McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

August 28, 2006

One lucky squirrel

By James Beaty

A baby squirrel found near a tree after a bolt of lightning struck the oak on Friday is being fed bottles of puppy formula — served along with huge quantities of the milk of human kindness.

The squirrel’s mother died in the lightning strike at the Frank and Janice Cuzalina residence at 100 Peaceable Road With pieces of bark scattered as far as 100 feet away and with the baby squirrel burrowed nearly beneath the grass, it almost remained undetected.

The fur on the little squirrel’s back had almost the same coloring as tree bark. However, when the baby moved slightly, the motion caught the attention of those at the scene of the lightning strike.

Parting the grass revealed the squirrel’s tiny head and tail — and also revealed that it hadn’t yet grown old enough to open its eyes.

No one could tell why the mother squirrel had been killed and the baby appeared uninjured.

The tree’s lowest branches were high above the ground. Despite a search, no other baby squirrels were found.

As for the baby squirrel, Janice Cuzalina went inside and got a shoe box so it could be transported to the Renegar Animal Hospital.

Dr. Brian Renegar heard the story and then checked the tiny squirrel. He gauged its age by its appearance, since it hadn’t yet been weaned or opened its eyes.

“It’s less than two weeks old,” Renegar said.

He knew just what to do. Renagar asked for Lauretta Fontaine, who he said is an animal adoption specialist.

She held the tiny creature gently in her hands. Fontaine instantly mixed up a bottle of powdered puppy formula and poured it in the bottle. After a few tries, the baby squirrel began sucking hungrily.

“It’s got to be fed every two or three hours,” Fontaine said. “That means I’ll be waking up tonight.”

She also took a towel out of a dryer, so the squirrel could nestle in the warm cloth.

“I’ve got a heating pad at home,” she said.

Fontaine said she didn’t know what to call the squirrel.

“How about Lucky?” someone suggested.

Fontaine plans on raising the the tiny animal until it’s old enough to survive on its own.

“She’ll raise it on a bottle until it gets old enough to release,” Renegar said.