In the Company of Amelia Earhart

A New Addition to the Family

Amelia Earhart, a flying squirrel, rests in the palm of Cindy Cadot's hand. (photo © Meade Cadot)

Amelia, the beloved Southern flying squirrel.
(photo © Meade Cadot)

In late summer or early fall of 1973, Cindy Cadot and I moved from NH Audubon’s Paradise Point Nature Center on Newfound Lake in Hebron, NH to the Countess dePierrefeu’s former cabin at Audubon’s Willard Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in Stoddard. We arrived just after a tragic event, at least as far as a Southern flying squirrel family was concerned. A local house cat had killed the entire squirrel family in residence — except for one tiny youngster with eyes barely open.

Cindy immediately took on the mother role, putting the little fuzzball in a basket that she took with her everywhere and “nursing” it with Similac. We named the squirrel Amelia Earhart. (What else?) As she grew, she began to show off her “wings,” gliding from beam to beam in the rustic cabin. (At bedtime, the evening chore for Cindy was catching and returning Amelia to her cage, which Amelia distinctly did not like and used her little rodent teeth to protest.)

During the summer of 1974, Edwina Czajkowski of Project SEE helped organize a teacher workshop for the new “Harris Foundation,” focusing on mammals. That was Amelia’s first chance to shine, showing off her nocturnal attributes (huge eyes and long whiskers) and how to be a proper democratic socialist: Southern flying squirrels winter in groups and collect nuts for the colony’s winter food supply. However, each flying squirrel marks every nut they add to the pile to declare, “This nut’s for me!”

Amelia the “Midwestern” Flying Squirrel

Cindy Cadot, with Amelia the Flying Squirrel under her collar. (photo © Meade Cadot)

Cindy Cadot, with Amelia tucked into her collar. (photo © Meade Cadot)

That same summer, I began teaching in the Environmental Studies Department of what is now called Antioch University New England. I had left the University of Kansas Department of Geology “ABD” (PhD “All But Dissertation” done) and decided that if I were going to be “professing,” I should go back and finish up — and got approval from Antioch to do so.

Amelia the Southern Flying Squirrel became a “Midwestern” Flying Squirrel living in graduate student digs in Lawrence, Kansas for the fall semester of 1974. We all three moved back to the Willard Pond cabin in the winter of 1974-75, and in the fall of 1975, we moved once again — to the Harris Center (“Harris House”). Amelia loved our living quarters on the second floor. Cindy discovered that Amelia’s favorite foods were pecans (she was a Southern flying squirrel, after all) and moths, even dead ones. Amelia made a number of appearances with me in Antioch Field Mammalogy classes, in ConVal 5th and 6th grade classrooms, and at the Harris Center’s Wols Nest summer camp, which Cindy supervised in the early years.

Amelia’s Golden Years

Amelia the Flying Squirrel in the Cadot's coat closet. (photo © Meade Cadot)

After a visit to the Cadot household, it was best to check your coats — and coat pockets — for squirrels!
(photo © Meade Cadot)

When we had company come for dinner at the Harris Center, Amelia was always part of the entertainment, but also part of the risk. She loved to hang out in coat pockets. When it came time for guests to leave, part of the routine was to check everyone’s coat to make sure Amelia wasn’t a stowaway!

Amelia lived to a ripe old age for a flying squirrel. In her later years, as with lots of folks, she put on weight, so her glides became shorter and steeper. She died in 1981 of what we think was a heart attack, while I was up at Hudson Bay on a birding trip with Thelma Babbitt and Joe Van O. Cindy gave her a proper burial on the Harris Center grounds.

We thought of Amelia often over the years, but especially in the mid-1980s, during the months that our daughter Virginia (then in 2nd grade) was raising four more baby flying squirrels, who had been orphaned when their cavity nest tree was cut for firewood. All four youngsters were raised successfully, and when they reached full size and could fend for themselves, three of the four were released into the wild. One, “Scarhead,” stayed on with a wildlife rehabilitator.

Meade Cadot