A squirrel got the grand tour of Fredericton this week, chauffeured in the back seat of Fred Sharpe's car.
For just over three hours Wednesday, the unwitting Sharpe went about his morning routine, beginning with a visit with friends at Tim Hortons on Woodstock Road.
He later shopped at Giant Tiger and Canadian Tire, then proceeded north across the St. John River in search of cigarettes and fiddleheads.
Little did Sharpe know that a squirrel was relaxing in the back of his Chevrolet sedan, soaking up sunshine through the rear window.
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"He would've been in there for God knows how long," said Sharpe, who lives in Island View, just west of Fredericton.
If it hadn't been for the curious Rob and Jess Fleet, the squirrel — now named Nutty — might have stayed in the car much longer.
The Fleets were dropping off their two-year-old daughter, Brooke, at daycare, when they spotted the rodent in Sharpe's car just ahead of them.
At first, they weren't sure what to make of the grey animal.
"Some people have strange pets, so maybe it was a pet," said Jess. "I didn't know."
'He had no idea there was a gigantic tree rat in the back of his car.' -Rob Fleet, curious driver
"When we saw it, it was stretched out just sunbathing on the back of the car window," Rob said. "I thought it was a cat for sure."
The couple decided to find out what kind of animal it really was, so they followed Sharpe. Their drive took them up Smythe Street to Prospect Street and required speeding through a yellow light.
"We were going to follow as long as we had to," Jess said.
Claim to fame
During their five-minute adventure, the Fleets decided to document the escapade on video, which they put on YouTube. So far, the video has received more than 9,000 views.
"How many times do you come across a squirrel in the back of a dude's car?" asked Rob. "I originally thought, 'I need to send this to my mom.'"
When Sharpe finally pulled into the A To Z Rental Centre on Prospect Street, the couple approached him about his passenger.
"It could have been dangerous," Rob said. "If [Nutty] jumped on Fred's lap, or in front of him, he could have swerved off the road and hurt someone."
Sharpe thought the whole thing was a joke — that is, until he opened the backdoor of his vehicle.
"I just died laughing," Rob said. "I said, 'I knew it, he had no idea there was a gigantic tree rat in the back of his car.'"
A love of wildlife
Sharpe believes the squirrel got into the car that morning through a window that was slightly open. The rodent was likely looking to chew on sunflower seeds, which Sharpe stores in the back of his car to feed other wildlife.
This isn't the first time Sharpe has unknowingly kept wildlife in his car. He's had mice, a cat and birds.
"They never bothered me too much," he said.
Shortly after finding Nutty, Sharpe, who keeps a broom in the back seat, freed the squirrel into its natural habitat, which is now Fredericton.
"I live in Island View and he lives on Prospect Street," he said.