Happy February! And here come the orphan baby squirrels – are you ready?
Baby squirrels are usually born in February – it used to be March, but a longer breeding season due to global warming has expanded that. Indeed, we’ve been getting reports of some orphans being rescued, and I have seen nursing moms already.
Young squirrels, called kittens, kits or pups, are blind at this stage, naked, and totally defenseless, weighing less than half an ounce. So most die quickly, when they fall from those ratty nests that squirrels build – from impact, starvation, exposure or being eaten by predators who rely on squirrels in their diet for their own survival.
If you do come upon a kit this small, call us at Our Wild Neighbors (OWN) quickly, as we can often save them even at this early stage. Dedicated volunteers, working almost around the clock for feedings, plus a special diet that mimics mama squirrel’s milk, and special newborn incubators are the secret to our success.
As they grow older, there is a chance that well-meaning and dedicated but untrained people can get them to live but it’s illegal to keep any wild animal without a special license. Again, if you want to try to raise them, please call us for training, and bring them to us! Again, speed is essential: they have almost no energy, and to wait a day, or over a weekend, almost ensures that they will suffer a miserable death of dehydration or starvation – don’t wait!
As the pups get larger, their eyes will open, they’ll get fur, and will begin to act, well, squirrely! They still need warmth, a proper diet, and nuts are NOT part of this diet yet!
Now, there are new problems: squirrels need to grow up with their own kind, for warmth and socialization, so they shouldn’t be raised alone. Yes, they may survive, only to be returned to the wild where they die quickly, as they lack social and foraging skills that enable them to survive. And one need not ‘habituate’ them, so they rely on humans for their livelihood.
Yes, it’s tough raising a baby squirrel successfully. It’s definitely best if Ma Squirrel does it, or, if you must intervene, get some help! Call us at (919) 428-0896 – it’s free, and it may save a helpless life!
Linda Ostrand is Executive Director of OWN. Federally licensed in Wildlife rehabilitation and with more than three decades’ experience, she is now doing volunteer training, so to schedule a session email: Pepper Simon email@example.com