If you found a nest of baby squirrels in a car engine don’t panic! Squirrels are excellent mothers and will come back for their babies if you give them a chance. Once a nest is discovered or disturbed, they will move the babies to a safer location.

Because a running engine can cause injuries to babies inside, check the squirrels carefully for injuries. If you seen any blood, wounds, or burns, contact a wildlife rehabilitator right away.

If the car is still parked in its usual spot

That’s wonderful — just leave the nest where it is. Next, pop open the hood of the car so the mother knows her nest has been discovered. Once the mother squirrel returns, check our page on conflicts with squirrels for tips on getting her to move her babies somewhere else.

If the car has been moved from its regular parking spot

If the car was moved less than 48hrs ago, there is still a good chance to reunite the baby squirrels with their mother. However, if it’s been more than 48hrs since the car was moved, consider the babies orphaned.

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.

Don’t give the baby squirrels any food or water — right now keeping them warm, dark, and quiet is more important.

Reuniting the squirrels with their mother

Squirrels are excellent mothers and will come back for their babies if you give them a chance! Squirrel moms will also take much better care of their babies than any human possibly could.

Transport the box of squirrels (with a heat source) back to where the car is usually parked. Place the box as close to the parking spot as you can.

Be patient

When a nest has been disturbed like this, we know that the mother squirrel is still nearby. She might be too frightened to come back right away, especially if people are still working in the area. Leave the babies in the box until it starts to get dark. Make sure to keep them warm with a heat source! You may have to change the heat source several times throughout the day.

Bring the baby squirrels inside overnight — their mother won’t be looking for them after dark. Keep them dark, quiet, and warm (you may have to refresh the heat source several times) and don’t feed them or give them water. Put them out again first thing in the morning with a fresh heat source.

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.

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 the mother hasn’t come back by lunchtime of the day after you found them, the babies are probably orphaned. Mother squirrels rarely abandon their babies, but sometimes the stress of having her nest disturbed can scare a squirrel away.

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.

Temporary care

While you are waiting to hear back from a wildlife rehabilitator, keep the baby squirrels 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.