Larry the baby squirrel had some on Twitter thankful for a brief moment of cuteness amid the devastation of Hurricane Laura after MSNBC host Ali Velshi helped free the critter from its nest in a downed tree and nurse it back to health.
Viewers in the 10 a.m hour Central Time saw Velshi cradling a sleeping baby squirrel after he and another man, Tony Noah, noticed the apparently trapped and dazed animal in Orange, Texas, a few miles from the Louisiana border. They decided to check on the squirrel to see if it needed food or care, he said.
Velshi told viewers he consulted "the Google" before giving the squirrel some Gatorade.
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"There are silver linings in everything and over the course of the last hour we've been nursing this little guy back to health," Velshi said as the squirrel rested in his hand.
He was planning to name it Laura after the storm but decided on Larry instead because he's a male, Velshi said on air.
In follow-up comments shared with NBC, Velshi said someone had noticed the squirrel barely moving while they were doing their shot. The squirrel did not appear to be injured but was looking like it wouldn't survive beyond a few hours, he said.
“Tim Zelnak, one of our Dallas-based NBC SAT truck operators, gingerly picked him out of the tree. He was shaking, he was so cold,” Velshi said. "Tim was a natural at this. I could tell he had a soft spot for animals."
The squirrel at first recoiled at the Gatorade in a cap but then started to lap it up when Zelnak and Velshi put some on their fingers.
“I put him in my hand and he literally curled up and went to sleep,” Velshi said.
They eventually left the squirrel back in its nest and Noah planned to monitor Larry and feed him with a dropper every two hours, Velshi said. One of Noah's neighbors up the street had recently rescued another baby squirrel and has supplies, he said.
David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation,
said that encounters like Velshi's are understandable because of people's immediate emotional reaction of wanting to help.
He said that leaving an animal back in its nest is the right thing to do because the squirrel's parents could be alive and looking for it.
But Mizejewski wouldn't recommend trying to feed a wild animal on your own and advised minimal contact as the best policy for such encounters.
"The best advice is to let nature take its course and let wildlife be wild," Mizejewski said. "That said no one is a monster and would say 'let the baby squirrel die.'"
For others who might spot a baby squirrel, like Larry, where it's clear that the parents aren't around and it needs help, he would recommend getting a towel, a cardboard box and to use gloves to put it in a quiet space.
"These animals can die from shock," he said.
The next thing to do is to get the animal to a trained professional. Mizejewski has outlined steps for how to help baby animals in the wild in a blog post for the National Wildlife Federation.
He said the best thing people can do long-term is to make sure that animals have the habitats they need by getting involved in local conservation efforts.
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