You found a baby squirrel, and now need information on how to care for it. You're about to experience one of the most rewarding activities on earth!
The ideal situation would be to return the baby squirrel to it's mother. If you place it in a small box with a warm rice bag, and tack it to the tree where you found it, it's possible that mom will come and take it back to an alternate nest. If the mother doesn't come within an hour, the baby becomes your charge.
Relax, caring for baby squirrels is easy! If you don't have the time or will to do it, every State has licensed wild animal rehabilitators who can do the job. If you do have the time and can remember the acronym, “WHAM,” you can easily and confidently care of a baby squirrel!
The letter W, stands for WARM. Baby squirrels need to be kept warm. You never should attempt to feed a baby squirrel until it is completely warmed. A baby squirrel should always feel warm to the touch when you pick it up. When a baby squirrel is less than 5 weeks old, (before it's eyes open,) it can easily be kept in a cardboard box. I like to use rice bags to keep my baby squirrels warm. I heat the bag in the microwave until it is warm to the touch, place it in the box, punch it down in the center to make a nest, place pieces of blanket or fleece material over the bag, put the baby squirrel in and cover it with more soft cloth. This method keeps the baby warm between feedings.
Some people like to use a heating pad on the low setting under the box. If it's placed under half of the box, the baby squirrel will climb on and off the heated side until it finds a comfortable sleeping temperature. Either way, this accomplishes the task of keeping the baby squirrel warm.
The letter H, stands for HYDRATE. Many rehabbers advocate starting off with plain Pedalyte, ( an electrolyte fluid replacement solution.) I have never advocated this practice because it is just plain silly. A mother squirrel doesn't run off to the store to buy Pedalyte when her baby has been laying out in the elements for a couple of hours. She warms her baby squirrel, then lets it nurse. I've always started with formula, and have never lost a baby squirrel due to a dietary problem.
The letter A, stands for ACCOMODATE. Baby squirrels do three things. They eat, they potty, and they sleep. Accommodation means that you facilitate these three activities until they mature to the point where their eyes are open, and they start exploring their habitat. A baby squirrel must be stimulated to urinate and move it's bowels. This can be accomplished by using a cotton ball dipped in warm water , which is used to stimulate the genitals of the baby squirrel until it passes urine and moves it's bowels. This simulates what a mother squirrel does after her babies nurse. She will lick them to accomplish the same results.
Feeding involves formula. This is where many people get really confused and scared, because there are a whole lot of people in the rehab' community that militantly advocate feeding only a certain type of puppy formula to baby squirrels, with the dire warning that your baby squirrel will die if cows milk ever crosses it's lips. As I said before, I've never lost a squirrel to a dietary problem and have tons of visual proof and testimonial letters to prove that these warnings are not true. I teach people all the time how to make a superior formula from whole milk, heavy whipping cream, and raw Coconut Oil. It is true that milk right out of the bottle will give a baby squirrel diarrhea, which can lead to an electrolyte imbalance, heart arrhythmia and ultimately death from heart failure. But, one simple step in the preparation eliminates this danger, and makes this formula one of the best foods in the world for baby squirrels! You can access the recipe for making our formula HERE.
How much to feed: Rule of thumb: 1 to 2 cc. for every week old
And finally the letter M, stands for MAINTAIN. To maintain simply means to keep doing the things that are right for your baby squirrel to grow and mature. After 5 week, when the baby squirrel opens it's eyes, it will need a new habitat, meaning a cage, and gradual changes in it's diet. At six weeks you will start to feel teeth emerging, and by eight weeks it will be ready to start chewing on things. This is the time to provide Oak or Maple twigs for your baby squirrel to start teething on. It's also the time to start introducing some solid foods. Baby squirrels have to learn to swallow solids. I like to introduce small pieces of raw sweet potato. Baby squirrels will chew an spit out solid foods at first, the orange colored sweet potato makes it easy to see the chewed up pieces in the bottom of the cage. When I no longer see shredded sweet potato, I know that they have learned to swallow, and am able to advance their diet. I let them continue to take formula for as long as they want to nurse, because squirrels need lots of calcium!
The need for calcium, especially in captivity, is one of the most critical aspects of raising a squirrel. In fact, it is the most important factor in success or failure when it comes to raising a baby squirrel! If a baby squirrel does not have an adequate source of calcium after it stops nursing, it will develop a condition called Metabolic Bone Disease, or Rickets. I don't know how many times I've gotten e-mails from panicked people telling me their 5 or 6 month old squirrel was fine one day and the next day lost the use of it's rear legs. It happens that fast, and is completely preventable!
Solution to Calcium Needs: After weaning, feed 1 Nut Square per day to maintain calcium levels.
There are many more details about how to take care of a baby squirrel, that are beyond the scope of this article. My desire is to help you take the right first steps in this rewarding endeavor, and to let you know that I am always available to help and answer any and all questions about the care of a baby squirrel! I am a rarity. Most rehabbers will not give you the time of day nor answer your e-mails when you write for advice. I try to Blog about my most frequently asked questions, and have written a number of Ezine articles about squirrels. I would encourage you to check these before writing. But. there are always question that people have that I'm always willing to answer. You can contact me direct at SquirrelNutrition@Yahoo.com. You have my promise that I will write back and help you in any way I can!
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William Sells is a Registered Emergency Room Nurse turned Squirrel Rehabilitator. After nearly killing his first squirrel by following bogus information he obtained on the Internet, he vowed to learn all he could about the proper way to care for squirrels, and to share that information with all who were in need. His website, http://SquirrelNutrition.com is loaded with free information about how to care for and feed squirrels through various stages of their lives. Every first time visitor is offered our free mini e-book about how to care for a baby squirrel. SquirrelNutrition.com has free recipes for Calcium rich supplements that are ideal for captive squirrels, plus recipes for supplemental food to keep your outside squirrels in peak health!