I Found a Baby Squirrel. What Should I Do?
If you find a baby squirrel, first call Willowbrook Wildlife Center at 630-942-6200 to determine if the animal truly needs assistance. Recordings provide information after hours, and additional assistance is included on this webpage.
Signs a Baby Squirrel May Need Medical Help
- Obvious bleeding
- Obvious fracture
- Severe head tilt
- Swollen, crusty and red eyes or obvious eye injury
- Obvious maggots or parasites
- Follows humans continuously
How to Help a Baby Squirrel
Occasionally, fox or gray squirrel leaf nests are destroyed by storms, and the young fall to the ground. If there is no evidence of a leaf nest, look for a cavity-type nest. Try placing the baby squirrel in a box at the base of a tree, and see if the mother will retrieve it. If she does not or the young exhibits one of the signs that it needs help, bring it to Willowbrook.
Steps to Reunite a Squirrel With Its Mother
A baby squirrel found unattended should always be given a chance to reunite with its mother.
Use a Nest Box
- Locate the original nest site and determine the path the mother would most likely travel to and from the nest.
- Place the nest box somewhere along or as close to this path as possible. (If pets or children are in the area, we recommended that you hang the nest box out-of-reach.)
Willowbrook Wildlife Center loans out sturdy, wooden nest boxes, or you can make your own. A fully enclosed box with an entrance hole will serve the purpose. Place nesting materials such as grass or leaves in the box.
- Leave the area and the baby squirrel in the nest box overnight. Do not disturb the nest box in any way for the amount of time designated by Willowbrook staff. Do not feed the baby; it needs to cry so mom can better locate it. Do not remove the baby from the nest box. Do not put food out for the mother, as this may attract predators.
If you want to monitor the nest, do so from inside your house. Your presence in the area will prevent the mother from approaching the nest box. It also helps to keep activity around the box to a minimum. Keep children, pets or anything that might deter the mother from returning away from the nest box.
- Do not be alarmed if the baby disappears (or babies disappear, maybe one at a time). It may take the mother several days to relocate an entire litter. In some situations, the mother may use the nest box to raise her young.
- Check the box after the designated time period has passed. If mom has visited, the baby's belly will appear round and full from feeding. If the designated time period has passed and a baby is still in the box with a belly that appears to be empty, then it is time to return it to Willowbrook and consider alternative options.
If you are unsure about how to check the baby squirrel's condition, please do not hesitate to call Willowbrook at 630-942-6200 for advice about how to proceed.
Where and How to Place a Nest Box
- If tree cutting has disrupted the original nest, place the nest box at the base of the tree. If the entire tree was removed, place the nest box on the trunk of a nearby tree.
- If the nest was removed from an attic or chimney, place the nest box at the base of the building. If the path to the original nest site is known, the nest box should be placed along that path. For example if the mother uses a nearby tree to gain access to the roof, the nest box should be placed at the base of that tree.
- If the nest was removed from under a deck or building, place the nest box on the ground nearby.
If you have helped a baby squirrel, you might experience one of the following outcomes:
- The mother moves her young to another site
- The mother uses the nest box to raise her young
- The mother does not return or moves only some of the young. (Mothers may leave unhealthy babies behind.)
- The mother has been killed or injured and cannot return
- The mother fails to locate the nest, and the baby passes away
- A predator locates the nest and takes the baby to feed itself or its young. (Predation is a natural outcome for many baby animals of all species.)