Saturday, May 8, 2010

Abandoned Baby Squirrels

Most of my friends and customers know that I love animals big and small because I donate a percentage of my sales to my local animal shelter and because I foster small mammals in my home. I also love wildlife, but like many people who interact with urban animals, I know very little about their lives and needs. This weekend provided a learning opportunity!

For a couple days last week, my husband and I had been hearing a high pitched shrieking sound coming from our front yard. We had assumed that it was a bird making this racket, but last Sunday our assumption was proven wrong when we found a lone squirrel at the base of the tree, periodically emitting this same loud sound we had heard.
Adam watched the baby squirrel for a couple hours while I was away at church. Something just wasn't right. We've always watched the baby squirrels in our front tree with delight, but we'd never seen them so small before, let alone without their mother. We called the very helpful folks at Wind River and described the situation. They confirmed our suspicion - the baby was probably an orphan. They told me that oftentimes squirrels rehome their young, a process that takes several hours, but we should have seen the mother. Also, the young often leave the nest and engage in the types of behaviors we were seeing to get their mother's attention when they are abandoned. Unfortunately, if the mother was killed by a car or died for whatever reason, she will never come back.

We were given the contact information of a woman who could take the baby in, and were instructed to feed the baby cantaloupe or watermelon to tide it over until we could get it to the person who could rehabilitate it. He was quite easy to capture, but as soon as we put the box down a second squirrel came out of the hole. After about fifteen minutes of shining a flashlight into the hole and climbing up into the tree with a ladder, we discovered that the litter actually contained five babies. Fortunately they all came out of their nest to see what was happening, so we easily captured them all. They had not yet learned to fear humans, so they came right up to Adam and I (although the last one needed to be coaxed with a piece of watermelon).
Aren't they adorable?! I'm so happy that they are safe and sound in Clinton, Wisconsin with their new human mom. They will be released into the wild in a few weeks, or as soon as they are able to crack nuts on their own.

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