Have you ever come across an orphaned baby squirrel? Returning it to its mother is the best thing, but you can also care for and nurture it until it grows up. Caring for wild animals is quite complicated and is generally more difficult and risky than caring for animals that have been domesticated from birth. But this can be done. With the right food, protection, and painstaking care, a squirrel will thrive in your home until it is ready to be released back into the wild.
Part 1 of 4: Saving Baby Squirrels
Step 1. Find the parent first
While you can take care of a baby squirrel, no one can take care of it better than its mother. So if you find a baby squirrel, it's always important to try to get the baby and mother back together before doing anything else. The mother squirrel will look for the babies and acknowledge them again if the baby's body temperature is warm.
- The mother squirrel will not bring the baby back if it feels cold because the mother will think the baby is sick or dying. So you can predict in monitoring the situation. If the baby is injured, cold, or over night and the mother doesn't return within one to two hours, then the baby is likely an orphan and needs your help.
- The human scent on the baby squirrel will not prevent the mother from retrieving it. So don't worry when you touch it.
- If there are several baby squirrels and one of them dies, the mother squirrel will not carry the live baby. Therefore, you may decide to help her and monitor whether the mother will return in a while once the smell of the dead baby has gone.
Step 2. Carefully lift the baby squirrel
Wear thick leather gloves (to be safe), observe and inspect the baby squirrel for injuries, insects, bleeding, bumps, or cuts. If it is bleeding or there is a broken bone and the injury is severe, you need to see a veterinarian for immediate treatment.
Step 3. Make the baby squirrel feel warm
Baby squirrels don't produce body heat, so you have to keep them warm. Find or borrow a heating pad, electric blanket, hot water bottle, and hand warmer. A heating pad filled with liquid can be the best heat regulator because of its ability to regulate water circulation. Make sure the temperature setting is low to medium.
- Baby squirrels should be incubated at around 37 Celsius. If you have a thermometer (or you can borrow one), you will be able to create the right environment for your baby squirrel's health.
- Some heating pads turn off within a few hours, so check them frequently to make sure they're still on. You can also place a towel over the container to keep it warm. If the summer is hot you don't need to cover it with a towel.
Step 4. Look for the small box
Once you've got the things you need to warm the baby squirrels, you'll need a small box, basket, 30 sq cm Tupperware container, or something similar. Place the heater on one side. If it gets too hot, the baby squirrel will crawl away from the pads.
- Make a nest in the box using the materials you find in the baby squirrel's area. Make a donut-shaped nest and place the baby squirrel in the center. Make sure the heat source is leaning toward the nest but not touching the baby squirrel directly.
- If needed, you can use a soft cloth. Don't use a towel as it can entangle his thumb, break his elbow, remove his leg, etc.
Step 5. Try to find the mother squirrel one more time
Place the nest outside. If the area is safe from dogs, cats, raccoons, and other predators, then you can place the nest on the ground. If you're not sure, place it on a tree or pole to keep it safe.
When the baby squirrel is warmer, it will instinctively call out to its mother. If the mother squirrel is nearby, then this is a good opportunity. The mother will come and take the baby. The mother squirrel holds her baby like a cat, so there's no need to worry if you place the nest in a tree
Part 2 of 4: Adopt a Baby Squirrel
Step 1. Bring the nest into the house
If the mother squirrel doesn't come in one to two hours then it's time to give up. There are several reasons why the mother squirrel does not come. For example, the mother squirrel may be injured or die. In this case you need to take the baby squirrel and the nest home.
- If you have a dog, make sure the baby squirrel has its own protected room.
- Make sure you keep the nest warm.
Step 2. Find a squirrel rehabilitation center
Contact your veterinarian, animal protection, organizations such as human society, Fish & Game, Fish & Wildlife, Wildlife group for a recommendation for a local wildlife rehabilitator such as a squirrel. You can also search online by typing in squirrel rehabilitation along with the country and city where you live.
- Visit https://www.thesquirrelboard.com to help baby squirrels until you find someone who can rehabilitate them (rehabber). The site is a forum where you can join and ask questions to help you care for baby squirrels until a rehabber is found.
- If you can't find a rehabber, the squirrel board website will help you take care of your baby squirrel and return it to the wild.
Step 3. Be aware that some countries have strict laws around keeping squirrels
In the United Kingdom this is a criminal offense that carries up to two years in prison. Return the gray squirrel to its environment. Some states in the United States, such as Washington, have laws where it is illegal to own or provide rehabilitation to sick, injured, or orphaned squirrels. An exception is if you are simply moving your animal to a stray rehab for treatment. Get to know the regulations that apply in your area. You can easily be charged with keeping wild squirrels illegal.
Step 4. Clean your baby squirrel
Be aware that baby squirrels may harbor parasites such as fleas, mites, ticks and maggots. Remove fleas and maggots by hand or with a flea comb and tweezers. Petco also sells flea and mite sprays made especially for small animals like hamsters.
If the baby is still red do not give anything to the skin. Spray the cloth around the baby squirrel. Do not spray on the wound because it will sting
Step 5. Check if the baby squirrel is dehydrated
You can see how dehydrated a baby squirrel is by gently pinching its skin. A dehydrated baby squirrel needs water as soon as possible because you don't know how long it has been without eating or drinking.
Sunken, wrinkled eyes, or looking thin, are signs that the squirrel is dehydrated
Step 6. Select the liquid type
Most neglected babies need water. The best solution is to go to a supermarket or drug store and buy Pedialyte in the baby gear section. They also usually offer a specific brand (eg Gerber). Squirrels love the fruity taste but if they only have fresh ones available, they will like it too. If you can't find Pedialyte you can also use Gatorade.
- If you live far from a drug store, you can make your own concoction from the following ingredients:
- One teaspoon salt
- Three teaspoons of sugar
- Four cups of water
- Stir well
Part 3 of 4: Feeding Baby Squirrels
Step 1. Use an oral spray kit
There are several types of spray that do not have a needle. You can use a clean eye dropper, a baby oral spray, or a feeding spray that you can get from Petco or Petsmart (usually sold alongside Esbilac puppy milk).
Step 2. Check the baby squirrel's temperature
You don't need a thermometer to get the exact temperature, as long as the baby squirrel is warm to the touch. This is an important step before you give him fluids because the baby squirrel won't be able to digest anything if it's not warm.
Step 3. Feed the baby squirrel which is still red very carefully
Baby squirrels that still look bald, reddish in color, tiny about 5, 17, 6 cm are susceptible to air that causes fluid to collect in their lungs. The baby could have pneumonia and die.
- Make sure the liquid is warm but not too hot. You can store the rest in the refrigerator.
- For this tiny baby, give him just one drop of water and let him suck on it. If not sucked, put a drop in his mouth and let him recognize the taste first. Some baby squirrels will open their mouths wide and start sucking.
- Once her eyelids are open, you can let her reach the spray itself into her mouth and slowly apply a few drops.
- If a lot of fluid comes out of his mouth and nose, it must be because you gave him too soon. Hold the baby squirrel upside down for 10 seconds, blowing the fluid out of its nostrils, wait a few minutes before continuing.
Step 4. Give the correct dose
Give 1 cc every hour for babies who are still red and cannot open their eyes; 1-2 cc every 2 hours for babies who have fur but have not opened their eyes; 2-4 cc for baby squirrels who have opened their eyes. Keep going until a rehabber calls you back.
- 1 cc is equal to about 20-25 drops from an eye dropper; 5 cc is equal to 1 teaspoon.
- For the first two hours, feed the baby 1.5 cc every 15 minutes.
- If a baby squirrel vomits or doesn't respond to feedings, take him to rehab immediately and ask for a Lactated Ringer. If properly administered, Lactated Ringer can aid in feeding baby squirrels.
- Feed the baby every two hours until the baby is two weeks old. After that, feed every three hours until the eyes open. If he's around seven or ten weeks old, you can feed him every four hours until it's time to wean.
Step 5. Give the baby squirrel a stimulus
Baby squirrels should be stimulated to urinate and defecate while their eyes are still closed. Before and after feeding, caress the genital and anal areas with an earplug or warm, damp cotton swab until they can urinate or defecate. If not done then the stomach will be bloated and can result in death.
Mother squirrels do this in the wild. If they are very dehydrated and haven't eaten for some time, they won't pee after a few feedings and haven't pooped all day
Step 6. Reduce feeding time lag
If the baby squirrel is well fed and hydrated, feed it every hour for four to six hours. Switch to puppy milk substitutes, which you can buy at pet stores. Make sure you ONLY use the recipes below:
- 1 part powdered milk for puppies
- 2 parts distilled water
- 1/4 part whipping cream (not whipped cream) or plain yogurt
Step 7. Warm the food
You can also use the microwave. As with liquids, introduce these soft foods gradually. You will change this feeding step fairly quickly as you would with Pedialyte.
- For the first feeding give 75% Pedialyte, 25% food mix.
- For the third to fourth feeding, mix Pedialyte and food mixture in a 50-50 ratio.
- For the next third to fourth feeding you can mix 75% food mixture and 25% Pedialyte.
- After that, giving 100% of the food is suitable to be given.
Step 8. Wean your baby squirrel
When your baby squirrel is ready for solid food (when his eyes are open) you can give him the Primate Dry Monkey Biscuit. These biscuits contain nutrients with the right amount and type.
If your baby squirrel is hyperactive, biting, or aggressive, this is usually due to a lack of calcium and magnesium. Consult your rehabber to deal with it
Step 9. Introduce raw fruits and nuts
Like human babies, your little squirrel will like some types of food and avoid others. Look for foods that he likes while still offering other types of food because he needs a varied diet.
- Just like human babies, baby squirrels will let you know when they are finished with their formula by holding them away.
- If your squirrel pees on his food, it means he doesn't like it. If he rubs his face on the ground, this is also a sign that he doesn't like his food.
- Give him little and one type of food at a time to make sure he doesn't have diarrhea.
- Try giving sweet potatoes, broccoli, green leaves, cucumbers, fig leaves, dates, kiwi fruit, acorns, and candlenuts.
Part 4 of 4: The Transition to Adolescence
Step 1. Buy a bigger cage
Squirrels need room to run around a bit. Make sure it's at least 1x1x3 with shelves, beds and places to hide and climb.
- Use a pot of ceramics. If it's plastic, your squirrel will chew, crush, and possibly eat it.
- Provide toys. Choose toys such as pine tree nut shells, clean sticks, or toy bones for dogs. Don't give toys that break easily, choke them, and fall apart when they break (e.g. toys that contain tiny particles).
- Also give him an item that helps him grind his growing teeth.
Step 2. Play with your baby squirrel
Your baby squirrel needs social interaction, especially if he is a loner. Play at least an hour outside the cage every day. If you don't have a safe room to play in, or a protected open space (you'll need one soon), you can move to another part of the house.
- Getting them used to heights is a good idea. Using curtain rods can help with this. You definitely don't want your baby squirrels just crawling on the ground when they're out in the open. Most human squirrels do this and end up falling prey to snakes, cats, etc.
- The rehabilitator will pair the baby squirrels with each other before they have both opened their eyes so that the two of them bond. This is also another reason why baby squirrels need to be handed over to a rehabilitator: two squirrels will help each other in the wild in a variety of ways.
- Baby squirrels that are kept in small cages for too long will become restless and potentially develop heart failure and die. So playtime is very important.
Step 3. Move rehab into the wild
At four to five months of age the squirrel needs to be moved outside of the cage, to a larger area at least about 1.8 meters tall. Design it like an indoor cage and make sure it can't be entered by predators.
- Make sure the cage has a nest box, a play rod that allows the squirrel to climb and jump on a variety of surfaces. Half the size of the cage should also be protected from rain. The bottom of the cage should be solid to prevent the squirrels from escaping.
- Your squirrel should be in an outdoor cage for at least three weeks before being released.
Step 4. Let your squirrel go
Since these squirrels have no siblings or mothers, you should make sure the area is safe from dogs, cats, nosy neighbors, and other predators. There should be plenty of water, food, fruit trees and nuts in the area.
- Provide adequate food for at least three weeks after discharge. If you let it out in the yard, keep it a place to eat and fill it with fresh food on a regular basis. You already know what kind of food your squirrel likes.
- Release the squirrel into an environment that you feel is safe and has the food your squirrel needs.
- It's important not to release your squirrel too soon. At four months old, baby squirrels are not ready to save themselves in the wild and can become easy prey for predators to catch.
- You'll want to keep an eye on the squirrel for the first week to make sure it can find food, water, and is confident enough in its new environment.
- Due to the composition of the given formula, the baby squirrel's urine will have a strong unpleasant odor. However, once weaned, the smell will disappear.
- Baby squirrels need friends. Find a rehabilitator to bring in the squirrel to make friends. They will learn from each other, imitate, and need each other to grow and develop.
- The first time you offer your new friend nuts, make sure they are cleaned of salt. It's even easier if you encourage him to eat nuts with hard shells.