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A kindhearted animal lover from Louisiana is raising a baby squirrel after nursing it back to health during quarantine.
Producer and dance teacher Emily Istre was asked to foster an injured baby squirrel after her mother discovered it in her garden, just at the point when Louisiana was going into lockdown.
The little squirrel, who Emily named Willamina or ‘Willa’, was very sick, dehydrated and malnourished at first, with a severe eye injury having caused blindness in one eye. However, five weeks on and sweet Willa is thriving in her new home.
Willa – or to give her her full name, Willamina Ballerina Istre – now has her very own Instagram page where her new fans can catch up on her progress.
At first, Emily wasn’t sure Willa would even make it through. However, the pint-sized fighter is now said to be ‘healthy and happy’, with a fondness for snacks and a liking for wrestling with a ‘little stuffed sheep ‘.
Speaking with UNILAD, dedicated Emily said:
It was round the clock care and just doing my best to keep her comfortable. I figured if she passed, at least she would have some peace and be comfortable instead of being a larger animals prey.
I cleaned out her eye infection every day with warm water and a sterile q-tip. Then I’d apply antibiotic ointment several times a day to fight the infection.
One day the giant gnarly scab that took up half her face fell off. There was a noticeable difference in her demeanour after that! Even though that eye is blind, she wasn’t in pain anymore and I was very apparent.
Willa’s diet is mostly puppy milk replacement, with Emily introducing different foods whilst trying to wean her. Willa reportedly enjoys squirrel ‘junk food’ such as walnuts, sunflower seeds and corn, but is also given lots of nutritious grub such as sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli and carrots.
Willa is full of fun, and already has favourite games she likes to play. According to Emily, her favourite game is to ‘bury’ stuff in items of clothing:
She will find a marker or something shiny and try to bury it in my pants or my shirt. She also does that with her snacks. I often find sunflower seeds in my bra!
She has an amazing treehouse my friend Cy Brown built for her. It’s made of all natural wood so she can chew on it and it’s equip with a giant deer antler for her to gnaw on. Squirrels gnaw on bones in the wild for their teeth and calcium.
But ultimately her favourite thing is to run up and down my legs and climb up to my head. If I’m near, she runs and jumps to be on me. She knows where her bread is buttered!
Willa also likes being sung to, and is lucky enough to have a human mama with a truly lovely singing voice. Various vids on her Instagram show Willa cuddling up for a lullaby, with her favourite songs including Baby Mine, You Are My Sunshine and Smile.
According to Emily, these songs will help Willa to drift off peacefully on nights when sleep doesn’t come easy to her. Much like a human baby.
Emily has previously rehabilitated sick animals, and always released them back into the wild. However with Willa it’s a slightly different story.
View this post on Instagram
Just an inside look into the struggle to get this girl to sleep in her bed AFTER the lullabies. She will be knocked out on me or in my hands. But as soon as I try to put her in her bed, she is not having it! A nightly struggle lately. I am one tired mama! . . . #tired #butworthit #Willamina #Willa #oneeyedwilla #wildlife #rescue #rehab #squirrel #girl #precious #angelbaby #squirrelgirl #potd
Speaking with UNILAD, Emily emphasised that squirrels should not usually be domesticated, but Willa’s case is slightly different:
They do not make good pets! I don’t want people taking baby squirrels from nests because she’s cute and they want a Willa.
She’s the exception to the rule, because she has some blindness and has imprinted on me too much to be able to survive on her own.
But if people find a baby squirrel, it’s best to always try to find the nest and put them back. Or get a wildlife rehabber to take them if possible.
I am caring for her because this all started at the beginning of quarantine lockdown. Otherwise I wouldn’t have kept her if rehabbers could have taken her. I am in the process of becoming a licensed wildlife rehabber and have done some wildlife rescue in the past.
All the best of luck to beautiful Willa as she continues to grow and heal in the lap of luxury.
It’s okay to not panic about everything going on in the world right now. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization, click here.
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