Squirrels make terrible pets.
At least, that’s what Terri Gay says. Terri is a volunteer with the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, where her main duties are helping rehab young orphaned squirrels. She also works with possums, raccoons, coyotes and, once, a cougar.
I photographed Terri in her home in Suamico, a town just north of Green Bay. It was a pretty normal photoshoot except for baby squirrels running up and down my body, hiding in my hooded sweatshirt and trying to crawl in my pockets.
Terri keeps most of her squirrels outside in custom-made cages occupying her backyard. She moves the squirrels outside once they start destroying her curtains or ripping up her couch. But she keeps the youngest in her dining room where she feeds them with an eye-dropper.
Her favorite squirrel, Stevie (who is female), enjoys sitting on Terri’s shoulder when Terri visits her in the backyard. Stevie also makes a very soft squeaking noise when Terri is near, similar to the sound of a puppy’s play toy.
“That’s their purr,” Terri says while wearing a “Squirrel Whisperer” t-shirt. After 10 years of caring for these terrible pets, Terri knows what each squirrel sound means. She knows when they are irritated, hungry, sad, scared, hungry and, most importantly, when they are ready to go back into the wild.
When I ask if that bothers her, she responds, “I try not to think about it. I know my neighbors are probably shooting them out of their trees. But I love all animals. Especially these little guys. Isn’t that right, Steeeevieeeeee?”