Snoqualmie Valley Wildlife: Nuts about Squirrels in Carnation

Over the years, I’ve written about almost every mammal that resides in the Snoqualmie Valley, but there is one critter that has long been on my list to write about but until now didn’t make the cut for one reason or another.

That all changed when I got an email in early July. Jeff Platt, the Communications Manager & Spokesperson for Go Fund Me in the PNW, told me about a fundraiser for a woman in the valley who is trying to build a facility to rescue and rehabilitate squirrels.

Say no more; I’m in.

Western Washington is home to several species of squirrels; the most common in the Snoqualmie Valley are the Douglas Squirrel and the non-native Eastern Gray Squirrel.

The native Douglas Squirrel lives in stands of fir, pine, cedar, and other conifers in the Cascade Mountains and western parts of Washington.[1] The “Dougie” is reddish or brownish gray with an orangish underbelly and is from 10-14 inches in length.

The non-native Eastern Gray Squirrel is common in most Washington urban & residential areas. Historical reports suggest some migrated across the country in the 1800s, and some were introduced in the early 1900s. This squirrel is gray with a reddish tint in the summer with a white underbelly and is up to 20 inches long.

Crystal Mazac is nuts about squirrels. So much so that she, her husband Steve, friends and volunteers are trying to build a Washington-based wildlife rescue that will be focused on the rescue, rehabilitation and release of all squirrel species in Washington state.

A Washington State resident since 2006, Mazac originally lived on the Kitsap Peninsula, where she raised her children. A girl scout leader and mom to many pets, she and her family have always loved animals. So much so that her son was a self-proclaimed vegetarian at age two after realizing where meat comes from animals.

In 2019, Mazac became an empty nester when her kids moved to different states, and her natural urge to nurture had created a hole in her heart. She filled that hole by working with at-risk youth as an addiction counselor and a nanny until the pandemic hit in 2020.

Enter Bubbles the Squirrel

Crystal and Steve found Bubbles right after the lock-down started in 2020. The pair took a walk in their neighborhood and rescued her from an attacking crow. They weren’t sure if the crow plucked her from her drey (nest) or if she fell out.

Since the pair knew nothing about squirrels, they were afraid to pick her up but eventually, using a t-shirt, took her home. Says Mazac, “I had no idea what to do with her. Then I did all the research to find out how to keep her alive. I had called PAWS and talked to someone who had told me that they were not taking her species, and they told me I could bring her in to be euthanized. At that point, I had already started to fall in love. (It doesn’t take me long). And of course, I now had a purpose again and something to nurture.”

Along the way, Mazac learned that it is illegal for the average citizen to rescue a wild animal in Washington State. “It is illegal to possess any wild animal who naturally lives in the state (i.e., squirrels, crows, deer) unless you are transporting the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for care.
It is illegal to provide rehabilitation to a sick, injured or orphaned wild animal without proper permits and licenses.” [2]

So, after Bubbles, Crystal knew squirrels had a special place in her heart. Says Mazac, “I truly had never bonded to another animal as I had to Bubbles. I feel like it was part of some big universal plan to get me out of bed and out of my depressed, empty nester frame of mind. We rescued her, but I feel like Bubbles saved ME!”

Mazac says she started making friends with all the neighborhood squirrels and started to see just how unique each squirrel was; it was still lock-down and says, “I had a LOT of time on my hands.”

So, she searched for wildlife rehab centers to find a place where she could continue working with them and accrue the necessary hours needed for certification. Thankfully she found Kathi Artus and Footprints Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Carnation, who took in Bubbles and wilded her up for release, where Mazac then started volunteering. 

After working with Footprints, Mazac saw a need that wasn’t being met. In 2020, Footprints had taken in many squirrels, along with many bunnies, opossums, skunks and more, because people were outside more during the pandemic and finding them.

Crystal investigated Washington’s requirements for having a wildlife rehab, and the biggest obstacle was to have property. She learned more about wildlife rehab as she volunteered; meanwhile, she and her husband saved up for land. That’s when she started dreaming of having her own sanctuary and being able to help even more.

Crystal is not a certified rehabber yet but is working towards that goal. Now that she has the property, five wooded acres in Carnation, that she will move to soon, the next step is to build the necessary enclosures for certification from the state. 

Right now, Mazac helps rehabilitate squirrels until they are ready for release. She does not keep them, but once the enclosures get built, she will be able to help raise them until they are ready for release.

The planned sanctuary will focus only on squirrels while leaving the other wildlife to Footprints. Squirrels hold a special place in her heart, and she wants to do all she can to help them survive. Mazac, “They have many odds stacked against them, and I firmly believe that human interference with their habitats and food sources has led to the unnecessary, cruel slaughter and untimely deaths of these animals.” 

If you love nature, wildlife and squirrels, Crystal would like you to consider helping her build Squirrel Acres by donating to her Go Fund Me here.

Good luck, Crystal & Steve!



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