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How to Care for Orphan Squirrels

Each spring there are many orphaned wild animals found in our communities, and baby squirrels are among the more common. Many things can create an orphan situation. The nest could be knocked down by a storm, the wind or tree trimming. Or a predator could take away the mother. The most common reason, however, is lack of space.

A mother squirrel gives birth to a litter of three or four babies, born almost blind. The babies are one to two inches long and have no fur. In fact, a newborn squirrel weighs about as much as two U.S. quarters. A mother nurses her young approximately 75 days, and as they grow, she teaches them the foraging, climbing and social skills necessary for survival. As the babies grow and more room is needed, one or more may be accidentally pushed out of the nest. The mother will usually pick up the baby and if it is uninjured will return it to the nest.

You might find an orphaned squirrel abandoned or it may crawl up your leg looking for food. You might want to observe it for a while to see if the mother returns. However, if it is cold or there are other life-threatening circumstances, you should intervene.

Before initiating the care of a baby squirrel, try to find a licensed rehabilitator – all states have them. Call your veterinarian or the local chapter of the S.P.C.A. for information. If you are unable to locate a rehab center, you can attempt to raise the baby for eventual release back into the wild. A squirrel is a wild animal and should not be kept as a pet. The only way to keep one in captivity would be to keep it caged and squirrels do not do well when confined.

Initial Care

Until you find a rehabilitation center or until you decide what you are going to do, the baby will need some initial care.

How Old is the Baby?

Determine the age of the baby if you can. A squirrel’s eyes open at about five weeks of age. If your baby’s eyes are closed, he is under five weeks old. Here are other guidelines:

Care for Less Than Five Weeks Old

A baby squirrel less than five weeks of age will require more intensive care than an older orphan. During rehabilitation, keep the animal confined to a small cage containing branches and a fresh water. Even young babies can climb, so do not rely on a box. Keep the young animal warm, but keep him out of direct sunlight.

Care for Over Five Weeks of Age

Care at Seven Weeks of Age