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Wildlife Rehabilitation: How Do I Care for a Wild Animal That Has Been Hurt or Rescued

Updated on August 19, 2020
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Cindy has a strong interest in the world around her. Her interest and research lead to the creation of this article

Last week, it was another hot one in Texas. My dog was sitting by the back door whining for me to let her in out of the 113°F heat. I quickly obliged her, returning to my computer without paying much attention to her.

After a few minutes, I was abruptly pulled from my computer screen by the sound of … What was that? Tawny, my golden retriever mix, didn’t make noises like that! Yet the sound was coming from the corner where she was laying on her bed. I quickly got up to see what was going on in that corner.

What is it?
What is it? | Source

Lying beside her on the dog bed was a small - make that very small - pink hairless "something" with a long tail. The little thing was also bleeding. What had Tawny done? Where had she gotten this little creature? I got a paper towel and picked the little thing up to examine it a little closer, and remove it from harm's way.

It didn’t really have any ears. I was guessing that it was either a rat (It was too big to be a mouse.), a possum or a squirrel. It appeared to have a couple of small areas bleeding on its head.

I took Tawny outside hoping she would lead me to where she had gotten this little guy, and sure enough, she headed straight for a tree in the back yard. Under it, I found another little guy who was already dead but did not appear to be hurt in any way. I looked up into the tree. I saw an adult squirrel, lying in the lower branches approximately eight feet above the ground, which had obviously just given birth and may even be getting ready to drop another at the base of the tree. I quickly got a folded up towel and put it below her on the ground to cushion the fall of the next one, and then after securing my dogs inside, placed the little one I had rescued onto the towel, hoping that the mother would hear its cries and come and take him to her nest, wherever that was. I checked on them an hour later. The mother squirrel was gone, and she had left her baby lying in the sun.


When I picked up the baby, he was weaker than he had been earlier, and I was concerned about him. He was obviously a newborn, had fallen a distance during the birth, had been picked up and carried around by a dog, and had just laid out in the sun in 113°F heat for an hour.

What you don’t know can hurt!

What was I supposed to do? The first thing I did was to make the paper towel damp to hydrate his parched looking skin, and then to wash the dirt from his mouth and put a couple of drops of water on his mouth. After this, he seemed to revive a little. I was concerned for him thinking that he probably needed to get something in his little tummy. I told my husband that maybe I ought to give him some milk, but he wisely advised me against it. The rehabber that I took the little one to told me that had I given him cow’s milk, it would have caused the liver to shut down. What you don’t know can hurt!

Leave It to the Wildlife Experts

I was able to locate a local wildlife rehabilitator by calling animal control. When I got him to their facility, they took him and immediately put him on a heating pad! So perhaps keeping him on a damp paper towel was not the most beneficial thing I could have done for him either. When I called to check on him the next afternoon, he was doing well though, so maybe I hadn’t messed up too much.

So in answer to the question, how do I, or anyone else, care for a baby squirrel that has been abandoned, or orphaned, by its mother, and is also hurt? The answer is: I don’t! It’s best to leave it to the experts, a certified wildlife rehabilitator.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Cindy Murdoch


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