Meet New York City's 'Squirrel Guy'

Rehabber saves critters in crisis
December 15, 2010 9:51:59 AM PST
They're furry, cute and curious and they number in the thousands in Central Park. Squirrels. There's a man in Manhattan so serious about making sure they survive he's sharing his apartment with them.

They stand with an air of confidence daring you to catch them. And who doesn't like a squirrel?

We met New York's surrogate mom to many of the city's squirrels, rehabber Chris Durham.

"They call me the squirrel guy of Manhattan," says Durham.

Durham rescues baby squirrels who have fallen out of their nest.

"If it's near traffic or there are dogs running loose," Durham says, "or if it's pouring rain or something there's a need to interact or otherwise it's probably going to die."

So, Chris does what most would not. He brings them home with him to an apartment fit for a squirrel.

Durham isn't looking for long term companionship. He says squirrels actually make lousy pets. But he does give them creature comforts. They're fed kitten formula until five weeks of age, and then it's time for nature's food--fruit and nuts.

Durham also keeps handling to a minimum. And he wants them to know their life is outside so each week he takes them on a field trip to the park.

Durham's listed with the New York City Department of Wildlife Conservation, which means his phone is constantly ringing. It even rang during our interview.

And oh yeah - this isn't his full-time job. You might have seen Chris' face in the FX series, "Rescue Me."

This, though, is his hobby's passion. And with each squirrel released, it's his way of giving back.

"I always say a little wish, you know," Durham says, "I hope they have a good life. A good wildlife. And every now and then I will see some in the park in the area where I released some. And I always wonder, "Is that a squirrel that I raised?'"

And it just might be! Durham has rescued 200 squirrels in the past 15 years.