The good, the bad and the stinky of wildlife encounters

Junior Joy Luh coddles baby squirrel Ellio after he was separated from his family. (Photo courtesy of Joy Luh)

On a sunny day in Bexley, many animals can be seen on the streets and are hidden in nature. People walk their dogs and squirrels scamper about. Birds chirp from their nests high up in the trees, and at Jeffrey Mansion there may even be deer roaming the forest. Although not lions, tigers or bears, students and teachers have found themselves encountering unexpected critters.

Juniors Evie Holzhall and Joy Luh had a unique experience with wildlife when they rescued and took care of a baby squirrel in the fall of 2021.

Holzhall explained that the pair was going to hang out with a friend when they got a call from Luh’s parents telling them that they found a baby squirrel and needed Holzhall and Luh to take care of it.

“The squirrel apparently fell out of the tree, and the mom wasn’t anywhere around,” Holzhall said. “We figured the mom probably wasn’t going to come back, so we were going to take care of it through the night and then release it once we made sure it was okay.”

She said that they held and pet the squirrel, let it crawl around them and even named it Ellio.

“You could tell it had fallen because it had a small cut on its nose, so we would dab some water on him and we gave him water to drink,” Holzhall said.

She added that they put it in a small box with air holes and blankets inside to keep it warm.

Holzhall and Luh knew they eventually had to release Ellio back into the wild. Holzhall said that the squirrel’s cut seemed to be healing, and she thought the mother might return for her baby.

“Early in the morning, we put the box outside where we found him, and an hour later he was gone,” she said.

While some nature encounters can be exciting and allow people to feel more connected to their environment, not every experience is positive.

Senior Lin McDow’s family keeps chickens in their backyard, and several were eaten by an unknown creature.

“My mom went outside and saw that three of our chickens had been killed,” McDow said. “Whatever killed them also opened the gate, which allowed two more to escape.”

Only three chickens were left, and they had escaped the predator with a few scratches, they explained.

“We did end up finding one of the chickens that escaped in the Anthony’s Pizzeria parking lot, which is two blocks and across Main Street from where I live,” they added.

Math teacher Tony Carfagna also had an unfortunate run-in with a wild animal when he was sprayed by a skunk outside his home.

He was leaving for school when he saw what he thought was a cat hiding by his trash can, Carfagna explained.

“I looked a little more closely, and I realized the cat was a skunk,” he said. “It got startled and made an abrupt movement.”

Carfagna said he continued to walk to his car until he smelled something strange and realized the skunk had sprayed him.

He said he then knew he was going to be late to school and called Principal Kristin Robbins to let her know.

“I went directly to my basement and just started scrubbing with different household things and chemicals, which took around an hour and a half,” Carfagna said.

After he had removed the smell, Carfagna said, he was able to return to school and go on with his day.

Senior Josh Bahar also had an unexpected experience with a creature, but this one was more positive.

A few months ago, he said, he was on a walk to Jeffrey Mansion with a few friends.

“It had been snowing all night, so it was really quiet, and the only light was reflecting off the snow,” Bahar said.

He said that he and his friends turned around and saw five deer staring at them.

“It was really interesting that we were all experiencing this snow and these animals,” Bahar said.

He said it felt like everything just froze, and he stood there watching nature in front of him.

“I felt very connected to my environment in that moment,” he said.