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When You Find a Baby Squirrel – Remember WHAM
If you find a baby squirrel, you only need to remember the acronym WHAM to act as a professional in providing care!
WHM is a four-step process to make sure you cover all the bases in providing a systematic way to ensure that your baby squirrel is given every chance to survive.
“W” stands for warmth.
Baby squirrels lose body heat quickly, especially at the time of their birth, usually in early March. Ideally, you would like your mother to come and take it back, but it is difficult to leave a body that goes and lies in the cold of the first March waiting for its mother. I discovered that a small cardboard box with a rice cloth bag heated in the microwave and placed in a tree, keeps the baby safe and away from predators while waiting for its mother to find it. If she doesn’t come to pick it up, a box and a bag of rice make an excellent incubator to house the baby during early care, especially in the first five weeks when the eyes are closed. A baby squirrel should always be warmer than your hand when you pick it up!
“H” stands for Hydrate.
A baby squirrel can quickly become dehydrated. Their bodies are so small that it doesn’t take long for them to develop an electrolyte imbalance. If it gets bad enough, it can cause the heart to beat irregularly or stop. If the baby looks very dry and wrinkled and its skin does not return to its normal appearance when you press it, or the baby is very slow to react, even after being warmed, you need to put it back in the water!
Most rehabbers and Veterinarians will tell you to give Pedialyte electrolyte replacement fluid free of charge. This is fine, warm it up and give small amounts with an eye dropper or small syringe. My only question is; Where do you get Pedialyte for a mother when her baby is dehydrated? I never lost a dehydrated baby squirrel by going straight to formula. So, you do whatever you want, just get the baby hydrated.
“A” Stands for residence.
If you have reached this stage in the WHM process, you will need to make a decision about the future care of this critter. Will you save it and try to lift it and release it? Or, will you take him to a rehabilitation center?
Part of settling it is taking a moment, looking at it closely. You’ve warmed it up and poured water on it, now look at it and look for other problems. If it is hairy, look closely for grain bugs. Fleas and lice may be present. I use Hartz kitten flea spray on a cotton ball to kill any bugs and pick them off with tweezers.
Check for any bruises or open wounds. Check its legs for broken legs. I treat the wounds with raw coconut oil. You can wash yourself with soap and water and apply antibiotic oil.
Look for any signs of difficulty breathing. A baby squirrel doesn’t need to use more than its chest muscles to breathe. If it’s breathing hard, and its skin doesn’t look pink, it may have internal injuries. Check its belly for bruising or discoloration. This could be a sign of internal damage. If you have any questions, seek a veterinarian with experience in pets or wildlife.
A baby squirrel can be kept very well in a box until the eyes open. Next, you’ll need a cage. A small cage is fine at first, but a larger cage will be needed as the child grows physically. My last cage before release is a large size walk in my back yard. It allows my squirrels to get used to living outside, while allowing them to observe how other squirrels behave. It also allows them room to gain the exercise and riding skills they will need when they are released.
“M” Means Save.
Maintenance means continuing to do the things that need to be done to ensure that the squirrel has everything it needs to grow into a healthy adult squirrel. To keep it warm and fed when the baby is born. Allowing it to settle until it releases itself from the formula, then providing the right types of food and calcium support to prevent arthritis.
Keeping a squirrel until it’s ready to release isn’t difficult, and it doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does require diligence and desire. My wife and I are passionate about raising healthy and disease resistant squirrels and are always willing to help others do the same! It’s a labor of love for us, and that makes all the difference in the world!
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