London

Nuts for Elliot: London, Ont., man spends the pandemic raising a squirrel

Wes Kinghorn of London, Ont. has been raising a squirrel he's named Elliott, after it was found abandoned in a nearby garden. When local animal rescue centres were unable to take the squirrel, Kinghorn decided to raise Elliott himself.

Wes Kinghorn has been raising the squirrel after it was found abandoned in a nearby garden

Elliott the squirrel

2 years ago
Duration 1:30
A Londoner has taken on the role of raising a young grey squirrel named Elliott. Now, Wes Kinghorn is training it to leave home and rejoin the wild. 1:30

Elliot twitches his tail and scurries up and down Wes Kinghorn's scratched-up arms and legs. The rodent's tiny little claws are sharp, but Kinghorn has gotten used to them.

Elliott, who is named after a character from the Disney movie, Pete's Dragon, suddenly flings himself off Kinghorn's outstretched arm and lands on the branch of a nearby tree.

"He kind of comes down and touches me out of the tree and he's sort of looking like, 'Hey! Why can't you climb with me? Why is my pops stuck down here while I'm up here?'" Kinghorn chuckles.

Elliott the squirrel

2 years ago
Duration 2:34
A Londoner has taken on the role of raising a young grey squirrel named Elliott. Now, Wes Kinghorn is training it to leave home and rejoin the wild. 2:34

About two and a half months ago, Kinghorn took in little Elliott after two neighbourhood kids found him in a nearby garden. 

"The kids called and I'm kind of known to do this with the little guys, but usually what I would do is bring them over to Salthaven or any other squirrel rescue. Unfortunately with COVID, around the end of April, they were full and short on staff," Kinghorn said.

So, he's been raising Elliott at his home. At first that meant round-the-clock feedings but these days means spending hours outside while the young squirrel plays in a front yard tree while Kinghorn works on his laptop on the front deck.

For now, Elliott spends nights in a cage in Kinghorn's house.

"And I let him come out here for six, seven hours a day. He doesn't like me to be too far away. He's still at an age where his mom would be nearby." 

"He's a little shy so when he sees new people he kind of hides a little bit," Kinghorn said.

"I'm trying to make sure that he's not too comfortable with people or animals. With me, he has to interact of course, but other than that, I try to keep him to himself."

"But lately he's been meeting a local squirrel and becoming friends and they took off the other day for about eight hours," said Kinghorn. "The local squirrel is a squirrel I've actually known around here for years. We call him Notch because he has a little notch out of his ear. He's an old squirrel."

Ready to leave home

Elliott is just about ready to go out on his own.

"His size is good. He can climb the trees. He has a wild time up there and he's learned to bury nuts, he's learned to find nuts, he's foraging now," said Kinghorn.

"I think in about two weeks he'll permanently leave me and then he'll come back and visit. This has been an unusual situation. Ellie and I have lived together for two and a half months. He's gotten stronger and stronger."

"It's quite a bond. When he left for the eight hours, I was happy because he has to do that but I was also sort of heartbroken. We're pretty connected."

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