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Please follow these instructions if you are attempting to reunite babies with their mother, or if you are waiting for a call back from a wildlife rehabilitator. Please note that Toronto Wildlife Centre is sometimes at capacity for common baby species, like squirrels, and you may need to seek assistance from another wildlife rehabilitator – please see the OMNRF list of authorized wildlife rehabilitators and/or the map on our website for more information.

What to do while you wait

A dark, quiet place

Keep the baby squirrel in a dark, quiet place indoors, in an enclosed or covered container. For most species, a cardboard box is perfect. If your home is small, a closet or a bathroom is an excellent spot. A basement, heated garage, or spare bedroom will also work.

Keep children, pets, and people away from the room the squirrel is in. Remember that it is injured or orphaned and frightened, and we want to keep their stress down as much as possible. Unlike our pets, wild animals are not comforted by people talking to them, petting  or cuddling them, or looking at them.

A heat source

Providing a heat source is one of the most important things you can do. Babies may have been without their mother for many hours or even days. Keeping them warm will reduce stress on their system, once their body doesn’t have to fight to keep its temperature up. Some examples of an appropriate heat source:

  • a clean sock filled with dry, uncooked rice, and microwaved for one minute
  • any type of plastic bottle or jar with a tight fitting lid filled with hot tap water and wrapped in a tea towel or face cloth
  • an electric heating pad set to “LOW” and placed under half of the box
  • several chemical hand warmers (e.g. Hot Paws) that stay warm for up to 8 hours

Re-heat water bottles and rice socks as necessary. Once they have something warm to snuggle up to, most orphaned baby squirrel will go right to sleep.

No food, formula or water (with one exception)

This is a tough one, because our first instinct is often to try to give food or water to an animal we’ve found. However, many squirrels admitted to TWC have suffered serious medical conditions as a result of someone providing improper food, or feeding improperly. While it is easy to find information on feeding baby squirrels online, the vast majority of it is incorrect and even harmful.

For older baby squirrels, sliced up chunks of apple or pear can be put in the box with the squirrel. They may safely suckle on it for some sugar and hydration. No other food or water should be given.

Why shouldn’t I feed it?

  • If the squirrel is dehydrated, starving, or suffering from trauma, its body may not be strong enough to digest food. Trying to feed it can cause bloating, shock, or death.
  • Trying to force-feed food or water can accidentally end up with the liquid in the animal’s lungs. This can cause pneumonia, and death.
  • If you feed the wrong food to the wrong species, it can cause serious digestive problems.
  • Once you get the baby squirrel to a wildlife rehabilitator, they will need to assess their condition and maybe run some medical tests. These are a lot easier to do if the animal hasn’t been eating. It’s just like when your doctor or veterinarian asks you or your pet not to eat the night before an appointment.

Why shouldn’t I give the squirrel water or formula?

  • If the squirrel is injured and having trouble standing, or if it panics trying to get out, it could fall into the water dish. This can cause hypothermia, or even drowning.
  • Trying to force-feed water or formula can accidentally end up with the liquid in the animal’s lungs. This can cause pneumonia, and death.
  • Squirrel formula is not commercially available; kitten and puppy milk replacement products are not suitable for squirrels and cause serious digestive upset. All mammals drink different milk/formula – squirrels are no different.