If you found a nest of baby squirrels on the ground, there may have been some kind of accident. Maybe a branch broke, or the nest blew down in a storm, or a predator knocked the nest down. The good news is, the mother squirrel is probably nearby and will come looking for her babies!
First, get the squirrels contained
To keep the baby squirrels safe while you figure out how to help them, put the squirrels in a small cardboard box with a soft towel or t-shirt. Even on a warm day babies can get cold, so give them 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 the baby squirrels any food or water — right now keeping them warm, dark, and quiet is more important.
Are any of the baby squirrels 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
Keep the baby warm, dark, and quiet, and don’t give it any food or water. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator right away.
Reuniting the squirrels with their mother
Squirrels are excellent mothers and will come back for their babies if you give them a chance! If the babies are not injured, reuniting them with their mom is the best possible option. Squirrel moms will also take much better care of their babies than any human possibly could.
Place the box with the squirrels (and a heat source) as close as possible to where the squirrels were 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.
Baby squirrels should be left out for at least 4 hours to see if their mother will come back. Make sure to KEEP THEM WARM – refresh the heat source as needed. Sometimes, a distress call can alert a mother squirrel that her babies need help. 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 squirrels are waiting for their 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 babies 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 babies inside and keep them 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 babies were found late in the day, leave them out for the rest of the day. BRING THEM INSIDE OVERNIGHT. Keep them dark, quiet, and warm (you may have to refresh the heat source several times), don’t feed them or give them water, and put them 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 babies are probably orphaned. Mother squirrels almost never abandon their babies, but mom gets into trouble and she can’t make it back.
Make sure the babies are contained and have a heat source, don’t give them any food or water, and contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.
While you are waiting to hear back from a wildlife rehabilitator, keep the baby squirrel contained in a dark, quiet place. Don’t give it any food or water until you have spoken to a rehabilitator. Further temporary care instructions can be found here.