The squirrels in my yard are not very good parents. Yesterday was the second time this year that I found a baby squirrel on the ground under the locust tree in my front yard.
The first time was on July 24th. I went online to find out what to do and multiple sources suggested making some kind of soft "nest" and putting the baby back up in the tree to give the mother a chance to retrieve it.
I also learned that the whole "the mother won't take the baby back if you've touched it" thing is a myth. However, it's obviously best not to handle baby wildlife any more than necessary.
The first squirrel was very young, hairless and pink. I put it in a makeshift nest and went to work. When I got home it was gone, which I like to think means the mother came and got it.
Yesterday's squirrel was slightly older and furrier, but still had his eyes closed. (If he were just a little bit older, I might suspect that he was the same one.) I followed the same protocol as before, made a cardboard box "nest," put him in it and placed it overhead in the tree.
Unfortunately, he was still there when I got home.
The local wildlife rehabilitation centers were already closed, so I brought the box inside, covered it with a washcloth for warmth, and placed it in a cat- and dog-free location for the night.
Another thing the wildlife rehab sites advise is to refrain from trying to feed a baby critter you find. It's too easy to do something wrong and harm them, so if it's only going to be a day, the baby is better off going unfed. You can try to give them a tiny bit of water, but I chose not to risk it since the baby was curled up sleeping most of the time anyway.
Here's something I learned today: Kansas and Missouri have separate wildlife centers and they'd really prefer that you keep any animal you find within its own state.
So for you Kansas City area folks, if you find an orphaned critter:
- In Missouri, take it to Lakeside Nature Center in Swope Park
- In Kansas, take it to Operation Wildlife (there's a drop-off in Shawnee and the main facility is in Linwood)
This morning I got up and took the squirrel to Lakeside Nature Center because I didn't know any better. They were very responsive and immediately checked him for any injuries and put him in an incubator. I'm sure he received his long-delayed Friday breakfast right away. The staffer estimated his age at 3-4 weeks and I saw her write down that he was a male.
While she was attending to her new charge, I wrote a donation check. It seemed like the thing to do.
If you find yourself in a similar situation with squirrels or other wild animal babies, I highly recommend calling a wildlife rehab center to ask questions before you do anything else. There was one information sheet in particular at Lakeside about special handling for litters of bunnies that led me to think that a call would save a lot of time and effort on the part of the rescuer.
I hope the little guy does okay. If I weren't already so committed to companion animal rescue, I'd enjoy volunteering for one of the wildlife centers. Perhaps when I retire...