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The 'squirrel whisperer' nurses baby animals back to health

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There's a man in North Hudson, Wis., who has a way of helping baby squirrels – he's nursed 11 of the little critters back to health over the past three years. And for that, he's earned a nickname: The "squirrel whisperer."

According to the Hudson Star-Observer, Dan O'Connor's first encounter with a baby squirrel in need was in 2011, when the animal showed up in his yard, barely alive. He said he pulled into his driveway, got out of his car, and felt something on his shoe.

“So I look down, and there was this little, tiny squirrel on my right shoe," O'Connor told the newspaper.

He named the animal Squirrely, and nursed it back to health over a few weeks, first by feeding it milk with an eyedropper, then giving it peanut butter, nuts, seeds and fruit.

After O'Connor released Squirrely back into the wild, neighbors and friends would occasionally bring over other baby squirrels, all of which had lost their mothers to cats, dogs, power lines or other circumstances.

One year he found a cardboard box on his deck with four squirrel babies inside and a note that said, "Good luck," according to the paper.

In all, he's cared for 11 squirrels – feeding and caring for them until they were strong enough to be let go.

"After a week or so of being on their own, they’re completely wild. They’re like ‘who are you?’ when they see me," O’Connor said, according to the Star-Observer.

Only one – the 11th – didn't survive, and that's because it was hit by a car in the street a few weeks after O'Connor let it loose.

O'Connor doesn't have any specific training in caring for animals. He's a welder for a railroad company, but he said he watches a lot of nature shows on television.

Wildlife experts discourage people from trying to help injured wild animals on their own due to the risk of disease or injury, and for the animals’ own good. In fact, O'Connor is violating a Wisconsin law that requires a license to rehabilitate animals, FOX9 reports.

O'Connor didn't know he needed a license until just recently, and said he's in the process of getting one. But he's not too worried about his safety.

"I don't know what's going to kill me. It's not going to be baby squirrel spit, I guarantee that,” O'Connor said, according to FOX9.

He added that if he runs across another baby squirrel in need of help, he won't hesitate to act – with our without a license.

“If there are orphan baby squirrels out there you just can't leave them,” he said.

Officials with the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources say in general, people should leave baby animals alone unless their mother doesn't return to care for them. If that happens, they're urged to contact the DNR or a licensed wildlife rehabilitation expert.

Here's the FOX9 report.

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