If you have found a wildlife baby of ANY kind, first assess the baby’s well being with the following questions:
- Does Baby feel cold and lethargic?
- Is Baby covered with parasites (fleas, fly strike or ticks)?
- Has Baby been in a dog or cat’s mouth?
- Does Baby have a broken limb or other obvious injury?
- Does Baby have abrasions?
- Is Baby having difficulty breathing (gasping, gurgling)?
- Is Baby’s coat matted and/or patchy?
- Does Baby have a head tilt and cannot hold its head straight?
- Is Baby exhibiting odd behavior (circling, falling over, etc.)?
- Is Baby bleeding?
- Did you find what you believe to be Mom dead?
If you answered YES to any of the above questions, reuniting babies with Mom is no longer an option and baby needs to get to a rehabber immediately. Please call the Wildlife Hotline @ 1-855-WILD-HELP for assistance and read the following protocol on how best to house and secure babies until you can get them to a rehabber.
*Regardless of species or time of year, ALWAYS make sure that babies are WARM to the touch before attempting to reunite. A water bottle with hot water with a sock over it will work to warm babies, or a heating pad will do as well. You can make your own heat source for babies by taking a clean tube sock, filling it with uncooked rice, tie the end of the sock so it won’t spill and microwave for 1-2 minutes. Place the warm sock in with the babies and let them decide if they want to be on it or away from it. If you decide to use a water bottle, make absolutely sure that you do not not let that bottle get cold! Once the bottle is cold it will suck heat away from babies instead of warming them. NEVER feed or give water without instruction from a rehabber! We are available 24-Hours, 7 days a week – If you think baby needs food or water, call us first PLEASE!
Five Steps to Reuniting Squirrels with Mom
Once you have made sure that baby is uninjured, warm to the touch and capable of being reunited, follow these steps to attempt to get babies back to Mom:
Step 1. Nesting
After making sure that baby is warm and healthy enough to attempt reunite, you will need to build a little squirrel nest. A cardboard box is usually the easiest thing to use for a nest. Just about everything we buy comes in a cardboard box, but food packaging is the safest.
We don’t want you using an old cardboard box that had laundry detergent in it! Any tupperware type container, plastic bowl, or even an old Easter-type wicker basket will work well also.
Step 2. Warmth
Find an old pillow case, fleece, paper towels, toilet paper, or anything soft to line the bottom of the box or basket. Do NOT use towels or washcloths. If need be, leaves can be used to line our ‘nest’ as well, or a combination of the two. If it is cold outside, you can leave a heat source like a warm water bottle (with a sock over it) or a home-made heated sock filled with uncooked rice in the ‘nest’ so baby stays warmer longer when you put it back outside. Fill a tube sock with uncooked rice, tie the end of the sock, microwave for 1-2 minutes and place inside the ‘nest’ next to the babies. Put babies in the middle of the box or basket, and make sure they cannot climb out. Babies squirm, and that’s okay, but we don’t want them squirming off before Mom can find them. If the box or basket is too shallow, you can wedge some cardboard in the sides to make it taller, or find a better box.
Step 3. Placement
Take the babies back out to where they were first found. If you see Mom watching you, that’s a good thing. Leave the babies either at the base of a tree, settled into the Y of a tree, or tacked up in the tree. If using a cardboard box, sometimes you can get away with just using a staple gun or strong thumbtack to hang the ‘nest’, but it depends on the weight of the nest with babies in it.
Sometimes you will have to nail the ‘nest’ on the tree trunk, as high as you can safely reach. If all else fails, baskets/boxes with babies can be placed on the ground at the base of a tree, but this is a last resort.
Step 4. Alerting Mom
If you do NOT see Mom nearby, and the babies are being quiet, right before you are ready to walk away from the nest, pick one baby squirrel up by one of his back legs, very carefully. Hold him firmly, but let him sort of dangle a bit so that he will yell out for Mom. Let him yell a couple of times, then safely put him back in the ‘nest’ and get out of there! You need to go FAR away, back in the house preferably, and watch from a window. Give Mom TWO HOURS to come back for them. If it gets dark before the two hours are up and you have not seen Mom at all, it’s time for a rehabber. If two hours go by and there’s no sight of Mom, it’s time for a rehabber.
Step 5. Reassesment
If Mom comes back for some babies, but not all of them, and sufficient time has passed, get the remaining baby or babies to a rehabber quickly. Something may be wrong with the baby she left, or she just couldn’t get them all, but in either case try to get the remaining babies to a rehabber sooner rather than later.