What to do if you find a baby squirrel

by | Wildlife Fact Sheets |

Spring is the season for seeing wildlife out and about – and coming across baby animals.

Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge in Georgina care for about 400-600 squirrels per year. Most of these are orphans left behind by moms who’ve been killed by cars or predators, and they are found after they get desperate and fall from their nest.

What should you do if you come across an orphaned squirrel? Here are some helpful tips.

Step 1

If you’ve come across an orphaned squirrel, the first thing you should do is wait. Young squirrels should be given the opportunity to reunite with their mother if there is any chance that she is still available to care for them.

Unlike raccoons, mother squirrels will retrieve their young during the day, but not at night. Young squirrels should be placed in a shallow, open box with a heat source, such as a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. A hot water bottle can be made from an empty plastic bottle, filled with warm water, wrapped in a towel and secured to the box with duct tape so it does not roll around.

If the squirrel has fallen from a visible nest, the box should be placed underneath the tree in which the nest is located. If you are unsure of where the nest is located, place the box under a tree near where the squirrel was found that may provide some shelter from the elements (such as direct sunlight or rain). Try to keep neighbourhood pets and children away from the area. DO NOT FEED THE BABY SQUIRRELS!

Step 2

Leave the young squirrels in the box for five to six hours (or less time if it is late in the day and becoming dark) and watch from a distance or check back regularly to see if they have been retrieved. If the mother squirrel has not retrieved the young squirrels after five to six hours (or sooner if they are still in the box at dusk), call your local wildlife rehabilitation centre for advice on next steps.

Note: Whenever young mammals are found, an attempt should be made to reunite them with their parent(s). Parents provide the best care for young wildlife and when young are inadvertently removed from their parents, it decreases the likelihood that they will survive, even with expert human care. Different species of mammals have different development phases and types of parental care, therefore it is important to know some specific information about a species prior to determining if an animal has been orphaned.

For more information in Georgina, visit: https://www.shadesofhope.ca

Click here for the provincial list of authorized wildlife rehabilitators.