Chip and Dale are two flying squirrels that Humphrey has been raising, with the help of her family and friends.
Bastrop resident Nancy Humphrey has a bond with animals that's evident through her variety of family pets, and even a career she loves, the successful dog grooming shop behind her home on Airport Road. But her animal loving instincts were really put to the test eight weeks ago when she became the adopted mother of two tiny visitors who were abandoned under a tree in her yard at birth. Chip and Dale are two flying squirrels that Humphrey has been raising, with the help of her family and friends. The small brothers were discovered in the yard one day after the family dog was spotted barking and pawing at the ground. “My friend Debbie Dove spotted Chip and screamed, thinking he was a rat,” Humphrey said. Humphrey said while she took the small animal inside to clean it up, Dove searched the yard, looking for a mother or siblings. After walking around the area a few times, Dale was discovered a few feet away. Humphrey immediately did research on how to keep the two baby squirrels alive, with no mother to care for them. She learned that they could survive on cat or goat milk, which could be purchased at a local hardware store. Using a small syringe she began the feeding process, which had to be done every four hours. “It's been a lot of work,” she said. “They're just like children who have to be given a lot of care and attention.” Humphrey and her family, who consist of husband, Jason, and her daughter, Haley, have all taken turns caring for brothers. A large blue barrel was brought inside and constructed with bars and a little wooden house for the brothers to hide and sleep. A heating pad was also place near Chip and Dale. At such a young age, they can't produce enough body heat on their own to stay warm. Other measures were also taken to accommodate the two siblings. Because this breed of rodent is nocturnal, Humphrey and her family would make sure to keep the noise down in the daytime and turn all the lights out at night. “We hear them at night, scurrying around and making noises,” she said. Even though the family has succeeded in accommodating the new pets, Humphrey said she will have to release the brothers back into the wild eventually. “This type of animal is not meant to be domesticated,” she said. “Even though they're tame and have gotten use to us, I can still tell they need to be in the wild.” Humphrey said it's too cold outside to release Chip and Dale right now, but she plans to begin their sending off process in February. Just as the early stages of their life had to be treated with care, so will the leaving part. She and her family are currently training the brothers to survive on their on by doing things like hiding their food around the house and making them look for it. Pecans and blueberries are quickly retrieved by the squirrels and then carried back to their home to store. “When it's time to let them go outside, we'll hang a small cage in a tree in the yard,” she said. “The door on the cage will always remain open so they can come and go.” Eleven-year-old Haley said she's enjoyed the experience of raising two flying squirrels. When friends would come over for sleepovers, they are treated to blankets laid on the living room floor with two unique pets to play with. “It's been really cool,” Haley said. “Catching them isn't always easy. I had to pull Chip out of a couch cushion by his tail earlier and he wasn't too happy about that.” Humphrey said even though she and her family have become attached to Chip and Dale, she knows they'll be happier free. “This experience has been really neat,” she said. “I know I'll be sad when they first go, but I'm also looking forward to them living outside the way it's truly meant to be.”