***“Animal Help Tips” is offered as a public information source, not a formal instruction manual on how to deal with wild animal situations. The Wildlife Rescue League does not accept responsibility for any outcomes that might result from reading and acting on this material.***
Birthing: 2-5 per litter, 2 litters a year: February-April and July-September.
Eyes opened: 4-6 weeks
Weaning (beg-end): 3-8 weeks
Active: Year-round (daytime for grays; nighttime for flying squirrels)
Diet: Nuts, fruit (flying squirrels also eat bird eggs and insects)
NOTE: Squirrels tend to build nests in attics, chimneys, tree trunks, or leaf nests in trees. Generally they build two or three nests so that they can move their babies if the nest is threatened or the nest becomes infested with fleas. Generally, the mother will move the babies to a new nest at around six weeks of age.
Young male squirrels tend to change territories in the fall, and are frequently not “car savvy”. This is when a lot of squirrels are hit by cars.
Call the Hotline immediately if:
• The weather is cold, the baby was very cold, lying flat and not moving, or the baby is unfurred or very small.
• The weather is warm -- because maggots can infest baby squirrels very rapidly.
Q - When can a young squirrel be on its own?
A - If the squirrel is furred, has a tail that curves up (looks like a real squirrel tail) and it can sit up and walk, leave it alone unless it approaches you for help. These squirrels are making learning excursions from the nest, but are still under a parent’s care.
Q - Why is this baby squirrel alone?
A - Sometimes babies fall/are blown out of nests, or are dropped as the mother is moving her nest, or a whole nest is blown down during high winds. (Normally a mother squirrel builds several nests and will move the babies if she feels threatened or there are fleas in the nest.) The mother will generally come back and check to make sure she has all the babies, however she may miss some and leave them behind. A mother squirrel will not retrieve a baby that is very cold or injured. If one or two squirrels are found by themselves without nesting material, call the Hotline.
Q - When should I help a baby squirrel and how?
A - Re-nesting should only be attempted if the whole nest has been blown down or is found in an inappropriate place, such as a car engine. If the babies are warm, furred, and uninjured, follow these re-nesting procedures:
***Place it in a basket or box (shoebox) near where found, out of the reach of cats and dogs. The box should be lined with soft materials to make a warm nest and be a size that is high enough to prevent the baby from climbing out, but low enough to allow the mother to enter and depart with the baby. If the location of the nest is known, the box can be tied as far up the tree trunk as can be managed, out of direct sunlight in hot weather. If the baby is chilled, or the weather is cool, place a jar or a ziplock bag filled with warm water wrapped in several socks inside the box.
***Keep dogs and cats indoors and try to minimize human activity around the tree.
***Watch from inside the house if possible. The mother will not show herself if she can detect anyone’s presence within a fairly wide radius of the tree. Check every hour. If the baby is still in the box after 2 hours or as darkness approaches, call the Hotline.
OTHER SQUIRREL QUESTIONS:
Q - A young squirrel ran up to me. What does that mean?
A - A juvenile squirrel will seek human help when it has been prematurely separated from its family and is not yet old enough to find food on its own. If possible, it should be returned to its family. If the location of the family is unknown, call the Hotline.
Q - There is an injured adult squirrel. What should I do?
A1 - Squirrels are difficult to catch. If they are trapped they can die of shock or injure themselves in panic. It is also important to determine whether it is a female with babies. Unless the injury is very severe, it is better not to attempt to catch an injured squirrel. If they are caught, they must be handled with thick gloves.
A2 - If the squirrel is so injured it is down, you can attempt to pick it up but must be very careful not to be bitten. Cover the squirrel with a towel, roll it up loosely and place in a box. In some jurisdictions, the you can also cover the squirrel with a box to protect it to keep it from moving on and call animal control to do the pickup. Animal control will euthanize it if the injuries are very severe (back or spine), or will refer it to a rehabilitator.
Q - There’s a squirrel in my house! How do I get it out?
A - The squirrel does not want to be in your house and will panic. Try to confine it to a room with an exit (window, door, etc.) to the outside and it will find its way out. If it has come from the attic and returns there, determine whether there have been recent repairs to the house which have sealed off its normal access route to the outside. There may also be babies in the attic if it is baby season. The squirrel must be given an avenue of escape and a way to remove its babies.
Q - I am sure one is trapped. How can I get it out?
A - Sometimes animals do get caught in chimneys and must be rescued. If a squirrel is trapped in a wall, down a vent, or in the chimney, provide a means for the animal to climb out. Lower a weighted, double strand of rope into the enclosure, making sure the length is adequate to reach the animal. For lesser heights, a panty hose rope will also work well. If this does not work, call the Hotline for advice. If the squirrel can come out of the bottom through the fireplace, close off the room, open a door or window to the outside, and retreat to allow the squirrel to exit. If the room does not open to the outside, a pillowcase can be used to capture the squirrel and take it outside.
Q - What if I see a squirrel with a large growth or abscess?
A - Warbles (botfly larvae) look like large growths; they are actually eggs laid under the skin. The squirrel will look horrible but act fine. Leave it alone. The worm will exit after it hatches and does no damage to the squirrel. Trying to remove the warble can actually harm the squirrel; if the warble is punctured, toxins will enter the squirrel’s system.