Dedicated to making the world a

better place one squirrel at a time

The best outcome for all wildlife is to be raised in its natal environment by its mother in the company of siblings.    For baby squirrels, (and most mammals) the information in this section will apply. Species specific information for rabbits, opossums, raccoons, deer and birds can be found by folliwng the Help for Birds and Mammals link to the right.

If you find a baby, please leave it alone if it appears alert, is warm to the touch and appears healthy. Of course, if the baby is in imminent danger (in the street, near a cat, exposed to extreme weather or injured) you will need to collect even a healthy baby.   If you see other squirrels nearby or recently saw a squirrel carrying a baby in its mouth, the baby may have ventured out of the nest or dropped from its mother’s mouth while being relocated to an alternate nest site. A mother squirrel will usually attempt to take her young back if she perceives an opportunity to safely do so.   If the weather is mild, you can observe the baby from a distance and only retrieve it if the mother doesn’t collect it after a few hours.  

If the nest was recently disturbed, damaged or destroyed by weather, home repairs, tree trimming or removal, please allow the mother several hours of undisturbed time to return and move the babies. Some species of squirrels, such as the common urban eastern gray squirrel, maintain multiple nest sites and will relocate the babies if a site exists and she can safely do so. Please contact us for advice before intervening if you are unsure if a nest has been abandoned.  Of course, if you know the mother is dead or permanently removed, please collect the babies and contact a wildlife rehabilitator immediately.

When to Help

Intervention is recommended when the baby can be safely retrieved and:

Orphan Determination

Older orphaned babies with eyes-opened and fully furred (between 5 and 10 weeks of age) will often approach, follow, or even attempt to climb passer-bys when in distress. A healthy eyes-open baby who has been missing its mother for only hours rather than days will generally be more wary of people because it’s not yet desperate enough to approach a potential predator.

If a baby is wandering about trying to follow people, it’s most likely doing so not to be cute or social, but because needs help!  Baby squirrels rely on their mothers for a long time, weaning gradually from her between 8 and 12 weeks of age.  Fall born babies may spend the entire winter in the company of the mother and siblings.

If the baby is on its own prior to weaning, even though it is capable of moving about, it is still totally dependent on the care of its mother.  

Unless the mother and siblings are observed nearby, a baby demonstrating this behavior is likely in need of help. Please collect it and contact a wildlife rehabilitator.

If the weather is cold, and you suspect the baby may have been exposed to the elements for more than a few minutes, gently touch the baby to check if it feels cool to the touch. The mother won’t care if the baby smells of your scent but she wont retrieve it if its cold. For cold babies, alway warm the baby before placing it back where you found it by wrapping it loosely in a soft cloth and placing it next to a warm bottle wrapped in a towel. Conversely, if it’s an extremely hot day and the baby is in direct sunlight, provide some shade for the baby and place a cold bottle wrapped in a towel next to the baby to keep it cool. If the weather is not too cold or hot, and the baby is in a safe location, then leave the baby where it is.

Once you make sure the baby is not in any immediate danger, retreat a safe distance where you can observe without being seen by its mother. If the mother does not retrieve the baby after a couple of hours, then assume the baby has been orphaned and gently collect it.  

For the safety of the mother, baby and pets, please move all pets indoors until the baby has been retrieved.

If the nest has been raided by predators, it is unlikely that a reunion with its mother will be possible – although you should try anyway. Predators are often attracted to unguarded nests of babies only when the mother has already gone missing. Mother squirrels are instinctually protective of their
babies and when you find one that has not been recently cared for and protected, it usually means trouble for baby and its family.

When you’re not sure if the baby is an orphan

Warming the Baby

If the baby is cool to the touch it must be warmed. This section discusses methods for warming the baby.  See also: Build an Incubator.

Warming the Baby
Find a Rehabilitator

Links and other helpful resources to assist you in finding qualified help for injured and orphaned wildlife.

Find a Wildlife Rehabilitator

An infant with its eyes-closed (five week and under) who has lost its mother will likely be thirsty, hungry and suffering from exposure. If its mother has been gone more than 24 hours, the baby may have blindly wriggled out of the nest in search of her warmth and nourishment.

Most squirrels nest in hollows or drays (a big ball of leaves) located high in trees, so the initial fall may be from heights of 30 feet or greater. If the baby survives the fall, it may have sustained serious injuries. By the time the baby is found, it can be cold, injured, severely dehydrated, starving, stained in urine, and covered in filth, insects and/or larva.  

Keep in mind, where one baby is found, others are likely nearby so check frequently over the next few hours and days for more orphans.  Squirrel litters range between two to eight young depending on the species.

Next Steps

Help for Birds & Mammals

Squirrel refuge doesn’t hold a miigratory bird permit or those required to accept  medium and large sized mammals. Click for Resources for other  species.

Need help with other wildlife? Need help with other wildlife?

5-6  week old American Red (Pine) Squirrel