First, get the squirrel contained

To keep the baby squirrel safe while you figure out how to help it, put the squirrel in a small cardboard box with a soft towel or t-shirt. Even on a warm day babies can get cold, so give it a heat source:

  • a clean sock filled with dry, uncooked rice, and microwaved for one minute
  • a plastic bottle from the recycling bin filled with hot tap water
  • an electric heating pad set to “LOW” and placed under half of the box.

Do not give it any food or water – right now keeping it warm, dark, and quiet is more important.

“Pant tuggers”

If a baby squirrel is old enough to be exploring outside of its nest, it is also old enough to be wary of predators like people. Plus, its mother is always nearby to protect it and teach it to stay away from danger.

When older baby squirrels are orphaned, they get so hungry and desperate that they will run right up to people. They might crawl up your pant leg or sit on your shoe. It happens often enough that our wildlife hotline has a word for these older orphaned babies: “pant tuggers”. In our experience, baby squirrels who act this way are almost always orphans.  They’re also often in much worse shape than they look.

If you’ve found a baby squirrel who behaves this way, get it contained in a cardboard box. Make sure to give it a heat source, and contact a wildlife rehabilitator right away.

Temporary care

“Pant-tugger” squirrels may seem friendly, but they are actually very scared, cold and desperate. The best way to keep them calm and safe is to put them in a dark, quiet place with a heat source to snuggle up to. Keep pets and people away. We don’t normally recommend food or water, but a squirrel this age can be offered a nice big chunk of apple. That will give it enough moisture and sugar to keep it going until you can find a rehabilitator to take it to.   Further temporary care instructions can be found here.