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Rehabilitator says state threatening to shut her down over squirrel

Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 4:14 PM EST
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - Aimee Brown runs FourWands Wildlife Rehabilitation in Barre.

“Eighty-five percent of what I take is squirrels,” she said.

Brown is a Vermont licensed animal rehabilitator with a focus on smaller mammals.

She highlights her work on social media with thousands of followers.

“I don’t want people to think they are pets. They are not. I got bitten yesterday,” she said.

In 2017, Brown says she took in a squirrel named Peanut. The state confiscated it from a young girl who was illegally raising it.

Brown says because Peanut was in captivity and is partially blind, the state game warden allowed her to keep the squirrel at the rehab.

“An arrangement was made so that she could be brought here and kept under observation is what I was told. Until... she could live out her life,” Brown said.

“I don’t know the health history of the squirrel. I don’t have personal knowledge of agreements,” said Col. Jason Batchelder, the director of enforcement for the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife.

Batchelder says Fish and Wildlife relies on nearly 25 rehabbers around the state. He says this rehab is one of a few they are trying to get into compliance.

In a letter to Brown, the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department mentions several violations, including failing to allow an inspection, inappropriately handling wildlife, repeatedly posting photos on social media and not releasing a grey squirrel-- Peanut-- into the wild.

Brown denies any wrongdoing and took down photos from social media that were in question. She adds they didn’t let the warden in her house without an appointment for a compliance check because of the pandemic.

Now, Brown fears the state will shut down her rehab and destroy Peanut.

“They bent their own rules to let her stay here,” she said. “So why are they suddenly deciding that after four years that she doesn’t deserve to live anymore?”

“We do not have plans to kill the squirrel. We do not have plans to take the squirrel,” Batchelder said.

“If there are agreements on the table that I am not aware of, then they will certainly be honored,” Batchelder said. “But if they are outside of the guidelines of what is written in law, then we are going to have to have that as part of the discussion.”

For now, Peanut is staying with Brown. And Brown has hired a lawyer.

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