Am I a real orphan? Most mother squirrels build their nest high in a tree to provide protection from predators. Their nests are made of dry leaves and twigs, and lined with fur or other soft material they find. Most squirrels have two homes: A summer home and a winter home. And yes, some of them will make a great nest in your attic, shed, garage, and even that old abandoned vehicle still in your backyard. To keep with nuisance control see bottom of page. Dens – cavity such as a hollow tree cavity, attic, etc Dreys – outside nests (usually subject to the weather conditions)
Check list prior to bringing it to a rehabber:
- Is the baby injured (do you see blood)?
- Is the baby covered with fly eggs?
- Is the baby dehydrated and/or extremely thin?
- Is the baby cold?
- The family pet brings it home
Reasons why we find baby squirrels on the ground:
- Tree work
- Bad weather
- One of the siblings kicked the other out of the nest
- Just playing with their siblings and one or more fell out of the nest
- Predator lost its meal
- Mom has died and the babies are trying to look for food on their own.
- Mom knows that the baby is sick and cannot take care of it.
- Walks right up to you without being scared
Mom will take back a warm and healthy baby. If the baby looks healthy but cold, its first need is to be warmed up. One simple way to warm a baby is to give it an old t-shirt to snuggle in. You can use a hand warmer, or even a plastic bottle filled with warm water, to help the baby get warm. Put it next to the baby so the baby can cuddle up to it and have the option to move away from it if he/she gets too warm. Babies burn easily, so not too hot. Do not feed the squirrel. You want the baby to cry so its mother can find it and retrieve it.
If you cannot put the baby back in its original nest, then you can make a temporary nest. Very simple to do. Use a small container that is high enough so the baby cannot get out, but not so high that the mother cannot retrieve the baby. Give the baby some of the natural substrate that is on the ground (leaves, grasses). You can also use paper towels or even an old t-shirt so the baby has something to snuggle in to keep it feel secure and warm. Just rub the t-shirt in the dirt before putting it in the container so it smells more natural then human. Some human scent is okay; a mother wants her child back if it’s healthy. Put this container as close as possible to where you believe the nest is (or was). If the nest is in a tree, put the container in the tree as high as you can go if possible,. Keep in mind that this temporary nest must be safe from dogs and cats.
The mother will only retrieve her young if she feels safe to do so. Keep people and pets away. The mother will usually retrieve her young within 2-6 hours in good weather or until dark, whichever comes first. If the baby is found late at night or in bad weather, it can be taken inside for the night only and then put outside the next morning. Mother squirrels will not look for their babies after dusk. Please find a safe location for the babies after nightfall. If you leave the babies out during the night, it won’t be the mother of the squirrels that find them. If the young is not retrieved after such an attempt, then it’s time to find a rehabilatator. Keep in mind that if you just found one or two, there might be more. So, if you can, please check the site again the following day to see if any of its other siblings have fallen. Mothers give birth to one to seven babies per liter (average five).
Okay, now let’s say that the squirrel found you!! Yep, we get these calls all the time. They usually fall in the age group of 6 to 9 weeks old. You are looking at this squirrel and thinking it’s big enough to take care of itself; why is it crawling up my leg. Well, it’s not big enough to take care of itself and sees you as its new mother, Congratulations! (Just kidding.) Squirrels that show this type of behavior are usually orphans. They have been orphan for a few days and feel insecure and cannot feed themselves. Or should we say, they really don’t know what they should eat. They would still be nursing off their mother, but the mother would be showing her young what and where their natural food sources are. So chances are you would be able to pick this squirrel up (wear gloves) and put it in any container with a secure lid. Call a rehabilitator.
Animals talk to us if we choose to listen: If there is a squirrel chattering at you, chances are you are getting too close to her nest. This is her way of telling you to back off. So, if you are getting ready to cut down that half dead tree in your yard and a squirrel is just running back and forth acting crazy and chattering at you, chances are she is trying to tell you, “No please don’t cut down my house, my babies are inside!” If time permits, cut down the tree later in the year. Baby season for squirrels runs from mid February through May and again in late July through October.