Pet squirrel that foiled Idaho home burglary returns to wild

June 19, 2017
This undated photo provided by Adam Pearl shows Pearl with his pet squirrel Joey in Meridian, Idaho. Pearl says Joey was so young he still had his eyes closed when friends found him on the ground late in the summer of 2016 after he fell out of his nest. Pearl says Joey climbed onto his shoulder for an affectionate goodbye earlier in June 2017, then scampered up a backyard apple tree at his Meridian home and hasn't been seen since. Joey made headlines in February 2017, when police nabbed a burglary suspect who reported fleeing a home after being attacked by a squirrel. (Adam Pearl via AP)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A pet squirrel named Joey who gained fame as a crime-fighter might be more of the lover type.

Joey, who police credited with scaring off a burglar trying to break into his home’s gun safe, made his long goodbyes earlier this month, then scampered up a backyard apple tree at his Meridian, Idaho, home and hasn’t been seen since.

“If I had to guess, he found a girlfriend and they’re off doing their squirrel thing,” said Adam Pearl, who raised Joey in his home for about 10 months.

A University of Idaho scientist said that’s probably right for Joey.

“For a lot of mammals, behavior changes once spring comes,” said Janet Rachlow, a professor at the school’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Sciences.

Joey made headlines in February after police went to Pearl’s home to investigate the burglary and Joey introduced himself. A few hours later, police nabbed a teen burglary suspect with items from Pearl’s home and scratches on his hands. The teen told police a squirrel at one home came flying out of nowhere and kept attacking him until he left.

Like many famous crime fighters, Joey had a rough start in life. He was abandoned after falling out of his nest not long after being born and would have died if Adam Pearl and his wife, Carmen, hadn’t taken him in.

“His eyes weren’t even open,” Adam Pearl said. “He was about the size of a Bic lighter when we first got him.”

They bought supplies and set an alarm every two hours to feed him. Joey thrived, and soon had the run of the house, using a litterbox and learning to scavenge from bowls of nuts.

“I wanted him to be able to fend for himself,” Adam Pearl said.

Joey did just that, delighting the family with his antics.

“He’d let anybody pet him when he was in the house,” Pearl said. “I guess right up until the kid broke in. Right after that is when he started getting aggressive.”

About a month ago, Pearl made the decision to leave a sliding door open after Joey seemed extra rambunctious. Joey eventually ventured out, played with wild squirrels during the day and returned to his bed inside at night.

On June 4, he climbed on Adam’s shoulder, where he stayed for several minutes getting his ears scratched before disappearing in the apple tree.

“I think that was his goodbye, looking back on it,” Adam Pearl said.

Rachlow said Joey might have a little bit of culture shock assimilating into squirrel life, but will likely succeed.

Adam Pearl said Joey liked to chew on items in the house, so there’s also relief in being an empty-nester.

“Hopefully, he doesn’t bring any little Joeys into the house,” he said.

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