The majority of wildlife in the Bay Area gives birth to their babies in spring and early summer, but if conditions are favorable, most tree squirrels in our area will have a second brood of babies in late summer and early fall.
Conditions are indeed favorable this year, meaning WildCare’s Wildlife Hospital has allowed an influx of baby squirrels. They currently have 57 baby light-eyed squirrels in their care, and more are being added every day.
Most injured or orphaned baby squirrels arrive at WildCare due to pruning. WildCare and Marin Humane are asking you to “respect the nest” and postpone pruning non-emergency trees to November and December, when the risk of felling an active squirrel nest is lowest.
Baby squirrels have large heads compared to their body size, so they often land on their faces when they fall, resulting in bloody noses, split lips, and even broken teeth. Luckily, squirrel teeth grow back and the team at WildCare specialize in squirrel orthodontics. Baby squirrels that are adopted with these injuries usually make a full recovery and are released back into the wild once they are old enough.
But this recovery takes time. A nest of baby squirrels with their eyes closed is cared for at WildCare for 10 to 14 weeks. Trained volunteer caregivers look after the orphaned baby squirrels and feed them special squirrel food every three to four hours while they are young.
Despite the intense care that goes into raising baby squirrels (and other young wildlife), the team takes a number of precautions to keep the baby critters safe from humans. All of the baby animals at WildCare are raised with members of their own kind (a wild baby is never raised alone) and they only see their trained human caretakers when they are being fed, handled or cleaned.
As squirrels age, they move to larger cages and learn to eat nuts, acorns, fruit, and other foods they find in the wild. They still require daily grooming, but interaction with caregivers decreases as the young squirrels grow. By the time they were released, WildCare’s baby squirrels had developed a healthy fear of people and demonstrated the climbing, jumping, balancing, foraging and nut-cracking skills required of an adult squirrel in the wild.
How can you help baby squirrels this fall? Delaying non-emergency tree trimming is one of the most helpful things you can do. Squirrels camouflage their nests, so you might not know you have a squirrel family in your tree until it’s too late! Delaying tree work until November greatly reduces the risk of injury to baby squirrels.
It’s also important to keep an eye out for fallen baby squirrels on the ground in your yard and neighborhood. A baby with its eyes still closed is less than 4 weeks old and cannot yet regulate its own body temperature, so it needs immediate care, but older pups found on the ground should always be examined at the wildlife clinic.
Often we can reunite baby squirrels with their mother. (It’s a myth that a wild animal won’t take back a baby if it’s been touched by humans. WildCare reunites dozens of wildlife families each year.) But a baby animal’s injuries may not be immediately apparent, and reunion should never be attempted without close consultation with the WildCare team. Call WildCare’s Living with Wildlife Hotline at 415-456-7283 or Marin Humane at 415-883-4621 for help and advice if you find an injured or orphaned wildlife.
Alison Hermance is the Director of Communications and Marketing at WildCare. Marin Humane contributes articles to Tails of Marin and welcomes animal-related questions and stories about the people and animals in our community. Visit marinhumane.org, email lb[email protected] or find us on social media at @marinhumane.