“I said, ‘Do you mind if I take care of him?’’’ Smith said.
“It wasn’t like I was an experienced squirrel handler, but I always liked having pets when I was a kid,” she said.
Smith made a home for the squirrel, which she named “HoJo,” after Hinton James, out of a laundry hamper and towels.
The squirrel lived in her room for two days, waiting patiently in its hamper for Smith to return each day.
Smith said she fed “HoJo” peanut butter, stale rolls from Panera Bread and Crystal Light sweet tea.
Rick Bradley, assistant director of assignments and communication in the housing department, said the only animals allowed in the residence halls are fish.
He added that in his 17 years at UNC, he is unaware of a case involving a squirrel.
“On average, maybe every year, there’s a case of a dog. I’m sure there have been cats in the past,” he said.
Smith had to give up the squirrel after her resident adviser requested her to remove it from her room three times.
But when she tried to release “HoJo” back into the wild, it was too attached and immediately jumped back onto her legs.
As a last resort to ensure the safety of the squirrel, Smith said she contacted CLAWS Inc., a local wildlife organization, to take it away.
But Kindra Mammone, executive director of CLAWS, said the organization does not keep squirrels.
She added that squirrels make the world’s worst pets.
“Squirrels are just too nervous to be a pet — they’re too nervous, they have very sharp claws,” she said.
“Typically they don’t like to be held — so you end up getting bitten or scratched. It’s cruel. They don’t need to be contained.”
But CLAWS did send an affiliate who takes care of dozens of squirrels to retrieve “HoJo,” Smith said.
Smith said she and the affiliate talked about retraining the squirrel to go back out into the wild, but concluded that it might be used for education programs in the future.
Sophomore Tyler O’Brien said he admires Smith for temporarily adopting the squirrel.
“You know, they say that the amount of squirrels on campus is indicative of how fantastic the school is,” O’Brien said. “I say we get an A .”
Smith said she had a hard time letting “HoJo” go, but she will always remember her experience.
“It was one for the grandkids, I guess,” she said.
Assistant University Editor Liz Crampton contributed reporting.
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