Discovering a baby squirrel can be a surprising and concerning experience, as these small, vulnerable creatures may appear to be in need of help. However, it is crucial to remember that human intervention is not always the best course of action and can sometimes cause more harm than good. If you find a baby squirrel, there are several steps to consider in order to assess the situation, provide appropriate care if necessary, and ensure the safety and well-being of the animal.
What to do if you find a baby squirrel
- Observe from a distance: When you first encounter a baby squirrel, it is essential to observe it from a safe distance without disturbing or handling the animal. This will allow you to assess the condition of the baby squirrel and determine whether it is injured, sick, or in immediate danger.
- Assess the age: Determining the age of the baby squirrel can help you decide what course of action to take. If the squirrel’s eyes are closed, it is likely a neonate (less than 3 weeks old), while a squirrel with open eyes but limited mobility is likely a juvenile (3-7 weeks old). More mobile and agile squirrels with a bushy tail are likely older juveniles or young adults.
- Wait for the mother: If the baby squirrel appears to be uninjured and in a safe location, it is possible that the mother squirrel is nearby and will return to retrieve her offspring. Monitor the situation from a distance for an hour or two, if possible, to see if the mother squirrel returns. Be sure to keep pets and people away from the area during this time, as the presence of potential predators or disturbances may deter the mother squirrel from returning.
- Create a safe, temporary shelter: If the mother squirrel does not return, or if the baby squirrel appears to be in immediate danger, you can provide a temporary shelter to protect the animal. Using gloves or a towel, gently pick up the baby squirrel and place it in a small, ventilated box or container lined with a soft cloth or tissue. Keep the container in a warm, quiet, and dark place away from direct sunlight, drafts, and noise.
- Provide warmth: Baby squirrels are unable to regulate their body temperature and require external warmth to survive. Place a heating pad on the lowest setting under half of the box or container, or fill a plastic bottle or ziplock bag with warm water and wrap it in a cloth before placing it in the box. This will create a warm area for the baby squirrel to snuggle against, while still allowing it to move to a cooler area if needed.
- Do not attempt to feed: It is not recommended to feed a baby squirrel without proper training and knowledge, as improper feeding can lead to serious health issues or even death. Baby squirrels have specific dietary requirements and feeding techniques, which are best handled by a trained wildlife rehabilitator.
- Contact a wildlife rehabilitator: If you have determined that the baby squirrel is orphaned or in need of assistance, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator or animal rescue organization for guidance and support. They will be able to provide expert advice on the next steps and, if necessary, arrange for the baby squirrel to be taken into their care for proper feeding, treatment, and eventual release back into the wild.
- Prevent future occurrences: To minimize the chances of encountering baby squirrels in distress in the future, take steps to make your property less attractive to nesting squirrels. This can include trimming tree branches near your home, sealing any openings or gaps in your house’s exterior, and ensuring that outdoor trash and food sources are securely contained.
In summary, if you find a baby squirrel, it is essential to first observe the situation from a distance, assess the age and condition of the animal, and wait to see if the mother returns. If intervention is necessary, provide a safe, temporary shelter and warmth for the baby squirrel, but do not attempt to feed it. Instead, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator or animal rescue organization for guidance and assistance. They are equipped with the knowledge, experience, and resources to properly care for and eventually release the baby squirrel back into the wild.
It is crucial to remember that while your intentions may be good, intervening in the natural process of wildlife can sometimes cause more harm than good. Baby squirrels, like all wild animals, have specific needs and requirements that are best met by their natural environment and the care of their mothers. Human intervention should be a last resort and only undertaken when it is clear that the animal is orphaned, injured, or in immediate danger.
By understanding the appropriate steps to take when encountering a baby squirrel and working with trained wildlife professionals, you can help ensure the safety and well-being of these vulnerable creatures. Additionally, by taking preventive measures to make your property less attractive to nesting squirrels, you can contribute to the long-term protection and conservation of these fascinating animals and their natural habitats.