With squirrel season just around the corner, Volunteers for Wildlife is gearing up for a
new batch of babies! Eastern grey squirrels are one of the most common animals recieved here at the hospital. From March-April and August-September typically, dozens of people call our wildlife advisory telephone about orphaned baby squirrels. Staff decide whether the babies are truly orphaned or if the mother is simply just moving them to a new nest. Mothers will often build multiple nests and move their babies between them, a process that involves leaving some of their litter at the base of trees.
If a baby eastern grey squirrel is indeed orphaned the most important thing to do first is
to make sure they are warm. Squirrels that do not have their eyes open yet can not thermoregulate, the process of regulating their own temperature, to keep themselves warm. After they are brought into the hospital, staff determine the condition of the patient by doing an exam. Temperature, weight, hydration, and age are determined during this exam which determines what treatment they will get. If the baby squirrel also presents with an injury, staff start treatment for the ailment right away. Squirrels under a certain weight must be handfed a puppy milk replacer until they are able to eat solid foods on their own. For example, if a baby squirrel is under 50 grams then it needs to be fed six times a day. On
the other hand a 200 gram juvenile only needs two handfeedings a day.
Baby eastern grey squirrels are handfed until they are above 300 grams and are completely weaned onto solid foods. At this point their diet consists of vegetables, fruis, nuts, and rodent blocks. Normallu squirrels are about 13 weeks of age when they reach this weight and are only on solids. Squirrels at this point are also moved to enclosures in our rehabilitation yard to acclimate to the climate outdoors before they are released. The release protocol that Volunteers for Wildlife uses is called a "soft release". For this process, volunteers outside of the organization provide food and a nestbox for the eastern grey squirrels while the juveniles are still getting used to their new freedom! These squirrels are free to stay in the nestbox or move on to a new tree and when staff are certain they do not need any extra help finding food, volunteers stop providing them with it! If the juveniles are released in the fall before winter, volunteers provide food for them everyday until spring. Conversly if they are released during the spring, they are only fed for a few weeks normally after release. These squirrels are now ready to live happy, healthy, normal lives!