Squirrel drives Gussie’s staff nuts

Patrick Yost Front Page

Subtly was not the calling card for an intruder terrorizing Gussie’s House of Flowers, West Jefferson Street, in recent weeks.

“He knocked over a bunch of stuff,” said employee Lisa Jefferies. “I’d come in in the morning and say, ‘How come those pictures keep moving?’”

“He took a liking to the nicer, more expensive items,” said Bill Knight as he moved display cases from the front window of the venerated Madison business.

Knight said the episode started the evening of May 10 when he and a friend were standing outside the store and the friend looked over Knight’s shoulder and saw the squirrel in the front window. “He said, ‘Is that a squirrel in your window?’

“I looked back and he was just sitting there munching something,” Knight said.

After that, the squirrel war began. Knight chased the squirrel through the store with a broom to no avail. Madison Animal Control brought a cage to the store. Once, the squirrel ate the bait without triggering the trap door. The second time he squeezed out of a hole in the cage. “He loved that peanut butter,” Knight said.

Stephanie Stephens came face-to-face with the trespasser. The squirrel, she says, jumped on her arm and stared her in the eye. “When that tiny paw touched me, I jumped and hit the ground.”

The squirrel, who Knight refused to name, (“I didn’t name him, but I called him lots of names”) also antagonized customers. “We warned them when they came in the door,” he says.

On Wednesday, May 16, the week-long saga ended when Knight successfully captured a squirrel using peanut butter in a squirrel cage by the front window, a favorite after-hours hangout spot for the animal.

Knight brought a trap from home and placed it in the front window. The first time, the squirrel entered, ate the peanut butter and left. “I forgot to take the safety off and he got the bait again,” Knight laughs. The second time was the charm.

Knight believes the squirrel was born in the building and had yet to experience the outdoors. Around Mother’s Day, a huge week for the flower shop, the squirrel wreaked havoc in the store’s orchid section.

Knight gave the squirrel in its cage to a woman who lives five miles away. “I hope he never comes back,” he said.

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