Odd Squirrel Behavior? You Could Have An Orphaned Baby Squirrel
My Squirrel Story
Video: Eating Dry Leaves
I was out in the back yard planting flower seeds when, suddenly, a baby squirrel came through the fence connecting our yard to the neighbor's yard.
Instead of being afraid of me, the squirrel came galloping right toward me. It wasn't a slow, curious walk, but more a fast, furious run right at me. As it got closer I realized it was just a baby, which was even more odd. I'd never seen anything like it.
My instant reaction was, "Maybe it has rabies." I remembered bits and pieces of what rabies was like: odd animal behavior, such as animals seeking you out. This baby squirrel wasn't foaming at the mouth, but no matter where I went to in the yard, it galloped after me.
Not only did the baby squirrel not eat the sunflower seeds I put next to it, but later on it went to the garden patch I'd just planted with seeds and started actually eating old, dead leaves from last fall.
Every once in a while the baby squirrel would close its eyes, tilt its head upward, and *squee, squee, squeee* I assumed for its mother.
Then it dawned on me: "This baby squirrel isn't rabid; it's fallen from its nest! Oh no!" I went inside to see what I could find on the internet. I was amazed to find this was a common occurrence every spring and fall, and learned the basics about what I should do.
Unfortunately (or fortunately?) when I went back outside about 15 minutes later, the little squirrel baby was gone.
I can only hope the mother squirrel was waiting for me to leave the yard so she could come rescue her baby. I haven't seen it since, but I did notice an adult squirrel living in a tree in the neighbor's yard.
Squirrel Orphans Are Common
Squirrels are among the most-orphaned of any wild animals. It's fairly common to see them, especially in the spring and fall (northern hemisphere.)
Wind can knock them from their nests, weather can damage the nest, a sibling might accidentally topple them over the side due to overcrowding, a predator might have wrecked the nest, or the mother may have been killed by predators or a vehicle.
"Infant squirrels start to venture out of the nest at about two months old and are weaned by three months. They sometimes stray away from the nest before their survival skills are developed. These inexperienced infants may not fear people or predators." -- Thesquirrelboard.com
- Squirrels give birth twice a year: in the spring (January-April) and again in the fall (August-September.) Litters are generally 2-4 babies, who are self-sustaining by 12-14 weeks, when they'll leave the nest.
- Orphaned squirrels leave the nest before they've been instructed how to survive, what to be afraid of, how to build a nest, or how to forage for food. This leaves them at the mercy of predators and the elements.
Warning Signs That You've Found An Orphaned (Or Lost) Squirrel Baby
- Strange behavior, such as no fear of humans, or a seeking-out of humans (as seen in the video above)
- Lack of instinctual reflexes, such as to loud sounds or close contact with other animals
- Alone and disoriented with no sense of where to go
- Intermittent squeaking to attract its mother
- Inability to climb or forage for food
- No sign of adult squirrels
What To Do
Were you aware that baby squirrels are often orphaned?
- Comfort. Prepare a cardboard box with old clothes or towels for it to snuggle into, as baby squirrels always require outside warmth and easily succumb to hypothermia. Make sure the squirrel can make its way into the box. Place it next to the squirrel, then step away to a distance to watch it.
- Watch. When you've found an orphaned baby squirrel, make sure it's orphaned. Keep the squirrel at a distance where you can watch it and step in if a predator comes after it. If the mother is in the area, she'll want to collect her baby, but she won't do so if you're anywhere near it. Wait a minimum of a few hours to make sure it's "actually" an orphan.
- Warm. If you've determined you have an orphan, start to actively keep it warm. Wrap it in old clothes or a towel, and if you have a heating pad, put it on low under the blankies. Baby squirrels get chilled easily, and often haven't yet developed a thick layer of fur. Don't be afraid of the baby squirrel; they are completely innocent and trusting creatures.
- Hydrate. Make sure the baby squirrel has enough fresh water to drink, but don't get it wet.
- Rehabilitate. Try to find a wildlife rehabilitator in your area. If you can't find one, take the baby squirrel to a veterinarian. The vet can check the baby out and will probably be able to recommend someone who will be able to care for it.