This information has been gathered from the Tennessee and Georgia Wildlife Departments, various rehabilitators and from a web site written by Cindy Napolitano
Please read all of this information before you decide to care for a baby squirrel.
Did you know that wildlife rehabilitators have learned that the potential life span of a squirrel is 14 to 15 years?
Did you know that according to the Tennessee Wildlife Department, a squirrel only actually lives an average of one year in the wild?
Did you know that approximately one-third of all squirrels die from starvation within the first year of life?
.Squirrels are regularly chased away from bird feeders.
.There is a high demand for squirrel-proof bird feeders.
.People will go so far as to put hot sauce on seeds to keep squirrels away.
.The dry corn that is being sold as squirrel feed in department stores is NOT squirrel food and is probably contributing to squirrel malnutrition.
Please - even if you insist on caring for the squirrel yourself, contact a rehabilitator. Squirrels are very high maintenance and babies who have not yet opened their eyes must be fed every two to three hours - yes, even through the night.
EMERGENCY CARE FOR BABY SQUIRRELS
NOTE:A SQUIRREL WILL DIE WITHIN 24 HOURS WITHOUT FOOD & WATER.
Always double-check the area where you found the baby for his brothers and/or sisters. He is part of a litter and the nest may have fallen or a predator may have disturbed the nest.
Keep the baby warm. If the baby has not yet opened his eyes, use a box with high sides. Make sure the box has a ventilated lid. You can cut a large hole in the top of 1 box and duct tape a piece of screen over the hole. The baby squirrel will crawl around and you do not want to lose him.
Place a heating pad in the bottom of the box and cover with a soft baby blanket. (Baby receiving blankets work well: Avoid towels, as the baby can snag his little toes and break them off or even break his fragile ankles. Test the heating pad to be sure the temperature is not too warm. You want to keep the baby at a comfortable 99 degrees. Squirrels feel secure when they can hide in the blanket.
Rehydrate the baby immediately. Do not attempt formula at this point. You don't know how long the baby has been without fluids.
Warm a small amount of Pedialyte (enough for one feeding) in the microwave. Test the liquid to be sure that it is not too warm. Initially, give the baby Pedialyte every 15 minutes for the first two hours. Try to give the baby 1/2 cc each time.
If you are unable to access Pedialyte, you can use the following formula:
*1 quart warm water
*3 teaspoons regular table sugar *1 teaspoon salt
Mix together until dissolved and store in refrigerator.
Feed the baby with his head up. Watch his stomach. Do not let him bloat! His stomach should have a comfortably round appearance.
Use a small tip dropper or a lcc syringe (be sure to discard the needle first) to feed the baby. Feed carefully and slowly keeping only the tip of the dropper in his mouth. If he sucks too hard, he may take the liquid into his lungs.
If the formula begins to come out of his nose, stop feeding and Immediately use a tissue to pat his nose dry. Keep tissue close by while feeding. Do not allow the baby to breathe the formula back in again when this happens. Wait until he can breathe properly again before you continue to feed him.
NOTE: IF THE BABY IS NOT DRINKING OR IS GAGGING ON THE PEDIALYTE, HE MAY BE TOO DEHYDRATED TO RESPOND. TAKE THE BABY TO THE REHABILITATOR OR VET IMMEDIATELY AND ASK FOR LACTATED RINGERS TO BE ADMINISTERED. IF ADMINISTERED PROPERLY, THE BABY SHOULD BEGIN TO RESPOND TO THE PEDIALYTE ORALLY WITHIN HOURS.
A baby squirrel needs help to eliminate his urine and waste. The mother squirrel usually cleans the baby after feeding which helps to stimulate this process. If the baby does not have help, he may develop a urinary tract infection or other major problems.
After feeding, use a damp cotton ball or wet finger to lightly stimulate the baby's genitals until he eliminates. This sometimes takes a couple of minutes so please be patient.
The baby's urine should be light yellow. If it is too dark, you must feed him more often or help him urinate often. Continue this process after each feeding until eyes have opened and/or you are sure it is old enough to urinate by himself.
If the baby is taking the Pedialyte well and seems to be hydrating, you can gradually expand to your administration to every hour for 4-6 hours. After this, you can switch over to formula. Powdered Puppy Milk Replacer works well.
The baby's formula: This is the formula used by most rehabilitators and is crucial to the baby's health. Do not use any other recommended formula or you will put the baby at risk of Metabolic Bone Disease or other health disorders!
Mix 1 part Powered Puppy Replacer with 2 parts distilled water and 1/4 part whipping cream (not whipped cream) or plain yogurt.
Make only enough for a three-day supply.
Warm enough for one feeding in the microwave as with the Pedialyte.
The baby's first formula feedings should be introduced gradually.
For the first two feedings, mix 75% Pedialyte with 25% formula.
For the next three to four feedings, mix half of each
For the next three to four feedings, mix 75% formula with 25% Pedialyte.
After this gradual introduction, give 100% formula
How often to feed the baby:
When you first receive the baby squirrel, begin to feed every two hours AFTER he is rehydrated for several days.
THIS IS AROUND THE CLOCK, EVEN AT NIGHT.
Continue to feed every two hours if the baby is under two weeks old.
Feed every three hours from two weeks old until his eyes are opened. (about 4-5 weeks old)
Feed every four hours until weaned, between seven to ten weeks old.
WEANING THE BABY
After the baby has opened his eyes, you can begin to introduce solid food into his diet.
Remember; continue to feed the baby his formula until he no longer wants it. (About 7 to 10 weeks)
Because nutrition is so important to a squirrel's fragile system, most rehabilitators begin the baby on Primate Dry Monkey Biscuits. This has the right amount of nutrients to keep the baby from acquiring severe ailments such as Metabolic Bone Disease, rickets, seizures, malnutrition, brittle bones, or other problems.
NOTE: WARNING SIGNS THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THE BABY' NUTRITION ARE HYPERACTIVITY, BITING, ATTACKING, OR AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR. THIS CAN BE CAUSED BY LACK OF CALCIUM AND MAGNESIUM IN HIS DIET. TOO MUCH PHOSPHORUS CAN ALSO LEAD TO THIS BEHAVIOR. ALTHOUGH ALMONDS CAN BE GIVEN IN SMALL AMOUNTS, I SUGGEST NOT GIVING ALMONDS OR BRAZIL NUTS AT ALL!
After the baby is eating the Monkey Biscuits well, you can begin to introduce other raw fruit and vegetables as well as nuts into his diet. Always offer a variety and change out the food twice a day.
You do not want the baby to be eating food that has gone bad. Introduce each new food one at a time and wait to make sure the baby does not have an allergy to the item or develops diarrhea.
Squirrels can be picky and will not like everything you offer. He will sometimes urinate on food that he does not like or wipe his mouth on the ground. Note what fruits and vegetables he prefers, but be sure to provide a variety fo his health.
NOTE: SQUIRRELS DO NOT EAT MEAT which means cat and dog food are inappropriate
Try the following:
Sweet potato, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Corn on cob, Lettuce, CarrotsMushrooms, Peas, Leafy greens, Celery, Squash, Okra, Green beansGreen Pepper, Cucumber, Berries, Peach, Apple , Banana, Pineapple Melon, Avocado, Kiwi, Fig or dates, Raisins, Plum, Pear, Pumpkin seedsSunflower, Acorns, Pecans, Chestnuts, Hickory nuts, PistachioHazelnuts, Grains
Be sure to chop his food up into tiny pieces that the b can pick up with his hands.
A couple good supplements are Hartz Mountain green thin hamster Food and Hartz Mountain Muchie-O. Avoid anything salted or sugared but a lot of the healthier cereals in your grocery store would be part of a good diet.
By about 7-10 weeks old, the baby should be eating solid foods and drinking water sufficiently to stop feeding him but he will let you know by refusing the formula when you try to feed him.
A PROPER HOME
As the baby squirrel grows and becomes more active, purchase a large cage with enough room for him to climb. He must have plenty of room to climb or he can develop physical problems.
An indoor cage should be at least 24 inches wide and 24 inches long. It should at least 3 foot high and have shelves for him to climb and lay on.
Remember, the higher a squirrel rests, the safer he feels.
The cage must have sleeping box with blankets for padding and also to hide in. The higher the box is in the cage, the safer he feels. You can secure a box with wire and branches from outside of the cage. Do not use a cage with a wire grid bottom. This is not only uncomfortable for the squirrel, but is also danger to little feet that can get caught. Use a flat surface the flooring such as hard plastic, metal or sanded wood.
Note: To switch a squirrel between cages, I use a cardboard box opened at both ends as a passage. Be sure the box is large enough to cover the openings to both cages. This is less stressful for the squirrel and for you.
If the squirrel escapes, use a soft blanket to throw over him and gently pick him up and put him in the cage.
Be sure to have a water source in the cage. I use a small ceramic water cup attached to the cage from the outside.
If you use a hanging bottle, the baby will need help to understand how to use it. Be sure the baby is drinking from the water source before you stop feeding him his formula.
Do not use plastic containers for food or water as the baby WILL chew them up.
Give the baby safe toys to play with. I give them small stuffed animals but I avoid the ones with beans, as the beans will get everywhere! Put some pinecones, nonpoisonous tree branches, wood blocks, and a clean thick dog bone in his cage for him to chew on. Be sure there are no sharp metal pieces on the toys.
A squirrel must chew. His teeth never stop growing and can grow into his jaw if he cannot grind them down. Always put objects in the cage that the baby can use to grind his teeth down.
Place the cage by a window that receives good sunlight or use an approved pet sunlamp. A squirrel needs to be exposed to sunlight each day or he can suffer from vitamin "D" deficiency and begin to lose his hair and have other health disorders. Essential rays from the sun cannot penetrate a closed glass window. Unless extremely cold, try to keep the window open. The rays can penetrate the screen.
NOTE: DO NOT LET CHILDREN OR ADULTS TOUCH THE CAGE OR POKE ITEMS THROUGH THE BARS. THE BABY CONSIDERS THE CAGE HIS NEST AND WILL DEFEND HIS TERRITORY. A FRIGHTENED SQUIRREL COULD HAVE A HEART ATTACK. YOU WILL PROBABLY BE THE ONLY ONE HE WILL LET TOUCH HIS CAGE AND HE WILL SMELL FOR YOUR SCENT WHEN YOU DO.
Clean the baby's cage every day! Use a mild detergent. Do not use bleach or anything toxic! I use a couple tablespoons of Murphy's oil soap in a gallon of water to wash the shelves and bottom of the cage. His toys will also need washed if you smell urine on them. Use mild dish liquid and rinse thoroughly.
NOTE: The baby's urine has a strong smell from the formula.
This will go away after the baby has been weaned.
PLAY WITH THE BABY
Play with him, especially if he is a loner. Squirrels need companionship and rehabilitators try to pair them up before the babies open their eyes so that they will bond together. This is another reason you should give the baby to a rehabilitator. When released, two squirrels will help each other survive and ward off squirrel bullies. This way, a lone male will not have to remain alone after he is released.
I suggest that the baby be allowed out of the cage to play for at least one hour a day. If a squirrel is kept in a small cage for too long, he will pace the cage. It is possible that a squirrel could suffer from heart failure and die from being confined for too long. Although it is unnatural for a squirrel to live in a cage for this period of time, releasing the inexperienced baby too early will leave him vulnerable to starvation, predators, and many other hazards.
If you do not have a safe place in your home for the baby to play, transfer him to a different cage in another location to give him a different view. You may want to put him in an outside cage for a little while by using the open box method to transfer to a smaller carrying cage or a pet carrier.
An outside cage
At four to five months of age, the baby will be ready to be moved to an outside cage.
Make the outside cage as large and tall as possible and designed similar to the inside cage. I suggest the cage should be at least six-foot tall. Be sure the cage is in a safe place and predator proof! Be sure the cage has a dry nesting box and is partially covered from rain. Put plenty of branches in the cage and shelves to climb on.
The baby will dig in the dirt and may escape if you do not have a solid bottom for the cage.
RELEASING BACK TO NATURE
Please take the time to do this properly. This is a procedure that takes care. Do not release in extreme temperatures. Wait for a nice day.
Do not release the squirrel too soon. A mother squirrel nurses her baby for about ten weeks. The baby without a mother has an added disadvantage of being inexperienced with his surroundings. Most rehabilitators suggest waiting until the baby is six months old to release. At four months, a baby is easy prey for predators and he lacks any sense of direction.
Be sure the baby has been in an outside cage for at least 3 weeks prior to release. The baby does not have the benefit of a mother to teach him the ropes in this new and strange world. Be sure the release area is safe from dogs, cats, a neighbor who does not like squirrels, and other predators. Be sure the area is not close to a well-traveled road.
BE sure there is plenty of water, food, and fruit and nut trees. I suggest the local state or federal reserve. The officials of these parks are usually happy to cooperate with the squirrel's release. Be sure to provide food for at least several weeks after release. Also be sure he know where the food will be. If you are releasing in your yard, also put up a squirrel feeder (nut box) and keep it filled with stripped sunflower seeds mixed with raw peanuts or other nonperishable items from the list above. He may become a permanent resident.
Open the cage and let him go. For the first week after release, it is crucial that the baby is monitored until he has his confidence and can find food and water.
He must also learn to build a nest to sleep in and be able to ward off other squirrel bullies. He will probably return to the cage to sleep and eat for a while. Be sure he has fresh food and be sure to close the cage at night to keep predators out. Open the cage again at dawn so that he car continue to explore his new world. When he has found a new home, he will not return to the cage again.
Squirrels do not communicate well with each other and are very territorial. They will usually claim their own tree. A small female will be chased relentlessly by males but eventually accepts her new friends and is welcomed into the group. A lone male squirrel does not have it so good. He is usually run off by other males or sometimes even attacked.
SOME OTHER ADVISE
To calm a baby to sleep, stroke gently under his chin and neck with your finger. This feels so good and relaxes the baby.
Squirrels are fragile! Do not let a child play with a baby squirrel!
Do not grab a squirrel by the tail as the tail will come off and does not grow back!