Baby Squirrel Rescue Advice

Baby Squirrel Rescue

baby-fox-squirrel-Mike-ShimerIf you find a wild baby squirrel exhibiting any of the following signs listed below, call Willowbrook Wildlife Center at 630-942-6200.

View a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators in your area.

Wildlife Rehabilitators

Or, find information about an injured or orphaned animal you have found.

Wildlife Rescue Advice

I Found a Baby Squirrel. What Should I Do?

Find the information you need to assess the animal's condition, determine if it needs help and then take action.

  • Obvious bleeding
  • Obvious fracture 
  • Severe head tilt
  • Swollen, crusty and red eyes or obvious eye injury
  • Obvious maggots or parasites
  • Follows humans continuously

Before you make a drive to Willowbrook Wildlife Center, call first at 630-942-6200. The animal admittance area is open Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. –5:30 p.m. and weekends 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. The center is closed on select holidays. 

How to Help a Baby Squirrel

Tree squirrels in DuPage County have two breeding seasons, one in winter and one in late spring or early summer. Females under two have one litter a year, and older females have two. Litters consist of two, three or four young, which are weaned within two months. Baby squirrels stay near the female until the next litter is born.

Occasionally, fox or gray squirrels' 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 Baby Squirrel With Its Mother

A baby squirrel found unattended should always be given a chance to reunite with its mother.

Use a Nest Box

  1. Locate the original nest site and determine the path the mother would most likely travel to and from the nest. 

  2. 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. 

  3. 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. 
     
  4. 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. 

    gray-squirrel-mother-runs-with-baby-niXerKG
    Image by niXerKG/CC BY-NC 2.0

  5. 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

  1. 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. 

    grey-squirrels-at-nest-box-KentishPlumber
    Image by Kentish Plumber/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

  2. 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. 

    squirrel-nest-box-base-of-tree

  3. If the nest was removed from under a deck or building, place the nest box on the ground nearby.

Possible Outcomes

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.)


Remember

Once the original den is destroyed, the baby's chance for survival is greatly diminished. Your attempt to reunite a baby with its mother gives it a second chance at survival, but it is not a guarantee.


What You Should Never Do

Trapping and removing an animal is not always the solution to the problem. Removing the animal is illegal without the proper permits and only creates an open space for another animal to inhabit. A trapped adult may also leave young behind to die of starvation. Focus on removing the attraction, not the animal.

Never move young from a den.

Never use poisons. They're inhumane and may be illegal. They can also result in secondary poisoning of other wild animals or pets. 

It's illegal to keep wild animals, even for a short time. They have special nutritional, housing and handling needs, and inexperienced individuals who try to raise or treat them inevitably produce unhealthy, tame animals that can't survive in the wild. 

If a Nest Is In an Undesirable Location, Try This

If a squirrel has already established a nest in or around the home, try the following deterrents — preferably two or three at the same time. 

  • Place flashlights, flood lamps, blinking holiday lights or a constantly noisy device such as a radio, alarm clock or toy in the den. Leave them on day and night — or at least at night to disturb the animal's sleep.

  • Place ammonia-soaked rags in the den for one week. Re-soak the rags daily, and pack crumpled newspaper in the entrance to hold in the fumes. Never use ammonia between March and August, because it can harm infants too young to escape.

  • If the nest is in a chimney — usually on the smoke shelf in the flue — lower a light into the chimney, and place a bowl of ammonia and a radio on the fireplace grate. Do not “smoke out” the animals. They can pass out, and you’ll have to physically remove them yourself. 

After a few days, pack crumpled newspaper into the entrance. If the squirrel is still there, it will pull the paper out. If the paper stays in place for a few days, repair any openings.


Wildlife Acceptance Policy

Willowbrook treats injured, ill and orphaned native animals to DuPage County. We do not accept skunks, bats, deer, beavers or trapped nuisance animals. We do not accept nonnative animals, including European starlings, house sparrows and rock pigeons. We also do not accept native mammals and birds raised as pets, as efforts to reverse any taming or imprinting are unsuccessful.

Willowbrook may have species-specific admission criteria. In the case where an animal does not meet that criteria and is unable to be treated at the center, we will work to help rescuers find other licensed wildlife rehabilitators or referrals.

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Remember:

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The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's Willowbrook Wildlife Center rehabilitates native wild animals. If our center cannot care for an animal, we offer information about resources and other rehabilitators.

Wildlife Rehabilitators
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