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Care for Baby Squirrels (Eastern Gray & Fox)
 

If you live in East Texas and find a squirrel that needs immediate attention, text 'Squirrel' to 903-372-4443 for a prompt response.

Click here for a wildlife rehabber in your Texas county.

Click here to search for a wildlife rehabber in your state.

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. Remember, The State of Texas requires a special permit for a person to have a squirrel in their possession. It is illegal for any person to possess any protected, wild, furbearing mammal that is protected under State law, and THE SQUIRREL IS A PROTECTED FURBEARER.

First, be sure you are not KIDNAPPING. If the baby looks healthy and well fed, Mother squirrel 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 day!

Eastern Gray Squirrels Fox Squirrels (1-7 Weeks)

Fox Squirrels (8-13 Weeks)

Eastern Gray Squirrels Fox Squirrels (1-7 Weeks) Fox Squirrels (8-13 Weeks)
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IF Mama Doesn't Show…

#1) HEAT & BEDDING: Baby squirrels need an external heat source. Infant squirrels younger than 5 weeks, do not produce their own body heat to thermo-regulate. 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 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 Fox and Gray squirrels.
  • The tail starts to "spread out" at about 5 weeks.
  • By 6th week the tail is starting to "bush" and the baby squirrel starts to look like a miniature adult squirrel.
  • 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. 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 infants this small is with a 1cc or a 3cc 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 3 weeks of age 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.

FEEDING SCHEDULE GUIDELINE – (Approximations)

  • 1 week - 1/2 to 1 cc every 2 to 3 hours
  • 2 weeks - 1 to 2 cc every 3 hours
  • 3 weeks - 2-3 cc every 4 hours
  • 4 weeks - 3-4 cc every 4 -5 hours (start placing solid foods in with baby)
  • 5 weeks - 5-6 cc every 5 hours (may skip night feeding, do not go over 7-8 hrs)
  • 6 weeks - 6-8 cc 4 - 5 X per day
  • 7 weeks - 10-12 cc 4 X day (should be eating a variety of nuts, fruits and vegetables)
  • 8-9 weeks - 10-12 cc 2-3 X day
  • 10-11 weeks - 12-15 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 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. 

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 squirrel. It's kind of like raising your children on Twinkies.

At 4 to 5 weeks, squirrels are old enough to be eating all the solid foods that its 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, 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), squirrels love to dig in the dirt. They are learning to hide their food storage, nuts, etc. A large dish filled with clean dirt will make a big mess, but will be a healthy way for the squirrel to get a few extra minerals. Things they can chew on to keep their teeth filed down. They also need to chew on deer antlers, hooves, bones, etc., to obtain 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 its bottom into warm water to help get it started if you continue have a problem.

#7) CAGING: Caging should be large enough for the squirrel to run, climb and get lots of exercise. A ferret cage is not large enough for this. My smallest squirrel cage is 3' x 3' X 3' and has some tree branches inside for climbing on, as well as being made from hardware cloth that makes for good climbing as well. Infants will not need a larger cage until eyes have opened and been opened for about a week. Then, they will need to be placed in a larger cage, about 6' x 10' x 10'.

Infant squirrels should NEVER be raised alone. They need other squirrels of the same age to relate to and bond with. This allows the squirrels to "imprint" on each other rather than on humans. A squirrel raised alone will have great difficulty ever returning to the wild.

#8) LEGAL CONCERNS: It is illegal for any person to possess any wild, furbearing mammal that is protected under State law, and the squirrel is a protected furbearer. Anything the State lists on its long list of protected species requires a special permit for a person to have them in their possession.
Even though SQUIRRELS ARE NOT A COMMON CARRIER OF RABIES, 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 SQUIRREL.

#9) STEPS TO RELEASE: At 7-8 weeks of age, start hanging the squirrel 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, weather permitting, open the cage door and allow the baby to leave on its 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. 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 through February, but wait on fair weather to assure the best chance of survival.

Texas State Wildlife Rehabilitator Permit #REH-0704-836 • Member IWRC
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