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Until you are able to contact and place the orphan with a permitted Wildlife Rehabilitator, you can follow these CARE INSTRUCTIONS to give the infant the best chance for survival.
First, be sure you are not KIDNAPPING. If the baby looks healthy and well fed,
Mother flyer may be close by, and she WILL come for her baby if given the opportunity, even if you have touched it. Place the baby in a shoe type box (with part of the nest if possible) and secure it to a tree limb if you suspect mama is still around. Move away and give her some time. Bring your cats inside for the evening!
Remember, they are nocturnal and don’t become active until late in the evening.
IF Mama Doesn’t Show…
Please note the “HEAT” information below in the “care instructions” below.
#1) HEAT & BEDDING: First, the baby flying squirrels need an external heat source. Infant flying squirrels younger than 5 weeks, do not produce their own body heat, they need a heating pad, set on LOW setting. Place a bath towel, folded to make about a 1 to 1 1/2 inch thickness and put it on the heating pad. Now, place a box on top of the towel. Place your flying squirrel into a soft cloth such as an old flannel shirt, or old sweatshirt or sweatpants. Place the infant, nestled in the cloth, down into the box. That way, a gradual heat will come up through the layers and warm the infant, but not make him too hot.
#2) AGE: You can guess-timate the age of the squirrel by looking at these factors:
- No dark pigment, skin is primarily pink in color, the infant is probably 1 to 1 & 1/2 weeks old.
- If the infant has no fur yet, but does have darkened pigment to the skin, eyes and ears still closed, then it is probably 2 to 2 1/2 weeks old.
- "Peach fuzz" fur starting to develop, eyes still closed, ears starting to pull away from the head, the Infant is probably 3 to 3 1/2 weeks old.
- Tail starts to develop hairs that stand out from the "pencil" tail at about 3 1/2 to 4 weeks.
- Eyes open at approximately 4 1/2 to 5 weeks in Flyers, Fox, and Gray squirrels.
- The tail starts to "spread out" with fur and look more flat at about 5 weeks.
- By 6th week the baby flyer starts to look like a miniature adult flying squirrel, and becomes more active in the evening/night hours.
- By the 7th week, the baby will look and try to act like a small adult.
#3) REHYDRATION: If it has not had any fluids in several hours, you should rehydrate with fluids after the infant's body temperature is back up to normal.
NEVER give anything by mouth to an animal whose body temperature has dropped below normal until you have warmed it (SLOWLY) for several hours. A good rehydrating solution can be made by mixing the following:
1 pint of boiled (or distilled) water - 1 teaspoon of sugar - 1/3 teaspoon of salt
#4) HOW TO FEED: The best way I’ve found to feed infant flyers is with a 1cc oral meds syringe. You can control the flow, and the infant doesn't have a tendency to aspirate the formula by sucking in too much at a time. (If the infant should aspirate, stop the feeding, hold the baby upside down for a moment, and wipe the fluid from it’s nostrils as it sneezes.) Continue the feeding once the nose is clear.
If you're not familiar with syringes and cc's and ml's, most pharmacy’s will give you one or sell it to you for a few cents. In baby squirrels under 3 weeks old start with a 1cc (tuberculin or insulin) syringe, after 5 weeks of age you may graduate up to a 3 cc syringe.
SYRINGE FEEDING IS EASIER TO CONTROL THAN BOTTLES OR EYEDROPPERS AND DECREASES THE RISK OF ASPIRATION PNEUMONIA, WHICH IS USUALLY FATAL.
FLYING SQUIRREL FEEDING SCHEDULE GUIDELINE – (Approximations)
- 1 week - Several drops (.02, .04 up to 0.1cc) every 2 to 3 hours
- 2 weeks - 0.1 to 0.2 cc every 3 hours
- 3 weeks - 0.3 to 0.5 cc every 4 hours
- 4 weeks - 0.5 to 1.0 cc every 4-5 hours (start placing solid foods in with baby)
- Start adding a variety of nuts, fruits and vegetables (listed below) to regular feeding)
- 5 weeks - 1 to 2 cc every 4-5 hrs (may skip night feeding, do not go over 7-8 hrs)
- 6 weeks - 2 to 3 cc 3-4 X per day
- 7 weeks - 2 to 3.5 cc 3-4 X day
- 8-9 weeks - 3.5 to 5 cc 2-3 X day
- 10-11 weeks - 3.5 to 5 cc once per day
- 12-13 weeks - Wean
#5) WHAT TO FEED (FORMULA):
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, FEED COW'S MILK, WHIPPING CREAM, WALMART FORMULA BRANDS, EVAPORATED MILK OR HUMAN INFANT FORMULA TO A SQUIRREL!
These contain WAY too much lactose for squirrels, and have only a 4% to 6% fat content. Squirrels require 30% to 40% fat content in their diet!
The ABSOLUTE BEST choices of formula for infant squirrels are Esbilac or GOAT’S MILK ESBILAC. These are puppy’s milk replacers, and closely resemble the components of a flying squirrel's mother's milk. They are made by Pet-Ag and available at Pets-Mart, PetCo and Tractor Supply. Some Vet offices keep a supply on hand. UPCO usually has the best price if you order online www.upco.com or phone/mail order at (800) 254-8726. 1- 12 oz can of the powder should be enough to raise 1 squirrel to weaning age. The mixing ratio is 3 to 1; 1 part formula powder to 3 parts water. Formula is only good for 72 hours after it is reconstituted or mixed, then the vitamin and minerals will begin to evaporate, so mix small amounts accordingly. The Goat Milk Esbilac is made of a goat milk base, and does not bloat, constipate or cause diarrhea.
There are several other brands of puppy milk replacers available at places like Wal-Mart. DON'T BUY THEM. They are cheaper, but they will KILL a baby squirrel. They simply cannot tolerate the ingredients in those milk replacers! They do not contain the proper calcium/phosphorous ratio. This will eventually cause metabolic bone disease (soft, crippled bones) and soft teeth in your flying squirrel. It’s kind of like raising your children on twinkies.
At 4 to 5 weeks, flying squirrels are old enough to be eating all the solid foods that it's mother would be finding and bringing back to the nest. In the wild, they eat acorns, walnuts, hickory nuts, pine nuts (and pine cones), lichens (that stuff that grows on the side of the trees that looks like fungus), fruits, tree bark and buds. They also like to occasionally catch beetles, larvae and grubs.
In captivity, flying squirrels need broccoli, squash – (butternut is their favorite), carrot, pumpkin seeds, chunks of sweet potato, mushrooms, mouse/rodent chow, apple, most any CRUNCHY fruit or vegetable, green pea pods, pecans, walnuts, (plain nuts, no salt or sugar), Large (gray-striped) sunflower seeds and the green branches of trees with leaves on them. Go outside and cut small branches with leaves from elm, oak, apple, pecan or hickory trees. Just about any tree will do.
Squirrels cannot survive on a diet of just nuts and seeds. They must have other foods to get the right nutrients for growth and energy.
As they get older (6 to 7 weeks), they will need to chew things to keep their teeth filed down. Deer antlers, hooves, bones, etc., fill this need to chew as well as provide a good source of the necessary calcium they require for building strong bones.
#6) VOIDING: Stimulate the infant to eliminate body wastes. The infant should be rubbed on its genitals gently using warm, moist paper towel, soft cloth, cotton ball, or a Q-tip. You MUST stimulate after every feeding. Sometimes, because the infant has not had liquids for several hours, and has not been stimulated (by its mother), it takes quite a long time to stimulate it to pee and poop, just continue to stimulate it after each feeding. You can immerse it's bottom into warm water to help get it started if you continue have a problem.
#7) CAGING: Remember first that flying squirrels are little Houdini’s. If they can get their head through it…they can escape from it! Caging should be large enough for the squirrel to run, climb and get lots of exercise, but it must have tiny slats to prevent escape. A bird cage with some tree branches inside for climbing on is usually a good temporary home. An ideal cage for longer term housing should be made from hardware cloth. This material makes for good climbing as well. Your infants will not need a larger cage until eyes have opened and been opened for about a week. Then, you'll need to place them in a larger cage with a smaller nest box filled with an old t-shirt, towel, or other soft warm bedding inside for sleeping (using hay for bedding can result in mites). They will hide food inside of their nest box, so you will have it clean it out every couple of weeks. A Running Wheel may be added for a little fun. They also like astro-turf. This makes things a little easier on their tiny feet.
The recommended nest box (which can be relocated to the tree upon release), should be 12 to 15” tall, 8 to 10” inches square, and made from 1” thick wood. It should have a small overhang in the front and a small ledge below the entry hole. The entry hole should be fairly small, large enough to grant them access, but small enough to discourage predators. When hanging in a tree, it should be at least 10” high.
Infant flyers should NEVER be raised alone if at all possible. They need other flying squirrel of the same age to relate to and bond with. This allows the flyers to "imprint" on each other rather than on humans. A flying squirrel raised alone will have difficulty ever returning to the wild.
#8) LEGAL CONCERNS: It is not illegal to possess a flying squirrel, but you must be aware that if your little squirrel should be handled by anyone that gets bitten, and that person goes to a doctor because they're concerned about getting bitten by a "wild" animal, even though SQUIRRELS ARE NOT A COMMON CARRIER OF RABIES, the doctor would notify the Texas Dept. of Health, who would come out and confiscate your flying squirrel, euthanize it, and send its head off to Austin for rabies testing. So, if you have a wild animal of any species in your possession, you should NEVER let anyone but yourself and your closest family member ever handle the animal. No matter how tempting, DO NOT ALLOW SMALL CHILDREN TO HOLD THE BABY FLYING SQUIRREL.
#9) RELEASE: At 7-8 weeks of age, start hanging your cage outside in a tree. If the weather is cool, not cold, hang it out anyway, but make sure it has a house and warm bedding to climb into. Hang the cage out, as many days as possible so the baby can acclimate to its future surroundings.
Around 16–18 weeks, with a weight of 60 to 70 gms, weather permitting, open the cage door and allow the baby to leave on it’s own. Leave the cage there for at least a month with plenty of food, fresh water, and warm bedding so it can return for a meal or a place to sleep until it can find a new home. Remember, flyers are nocturnal, so release in the evening. I usually watch the weather and make sure no rain or freezing temperatures are expected for 3-4 days before I release. This can cause a delayed release if it is in December – February, but wait on fair weather to assure the best chance of survival.
Feel free to call me or e-mail again if I can be of help to you in any way.
Thank you for caring about the life of these little ones, some of God’s tiniest masterpieces.