trying to rip the bib number off a female runner at the Boston Marathon in 1967, as another athlete shoves him away. Kathrine Switzer wasn’t the first woman to run Boston — that honor goes to Roberta Gibb, who jumped out of the bushes and ran, bandit-style, without an official number...
Today’s birthdays - Sunday, March 18
Today’s birthdays - Sunday, March 18

Today’s Birthdays: Composer John Kander is 91. Country singer Charley Pride is 84. Nobel peace laureate and former South African president F.W. de Klerk is 82. Country singer Margie Bowes is 77. Actor Kevin Dobson is 75. Actor Brad Dourif is 68. Jazz musician Bill Frisell is 67. Singer Irene Cara is 59. Alt-country musician Karen Grotberg (The...
Today’s horoscopes - Sunday, March 18

ARIES (March 21-April 19). Knowledge is the bread of life, and taking action is the meaty part of the sandwich. But constant action will be the thing that makes a difference. No one can live long off one sandwich. TAURUS (April 20-May 20). The change you desire is coming, though not immediately. Don’t worry about the schedule. Every time you...
More Stories