CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio (AP) _ Angele Daniel Nichole deserved to win the unusual pet contest. Now the state says the gray squirrel is not only an unusual pet, she's an illegal pet.

Mary Jane Clifton rescued Angele from the street when she was a baby. She has hand-crocheted winter outfits for the 19-month-old squirrel and created a special area for her to sleep in a linen closet, though Angele has even slept with Ms. Clifton and her husband.

After a picture of Ms. Clifton and Angele appeared in a newspaper for winning the contest, officials with the Ohio Division of Wildlife ordered her to turn over the animal. When she refused, she was charged with possession of wild game for not having a permit to keep the animal.

During a municipal court hearing Thursday, wildlife supervisor James Lehman said state law provides no method for taking a squirrel from the wild alive. Lehman said the only legal way to have a live squirrel in Ohio is to obtain it from a licensed breeder.

The state wants to put Angele with someone who specializes in returning animals to the wild. But Ms. Clifton said experts she has talked to say there is no chance the squirrel could be returned to the wild and that chances are that she would be shot.

``If it comes down to that, I will ask them to let me shoot her myself so I could bury her on our own land,'' Ms. Clifton said.