A suspect on the run from drug charges in Limestone County will face an additional charge from the state for possessing prohibited wildlife, an official said.
Sgt. Wendell Fulks, an investigator with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said his department filed charges late last week against 35-year-old Mickey Paulk, owner of alleged “attack squirrel,” Deeznutz.
The charges were brought because it is illegal for any person, firm, corporation, partnership or association to possess, sale, offer for sale, import, bring, release or cause to be brought or imported any live fish or animals under section 220-2-.26 of the ADCNR's administrative code. Animals falling under the section include raccoons, skunks and wild rodents, which include squirrels.
Fulks said Alabamians are charged with illegally possessing wildlife often, though it's most often raccoons or fawns.
“A lot of people have good intentions,” he said. “The message I would like to get across to people is to leave nature alone.”
Paulk and Deeznutz gained national attention last week after narcotics investigators with the Limestone County Sheriff's Office searched an apartment on Piney Chapel Road they believed Paulk inhabited. They were tipped off prior to serving a search warrant that Paulk kept a caged “attack squirrel,” and that he gave it meth to ensure it stayed aggressive.
Investigators didn't find Paulk at the apartment, but they seized the squirrel and turned it loose in some trees near the apartment. In a video posted to Facebook, Paulk claimed he returned to the apartment, whistled and Deeznutz came to him and jumped on his shoulder. There's a squirrel in the video Paulk claims is Deeznutz, but law enforcement officials have not verified the claim.
The squirrel in the video posted by Paulk is much calmer than the caged squirrel that appears in a video provided to media by the Sheriff's Office. Fulks said the caged squirrel was much more animated, but it doesn't mean the squirrel in the video was on meth.
“Squirrels in nature are aggressive,” he said. “That was not uncharacteristic of the squirrel in the cage.”
Fulks said the only real way to find out if the squirrel had meth in its system would be to euthanize it. He added if the squirrel is seized and turned over to ADCNR, it would be euthanized because squirrels are not a rare species and could spread disease. In the case of other wildlife, like raptors and deer, the ADCNR has volunteers throughout the state who work with injured or abandoned animals to rehabilitate them.
“(Squirrels) are overpopulated in a lot of areas and wouldn't be eligible for rehabilitation,” Fulks said. “They can also be a nuisance.”
Fulks, who is going on 19 years with the ADCRN, said he's never seen a squirrel receive so much attention.
“You know when President Trump is on TV and something rolls across the bottom (of the screen) about a 'meth squirrel,' it's created some buzz,” he said.
Sometimes abiding by the law means looking like a “bad guy,” Fulks said, but he said it's necessary to protect existing wildlife.
“When (animals) are exposed to manmade practices, sometimes they can carry disease like rabies. We're not going to take a chance on spreading disease, so (euthanasia) is normal protocol,” he said. “It's a hard decision to make, but we all have a common interest in animals and want to do what's best for them.”
Paulk claims he raised Deeznutz from the time it was a baby, and denied ever giving the squirrel meth. He also claimed to have moved the squirrel to Tennessee.
A gofundme page was started in an effort to raise money for Paulk's legal defense. It had raised $240 of its $25,000 goal as of Monday afternoon.
Paulk's story was televised nationally over the weekend on “Live PD,” which airs on A&E and follows police officers as they respond to calls. In between live action segments, moderators offer stories about suspects being actively sought by authorities.
The Sheriff's Office is still actively seeking Paulk and issued a warning Friday that anyone helping Paulk evade capture could also face criminal charges.