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.
Is the baby squirrel injured?
A baby squirrel with any of the following signs is injured or orphaned and needs medical attention:
There are obvious wounds or blood on its body
It has had contact with a cat – even with no obvious injuries, this is a medical emergency for baby squirrels
There are lots of bugs or insects crawling all over it
Sometimes baby squirrels can fall out of a nest or get separated from their mother. If the baby isn’t injured, getting it back to its mom is the best possible option. Squirrels are excellent mothers and will come back for their babies if given a chance! Squirrel moms will also take much better care of their babies than any human possibly could.
Place the box with the squirrel (and a heat source) as close as possible to where the squirrel was found. If there is a tree nearby, put it at the base of the tree. Squirrels don’t always nest in trees, so next to a house or building will work too.
A baby squirrel should be left out for at least 4 hours to see if its mother will come back. Make sure to KEEP IT WARM – refresh the heat source as needed. Sometimes, a mother squirrel can be called into the area with a distress call. Play a video like this one on your phone with the volume up. Only play the video once – you don’t want to attract other predators.
What if it’s a really busy area?
In high traffic areas, you can put a sign on the box to let other people know that the squirrel is waiting for its mother. Here’s one you can print off. If there are a lot of dogs around, you can nail the box to a tree, wall, or fence 4-5 feet off the ground to keep the baby safe.
What if it’s raining?
If it’s raining lightly, cover half of the box with a piece of cardboard. If it’s raining hard, bring the baby inside and keep it dark and quiet and warm until the weather clears up a bit. A mother squirrel won’t be looking for her babies during a heavy rain.
What if it’s late in the day?
If the baby was found late in the day, leave it out for the rest of the day. BRING IT INSIDE OVERNIGHT. Keep it dark, quiet, and warm (you may have to refresh the heat source several times), don’t feed it or give it water, and put it out again in the morning.
MYTH! If you touch a baby squirrel, its mother will NOT abandon it. Squirrels are excellent moms. All they want is their baby back.
Mom didn’t come back
If you’ve kept the baby warm and waited at least 4 hrs, the baby is probably orphaned. Mother squirrels almost never abandon their babies, but sometimes something happens to mom and she can’t make it back.
While you are waiting to hear back from a wildlife rehabilitator, keep the baby squirrel contained in a dark, quiet place. Make sure it has a heat source. Don’t give it any food or water until you have spoken to a rehabilitator. Further temporary care instructions can be found here.
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