By David Keane
A car bodyshop worker claims an orphaned baby squirrel chose him at random to be his ‘dad’ and now lives with him in his house – playing like a dog and even nicking cigarette lighters from his pocket.
Daniel Beckwith, 25, believes the wild rodent must have fallen from a nearby nest but refused to leave his side after approaching him at his garage workshop in November last year.
Since then, the bushy-tailed creature now known as Cyril the Squirrel has been living with Daniel at his west London home and routinely ‘plays’ like a dog – even using poor Daniel as a human climbing frame.
Hilarious footage shows Cyril clambering speedily around Daniel before sneaking his head into his trouser pocket and making off with a lighter, resulting in a chase from Daniel to retrieve it.
Other videos show the rodent relaxing in Daniel’s hood, doing cartwheels on the rug, and even falling off Daniel’s leg but performing a Spiderman-esque last-minute save with his claw to stop his fall.
But Daniel has now found himself in the heart-wrenching position of having a beloved ‘pet’ that authorities would want to put down – as it is illegal to keep or release Cyril, and the RSPCA advise orphaned greys are euthanised.
Daniel, a car paint sprayer, said: “I was in the workshop when I heard a noise and thought I saw a rat move. I thought I would have to get it out of the workplace and went over to it.
“It was then I realised it was a baby squirrel. It was about the size of my hand. Maybe it had been sat in the roof and possibly fallen out or something.
“He was cowering in the corner. So I got out a box and he just climbed right in. I thought it was quite odd but he really took to me. A friend said will he not go away? I said no, he won’t.
“I eventually put him in a tree but he started to cry and call for me. But the moment he saw me coming he stopped and climbed right in the box when I offered him it.
“I tried to put him down and let him go somewhere else again but I was worried that if the mum had seen us with him then she wouldn’t come back for him.
“He came over to me again and he wouldn’t leave me alone. I’m an animal lover and couldn’t leave him there. I would have felt so guilty if anything would have happened to him.
“A month after I took him in I saw a squirrel go into a hole in the roof so I think that might have been where he came from but he’s too used to humans to really go back now.
“I didn’t know it was there at the time and he certainly didn’t so he just became attached to me.”
Since then, Daniel believes Cyril has come to see him as his ‘mother’, leaving him in a difficult position since it is illegal to keep a grey squirrel or release one.
But Daniel has become too attached to Cyril to kill him.
Daniel said: “Since taking him in. I have got him a six-foot tall cage and he comes out in the conservatory for two hours each day. He goes mad.
“We even let him out in the garden but he doesn’t go away. He has a run around but comes back after climbing over some fences.
“If I were to take him somewhere for help, the problem is he is a grey squirrel and he will be put down.
“The laws are strict about releasing them or keeping them, so I’m a bit stuck really.
“In England the laws are against them as they are classed as vermin. You are not allowed to keep them or release them. And even vets would humanely destroy them I think.
“But I couldn’t do that to him. He came to me for protection. I will let him have some fun and will see what we have to do. But I will keep him if I have to as I am very attached to him now.
“Because of how young he was he has attached himself to me as if I am his mother. He’s not too bad with my mum and dad but he has bit them before. He’s never bit me though.”
Cyril has been accepted into the family home with Daniel’s parents and even their two dogs, a French bulldog named Jimmy and a Jack Russell named Blade, making room for the critter.
Daniel said: “He’s an unbelievable character. It’s very difficult to film him because he is always so quick. I didn’t realise how quick squirrels are.
“They are the most interesting animals. He is the most interesting pet I have ever owned.
“He has never seen a lighter before and I hadn’t thought he would go for it. He has tried to nick my phone before and even a packet of cigarettes, which he tried to rip the box open for, but I got it off him.
“He likes to get in my pocket and sit in there but I had forgot the lighter was in there. He just grabbed it and ran.
“I was really worried that he would bite it. I have no idea what could have happened, it could have exploded or the gas could have gone in his mouth or whatever.
“So that’s why I had to stop filming to get it off him. But I thought the way he pinched it from my pocket was really funny.
“He’s very playful. He does backflips on the floor and cartwheels. I ask him ‘what are you doing?’ and he will stop and give me a look that says ‘I’m having fun’.
“I never thought that he would have these characteristics. He makes me laugh so much.
“He comes up to the window and stares in at us until we let him in.
“He climbs the blinds very quickly and so he can effectively run up the walls. He chews everything. I have to make sure that no wires are ever near him.
“He likes to play with me and will look at me with an expression that says ‘are we playing now?’.
“He’ll climb on me and run around on me like I am a climbing frame.
“He has sort of become the family pet. My two dogs are funny around him – they just stare at him and seem confused. You can see them thinking ‘hang on a minute, you are what we chase in the garden’.”
It is an offence under section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) to introduce and release grey squirrels into the wild. It is legal to kill them using trapping, shooting or poisoning.
The grey squirrel is regarded as an invasive non-native species and are also listed in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) list of 100 worst invasive non-native species.
The RSPCA states: “It is currently illegal, except under licence, to keep or release grey squirrels. Euthanasia may therefore be the most appropriate course of action to prevent further suffering.”