A stowaway squirrel that climbed aboard a mail shipment to Alaska was flown back to Washington state Wednesday and released into the woods behind the governor’s mansion.
The Douglas squirrel, a protected species in Washington state, turned up at the main post office at Fairbanks International Airport last week. It had apparently climbed aboard a small van and traveled to Alaska by barge.
Alaska Airlines agreed to fly the squirrel, nicknamed “Walla Walla,” back to Washington for free. The squirrel dined on peanuts and was signed up for the airline’s frequent-flier program, an airline spokesman said.
Washington state wildlife agents set the critter free in the governor’s backyard, which has been designated a wildlife sanctuary.
Given the animal’s protected status, wildlife biologists in Washington were anxious for its return, so it could be rereleased into the wild.
“They’re making a major news event out of it down there,” marveled Bob Hunter, a wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
News photographers and video crews met Walla Walla at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, followed him to the mansion and filmed his release.