Over 400 people work at McHenry County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois. On their website, they describe themselves as “conservatives of peace”.
With all those officers it’s no surprise that they have some pretty wild stories about their jobs. There was one sheriff who was going to have one of the weirdest stories in the department yet. And he’d be telling it for the next few years.
This anonymous deputy had just gotten back from some well-deserved leave. Even though he had enjoyed his vacation, he was happy to come back and continue to help his community again. But when he arrived had he saw that his trusty patrol vehicle wasn’t roadworthy anymore.
He didn’t mind too much since it was just a small inconvenience. Still, it was a little annoying on his first day back at the job. He didn’t know that this visit to the mechanic would be one to remember!
The officer took his patrol vehicle into the shop to get some well-deserved maintenance. His headlight had also gone out mysteriously and he asked the mechanic if he could fix that too.
He assumed the process would be straightforward, but he didn’t know what the actual reason was surrounding his broken headlight. He was in for a surprise.
As the mechanic eagerly started working on the officer’s vehicle, he found something very strange about the car. His experience as a mechanic meant he thought he’d seen everything. Well, he wasn’t ready for what he’d find.
Sandra Rogers, a colleague of the officer, said in an interview: “The mechanic began replacing the headlight and noticed that the wire had been chewed.” The real question was what could have done it?
There was a multitude of reasons as to why the wiring could become frayed. The mechanic thought it could have been a rat. Rats are known to get inside vehicles and cause costly damage to the owner’s precious vehicles.
Unfazed, the mechanic continued if work on the headlight. Delving deeper into the internals of the car, the mechanic could never have guessed what he was going to discover next.
The mechanic kept working on the internals of the patrol car to figure out what had been done this to the car’s headlight. He found something surprising as he looked around.
“He started to fix the wiring when he saw a whole bunch of leaves,” Deputy Rogers recalled. Looking at the clues in front of him, the mechanic began to follow the leaves to try to find the culprit behind the headlight damage.
The officer, in the meantime, had continued about his first day on the job. Why worry about his car? It seemed like a quick and easy fix after all. He didn’t realize how wrong he was.
He received a call from the mechanic and assumed the worst. To say that there was a slight complication with the repairs would be an understatement. What had happened?
The mechanic didn’t delve into the details and rather told the officer to come back as soon as possible. It was too complicated to describe it over the phone. The officer needed to see for himself.
The officer was a little nervous but very curious, so he quickly got back to the mechanic in another patrol vehicle he had been using for the day. His curiosity was more than satisfied when the mechanic showed him the bizarre situation.
The mechanic told the deputy that he was surprised by what he found in the car. The officer was concerned by these words and thought that his car was in more disrepair than he originally thought.
Inside the patrol vehicle, the mechanic showed him a huge pile of leaves. Once the officer took a closer look he couldn’t believe what he saw.
“Inside the nest of leaves were four baby squirrels,” Rogers remembers. The mechanic hadn’t ever encountered anything like this. The officer shook his head in disbelief.
It was clear that a mother squirrel had managed to squeeze into the wheel’s arch and had left a big surprise: four newborn squirrels – a first for this car repair shop.
The mechanic loves animals and didn’t want to damage the baby squirrels or their nest, so he carefully removed the wheel from the car and extracted the nest. He didn’t even wake the babies!
“They were all in perfect condition and sleeping soundly when they were removed by the mechanics,” said Deputy Rogers. What was to be done with the babies now that they’d been found? The nest was in the officer’s car, so it was his responsibility.
“It was really cute because their eyes were still closed and they were all tucked in a circle,” shared Rogers. After the squirrels were removed from the vehicle, the deputy took them home with him.
He wasn’t planning on raising the squirrels, he wanted to try and reunite them with their mother. He put the sleeping baby squirrels and their nest in a box and he put it in the exact spot that his squad car had been parked before going to the mechanic.
The deputy gently put the cardboard box on the ground and left the babies just like that with only a hot water bottle to keep them warm while he waited.
He prayed that the mother squirrel was still nearby. But as the hours passed, he grew increasingly worried that he had made the wrong decision.
A long hour took forever to pass before he finally caught glimpse of a squirrel coming to investigate the box on the ground.
She just couldn’t stay away from the cries of her hungry babies calling for her. She checked inside and then firmly gripped one baby by its neck and took it away with her, but she didn’t come back…
For another few hours the deputy waited patiently, he knew exactly what had happened. “I believe once she’d picked the first one up and knew the others were safe in the box, she waited until it got dark to get the rest as she must not have felt safe moving them in daylight,” he said.
Sure enough, as the sun lost its hold on the world, she returned for another, and then another until they were all back where they belonged.
The officer was afraid he might have disturbed or contaminated the nest and that the mother might not return, but nature is a beautiful thing!
The mother squirrel returned to the spot she had left her nest of babies, gathered them up one by one, and took them to a new home. Hopefully a safer one! But why had she hidden them in his car?
Apparently, this is a common occurrence with squirrels as they frequently make nests in cars due to the heat that they give off.
One site explained, “They’re attracted by the warmth of the engine, which creates a cozy place for them to nestle. Squirrels create a fine mess once they bring in nuts, acorns, and nesting material.” But this can lead to disastrous outcomes!
The Canadian Wildlife Federation says that this is actually a very common issue in rural areas, and they’ve suggested that people could try to decrease the occurrences by making their car a less attractive nesting spot.
One tip is to leave the car hood open so that the vehicle is cooler, and other options include using taste deterrents to repel squirrels from biting wires. A bitter apple spray is a harmless option that drives squirrels away.
It is recommended that you get some advice from your mechanic and a veterinarian on what will work best at keeping squirrels away while avoiding damage to your car.
And, most importantly, follow the great example that the deputy at McHenry County Sheriff’s Office set…
Squirrels might be irritating at times, but the deputy at the MCSO showed a value that all police officers and all civilians should have, which is showing concern for other beings.
If he hadn’t found them in time or made sure they were returned to their mom, this story could have ended very differently. These baby squirrels no doubt appreciate what this officer did for them!