Stowaway squirrel has no fun in our sun
The state usually kills wild animals that make it here
The tale of a squirrel that came to Hawaii as a stowaway aboard a jet aircraft has aroused the ire of animal lovers worldwide.
A spokeswoman for the state Agriculture Department says it has gotten e-mails from the mainland and as far away as Europe. Residents of places where the fluffy-tailed creature is a common inhabitant wondered why it was not sent on to a mainland destination and set free.
But state officials say when it comes to alien species of animal, insect or even plant, the aloha spirit does not apply.
"Wild animals that come in are generally not kept alive," said Dr. James Foppoli, state veterinarian.
The eastern gray squirrel was discovered last Friday in the ceiling space aboard American Airlines Flight 176. The Tokyo-to-Dallas flight was diverted to Honolulu because of concerns that it might chew through wires and endanger the 200-plus humans aboard.
After being caught in a trap set on the aircraft, the animal was killed. Lab tests, which require specimens from the brain, revealed that the animal did not have rabies.
If it had been a snake on a plane, the animal might have had a chance for survival.
"Some exotic ones, especially snakes, may be sent back if there are sanctuaries on the mainland that really want them," Foppoli said.
Authorities anywhere would take custody of animals whose erratic behavior might indicate rabies, he said. "Obviously there was something unusual going on with this squirrel; it's abnormal behavior to be on a plane," said the veterinarian.
The Honolulu Zoo is also not an option for stowaway animals. "We are not a rescue center," said zoo Director Kenneth Redman.
One exception was a corn snake that was found in someone's luggage and is now on display at the zoo. "By law we are allowed only two male nonvenomous snakes, and we had a space for it," Redman said.
"When the state confiscates animals, we have helped place them, but we do not keep them here at the zoo," he said.