Life for red squirrel ranger Glen Graham currently revolves around his pocket-sized pal Gary.
Baby red squirrel Gary was found lying by the side of the road near Longhorsley, Northumberland, and was taken to Robson & Prescott’s Veterinary Centre on Whorral Bank in Morpeth.
The surgery called in Sue Mitchell, joint co-ordinator of local community group Morpeth and District Red Squirrels, and Glen.
Armed with a cage, heat mat and miniature feeding bottle to ensure that Gary had the best possible chance of survival, Glen headed back to his home near Morpeth with his new lodger.
Now six-week-old Gary is thriving on a diet of kitten formula milk and crushed nuts.
“When he was found he was very hungry but we warmed him up and fed him,” said Glen, who covers south-east Northumberland for Red Squirrels Northern England and also volunteers for the Morpeth group.
But what Gary misses is companionship.
“He squeaks like a dog’s toy for attention. When I get up in the morning he cries for me to open his cage,” said Glen. “When I do, he jumps put on to me, sits on my shoulder, and calms down. When he gets tired he sleeps in my shirt pocket while I watch TV. It looks like I’ve become mum.”
Glen will eventually plan a “soft” release for Gary, which involves placing his cage in a woodland so that the squirrel can come and go as he pleases.
“One day he will just stay in the woodland,” said Glen, for whom Gary is not his first foster venture. He was given two infant animals by the finder, who thought that they were tiny red squirrels.
“But they turned out to be stoats and I bottle-fed them and weaned them on to cat food before releasing them into the wild,” said Glen.
Part of Glen’s job is grey squirrel control and since the programme began red squirrels have increased in numbers in south-east Northumberland.
“It will have been a privilege to be in such close contact with a wild animal like Gary. But when we release him it will be into a woodland which we know is grey-free,” said Glen.
To help with red squirrel conservation or report a sighting, visit www.rsne.org.uk or call 0191 284 6884.