The simple concern shown by a man toward an abandoned newborn flying squirrel in Tampa, Florida, has led to a strong bond between the two, despite naysayers who indicated that the squirrel would never make it.
Jeff Longo is a resident of nearby St. Petersburg who happened to be walking on a Tampa sidewalk in the midst of a hot day in September 2013. Noticing the ailing newborn on the scorching ground, the bearded Longo decided to pick it up and try to help it survive, despite not even knowing what type of animal he was handling.
After giving it the name Biscuits, Longo went online to determine the best course of action in nursing it, posting photos of the female flying squirrel, which was just three centimeters long at the time. He quickly found that few people had faith in his ability to help the squirrel, since he had no experience in either veterinary medicine or rehabilitating animals.
Undaunted, Longo set about helping Biscuits grow, combining heavy cream with puppy formula and feeding it through a standard baby bottle. This homemade formula began to shown clear signs of working, with Longo taking the squirrel to work with him each day.
The squirrel’s diminutive size, coupled with the casual nature of Longo’s job, allowed for this approach. Each day, he put Biscuits in his shirt pocket and fed it daily, with the combined warmth of Longo’s pocket and the consistent diet allowing the flying squirrel to grow in natural fashion.
By the time Biscuits had reached three months of age, the squirrel’s constant presence in Longo’s house allowed his dogs to be comfortable with it. His own photos show one dog nuzzling noses with the squirrel, though he notes that one safety consideration in place is making sure that the dogs don’t accidentally crush the still-small animal.
Since flying squirrels are nocturnal in nature, Biscuits spent most of the daylight hours asleep while in Longo’s pocket. When nighttime arrived, the more playful squirrel adapted to the new geography of her surroundings by jumping around the house and chirping.
The latter issue could have been an issue since it took place during Longo’s regular sleeping hours, but he showed no inclination to let Biscuits return to the wild. Part of that decision was based on the bond the two now share, but he also believed that the squirrel’s now-docile nature would be disastrous should she go back to living outside.
Longo also saw the diet of Biscuits change, with pecans now a favorite of the squirrel. Other accommodations that were made included covering much of his home in cloth, which allowed Biscuits to crawl around.
Longo decided to keep the flying squirrel around, watching it grow to its maximum height of up to eight to 10 inches in length.
Florida is the farthest south that flying squirrels are usually seen, with the opposite end reaching as far north as southeastern Canada. Some have been spotted in South America, though such instances are rarities.