There are squirrels all around campus; however, not many of us get a chance to get close to them before they scurry up a tree. Well, K.T. Payne was able to get a very up, close experience with a squirrel, a baby one.
Payne, a senior in biology, was in Dr. Bartlett’s class when a student brought in a baby squirrel in a box and put it on his desk. Payne went up to Dr. Bartlett at the end of class to see the squirrel. She jokingly asked if she could have it, which to her surprise, Dr. Bartlett said yes.
Payne took the baby home and started researching how to take care of it and get it to survive. She knew she had to get its body temperature up. Once that was constant, she began the rehabilitation process. She had to feed the baby which she named John Boy, every 3-4 hours. A diligent Payne fed him puppy milk replacer in a bottle, kept him in a warm spot, and became a type of mother. Baby squirrels only bond with one person, so Payne has been the only one to take care of him since day one. Caring for John Boy has been quite the task and required a lot of dedication.
That was two weeks ago. Since then, John Boy has grown a fluffy tail, learned to eat nuts, and climb. His favorite food is peanuts, and he will wait until you give him those. When Yearbook staff went to take his picture and interview Payne, John Boy was a bit shy with the camera but quickly warmed up to it. He became quite the celebrity of the photo shoot, making Payne’s other pets, a dog and cat, a bit jealous.
John Boy isn’t the only celebrity, though. Payne has had her share of fame recently. She was named a recipient of the Young Botanists Award by the Botanical Society of America. Only 25 are selected a year. Because, Payne’s specialty is in botany, rehabilitating John Boy was new.
“It has been a real learning experience,” said Payne.
Payne has now found a home for John Boy at Noah’s Landing in Coats. There, he will have a nice and bigger enclosure. He will be rehabilitated further and hopefully released into the wild.
“It will be sad to see him go, but it is also exciting to see his growth and development,” said Payne.
We wish John Boy good luck in his new habitat, and Payne the best of luck as she prepares to graduate. John Boy certainly was a lucky little squirrel to get the amazing care he got.
Written by: Marisa Linton
Photos by: Emily McIntosh