Is the squirrel injured?
A baby squirrel has the best chance of survival when it is cared for by its mother. Before intervening, we want to make sure the squirrel really needs our help. Keep in mind that young squirrels found on the ground may be completely healthy. They are not orphans and may simply need help reuniting with their mothers.
A baby squirrel needs to be rescued for the following reasons:
- It is bleeding, has an open wound, or has a broken bone.
- It has been in a cat’s or dog’s mouth.
- It is covered in fly eggs (these look like small grains of rice).
- It is cold, wet, or crying nonstop.
Still unsure if the squirrel you found needs assistance? The next step is to determine the age of the squirrel to see if intervention is needed.
Found a juvenile squirrel?
Juvenile squirrels look like miniature adult squirrels.
- Does the squirrel have a fluffed-out tail?
- Is its body longer than 6” (not including the tail)?
If so, this is a juvenile squirrel like the picture to the right. Squirrels are independent at 10-12 weeks old, and in most cases when you find a juvenile squirrel, you do not need to intervene.
However, if the juvenile squirrel is approaching humans or pets, it could be a sign that it is hungry or sick and should be brought to a rehabilitator. Always wear thick gloves (like gardening gloves) when attempting to handle a juvenile squirrel as they can bite.
Found an infant squirrel?
Depending on their age, infant squirrels may have a short, thin coat of fur or no fur yet at all (see pictures below). They have a thin tail (not bushy) and their eyes may be closed or may have just opened. If you have found an infant squirrel, its best chance for survival is to be reunited with its mother.
- In order to reunite an infant squirrel with its mother the baby must be warm. Place uncooked rice or bird seed in a sock and warm in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Wrap the sock in a soft towel and place it with the baby in an open container (e.g., a box). Do not give the baby food or water.
- Return the squirrel to its nesting tree — this should be a tree in the immediate area where the squirrel was found. If you don’t know which tree the squirrel’s nest is in, or if the nest was destroyed, then choose a tree closest to where the squirrel was found. Squirrel nests can either be in tree cavities, or in “dreys” (the big balls of dried leaves at the tops of trees).
- Place the squirrel in a small open container such as a tissue box or wicker basket and attach the container to the tree. Secure it using a robe or bungee cord. Keep children, dogs, and cats out of the area.
Observe the baby squirrel from a distance for the next six to eight hours of daylight. Reheat the rice/birdseed bag every two hours. Has the mother returned to retrieve her baby?
- If YES … congratulations! You helped reunite a baby with its mother. This is best for the squirrel!
- If NO, take the squirrel to the nearest wildlife rehabilitator.
NOTE: Each animal’s nutritional, housing, and handling requirements are very specific and must be met if the animal has any chance of survival. It is best not to feed a wild animal any food or water as this can cause more harm than good. Cow’s milk and human milk replacers will make wild animals sick. Raising a wild animal in captivity without the proper training is never recommended.