It should go without saying, but it's illegal for any Alabamian to possess any animal found in the wild. However, that law didn't keep a Limestone County man from housing a caged squirrel in his apartment.
Stranger still, Limestone County narcotics investigators who served a search warrant at an apartment Monday were warned the man kept the animal as an “attack squirrel.” Investigators were told the squirrel's owner gave it methamphetamine to ensure it stayed aggressive.
A state wildlife official said there are several reasons why Alabamians shouldn't keep wildlife, but the law is first and foremost. Jud Easterwood, supervising wildlife biologist with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries office in Tanner, explained furry wildlife critters are regulated by the state because they are not migratory.
“We just like to remind people it's called wildlife for a reason, and it's just not a good idea to bring it into your home,” he said, adding Alabamians often attempt to rescue fawns seen alone in the wild. “If you see one by itself, it's there for a reason. The mothers leave them, but it doesn't mean they're an orphan. Let it be, and let Mother Nature do its job.”
When asked about other animals people attempt to domesticate, Easterwood said squirrels, raccoons and possums are the most common.
“Little baby possums are kind of cute,” he said. “When things are babies, they're more appealing.”
When asked if a squirrel could be trained to be an “attack squirrel,” Easterwood laughed and reckoned a squirrel would be about as trainable as a rat.
The “attack squirrel” seized as part of Monday's search warrant was released into the wild on the recommendation of the Alabama Department of Conservation. Limestone County Sheriff's Office deputy and spokesman Stephen Young said there was “no safe way” to test the squirrel for meth.
In addition to the squirrel, investigators also seized meth, drug paraphernalia, ammunition and body armor from the apartment, located in the 21000 block of Piney Chapel Road in Athens. The apartment's tenant, 35-year-old Mickey Paulk, was not home at the time and was still being sought Tuesday by the Sheriff's Office.
When found, Paulk faces charges of possession of a controlled substance, certain persons forbidden to possess a firearm and possession of drug paraphernalia.
A man inside the apartment, 37-year-old Ronnie Reynolds of Ardmore, was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and loitering at a known drug house. He was later released from the Limestone County Jail on $4,000 bond.
The “attack squirrel” story was picked up Tuesday by a number of national news outlets, including the Associated Press. As of 4 p.m., The News Courier's story had been read more than 4,600 times and shared more than 400 times. A search of social media yields an abundance of memes and GIFs associated with the story.
Someone also created an “attack squirrel” Twitter account, @attacksquirrel2. Young said he had corresponded with 20 to 30 regional and national media outlets regarding the story after it broke.