Claudia Biddle-Travis is way more than just a friend to the squirrels of Boston Public Garden. They share a special bond.
They come when she calls the names she's given them, like Miss Rue, Blanca and Willsy. She can identify them by their traits. When they're sick — and Biddle-Travis can tell by how they eat on a nut — she treats them.
"I would get people walking by all the time making comments about, you know, she's talking to the animals — and they're talking back to her," said the Massachusetts-licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
Biddle-Travis has been rescuing urban wildlife for decades, something she said gives her "the ultimate joy."
The squirrels who have names are ones she's rehabilitated and released or who have been attacked and which she's monitoring, Biddle-Travis said.
She lives near the garden, so when she's called about an animal that needs help, she can take them there. Biddle-Travis has protective gear and cages where they can recover, and she said that, since she's moved to Boston and begun caring for the squirrels in the park, they've stopped looking mangy.
"The animals are unconditional, and they were always there for me, both domestic and wild, and I've just always communicated with them very easily," she said.